“Early December 2017 was a relatively quiet week as a volunteer in Hinche. I had read other volunteer’s stories, and knew that there could be a crisis at any time for a mother and baby. I was as prepared as I could be for any situation.”
The students were approaching the end of the educational year and were competent, bright, and energetic. I saw my role as encouraging them and being available for any support needed – that zone of “sitting on my hands” as a teacher and allowing the students to test their wings. I was open and ready to do any job or task needed.
We went on the road for the mobile prenatal clinics, following the guidance of the experienced trained birth attendants who assessed pregnant and postpartum women, and their babies. You know the rhythm….how are you feeling? Headaches? Is your baby moving? We have all done these visits hundreds of times, and that is when we pick up on high blood pressure, twins, anemia. Especially in Haiti, where antenatal risks are more prevalent, these visits are the difference between life and death. Those everyday conversations (thank you interpreters!) that we have with mothers are the hallmark of midwifery care. There was time spent doing home visits, assisting students at the hospital, and making birth kits for traditional birth attendants. These provide clean supplies for home births. So simple and so significant. There was never the crisis with eclampsia, massive hemorrhage or a sick baby during that week. I did lots of routine care and labor support. I did much more lactation counseling and support than I ever imagined. Any lactation educators who are considering volunteering with MFH – sign up now!
I asked myself – am I doing enough here? The answer was “yes”. I was doing exactly what midwives do everywhere. It is those day to day conversations with pregnant women, the words of encouragement for students- showing them there is more than one way to do something, encouraging a postpartum mom that she is caring for her baby perfectly despite her fatigue and sore breasts.
In Haiti the need for emergency care in obstetrics is critical and needed much more frequently than the small town where I live in Colorado. But the need for the everyday midwifery skills is just as important. We give women excellent physical care….and respect, and dignity, and support and empathy. Women deserve and need all of it.
The last day I volunteered in Haiti there was a first time mom in labor at the hospital. The students were busy with several other patients – it was getting busy all of a sudden.
The other volunteer and I were tag teaming labor support for this first time mom – rubbing her lower back, talking softly to her in English with encouraging words, and she answered in Creole. I don’t understand much Creole, but I am sure she was saying all the usual things that women in labor speak – asking God and us for help, hurry up baby!! We had to leave before her birth, although she was getting close based on the sounds she was making. As I said good bye between contractions she grabbed my hands and cried “mes amies, mes amies”. The student then took our place and gave her exactly what she needed – excellent physical care based on a good education at MFH and a strong hand to squeeze, and rub her back.”
Story written by Amy Ginn, a nurse-midwife from Colorado and volunteer for at Midwives for Haiti.
Pictured below is Amy Ginn,