It is with much gratitude that I share some reflections on my recent trip to Haiti. There is truth in the cliche "you get just as much as you give," out of a mission like this. My earnest hope is that in 2 short weeks, I made some small impact on the heartbreaking problem of a high maternal and infant mortality rate...both by bringing much needed supplies, and by supervising/training Haitian midwives who will be there for the long term doing this important work. I was welcomed graciously, both in the orphanage and among the midwifery students.
I was reminded of my own adaptability...and that even amidst the very different circumstances, in a different culture with very different resources, there is a fundamental sameness of women giving birth. It is part of what has always captivated me about attending births- it is at the same time exquisitely personal and universal, it is both a sacred event..for some a peak spiritual event...and a mundane event happening every day all around the world.
Midwives I know come to this calling from many paths and for different reasons. We are disgruntled by a medical system that seems to have undermined women's confidence in their bodies to give birth, we are political activists, we want to see women have the full range of options when choosing their care provider, we want to help women have empowered, sometimes even ecstatic birth experiences, and we believe that our work is contributing to the way families are welcoming their newborns and parenting the next generation. I learned that women become midwives in Haiti in large part because they want to save lives...at least the women I met in this program. They have seen enough women and babies in their families and communities die in childbirth, that they are compelled to learn the skills to help ameliorate this devastating reality. While I didn't always observe the groovy "midwives model of care" that we strive to provide in our practice, the 12 students I met are well on their way to making a big difference in the lives of the mamas they serve.
There are so many stories I could share...but I fear this email is getting too long already. Like: the twin delivery that we did in the middle of the night by headlamp, talking to the mamas of the 2 hydrocephalic babies that were born on my last day at the hospital, the lady who came in from a village a few hours after she had given birth because the placenta hadn't been born yet...manual removal of the placenta and then that mama stayed at the hospital for a good week of the time that I was there, the 4lb premie baby that I carried around the hospital looking for oxygen, the 4th c-section on a 23 year old that I sat in on. On and on...would love to tell you more stories in person!
Let me tell you how your generous donations made a difference on my trip. Not only did they contribute to my pre-departure visit to Penn Travel Medicine along with the proper vaccines and medicines to keep me safe while there (my mom also thanks you!), but also towards a personal translator to be at my side during all hospital and prenatal shifts, a 2 week stay at the guest house of Maison Fortune orphanage, transportation while in Haiti---all things which made it possible for me to do the work I came to do. I was also able to bring two 50 lb. bags of luggage, filled with some art supplies for the children at the orphanage (which numbered over 200), and mostly medical supplies for the hospital and mobile prenatal clinic. Baby scale, stethoscope, vitamins (most of which were used the one day we saw 70 women at a rural prenatal clinic!), hemoglobinometer and supplies, pee sticks, chux, sheets, mesh panties (they giggled at these...there is very little of anything disposable there), wind up flashlights (turned out to be very useful since the electricity goes out basically every night at the hospital), etc. etc. AND, I have $500 left over to donate directly to Midwives for Haiti, which is amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.