Monday, February 29, 2016

Meeting with midwives to explore the possibility of their own, small birth centers

February 2016

“Ah, you are going to Haiti again.” 
“Didn’t you get a bad disease there one time?”
“Does it ever get better?”
“I could never see a dead baby or child.”
“Aren’t all the efforts squandered?”
“So much corruption.”

I say yes, but remember it is a tropical island in the Carribean and it is cold and rainy here.  I can see that they had not thought of it that way. If I was going to Jamaica or the Bahamas, Haiti’s neighbors, or even the Dominican Republic, it would be different but Haiti?  

I think we are little seeds and we land where we do. I spread my wings and a soft breeze put me down here.   I am a tourist, an immigrant, a traveler, a teacher, a student. 

I can tell you that since my first visit, after the earthquake, Midwives for Haiti, has trained many midwives and sent them out into the many small communities of Haiti.   NGO’s have trained thousands of village midwives. Birth centers have been opened and there are many mobile prenatal clinics.   There is a far greater access to care.  

In the hospital, where the midwifery students train, mothers and babies die everyday.   I could tell you story after story.   I see children with special needs, being left to die or  beaten and teased and treated like a stray dog..  Schools are rarely free.  The presedential elections never happened for fear of violence.   The rich and powerful do everything they can to maintain power and exploit the poor.   Most people still walk miles for water and have no access to electricity or latrines. 

It is hot and dry and there is a great struggle to grow food.  
Healthcare and education are most often rooted in the generosity of NGO’s.   

But this trip, I want to tell another story.  I want to seek out the many courageous ways, Hatiens have organized themselves over hundreds of years to resist and improve their lives.   I want to tell you about the small groups that they have formed and they ways their music and dance tell he story of a greater independence.    These small groups are destroyed over and over again but always they rise up. 

I love teaching in the midwifery school and helping in the hospital but there is something else.  Marie from my second trip to Haiti; from my time at MamaBaby Haiti wants to start a small, back yard birth center.   She wants a small, woman owned and operated independent birth center that serves her own small community.   It would be her business and not an NGO or government run center. 

So on Monday, I am going to sit down with a small group of midwives and in the spirit of Haiti’s deeply rooted ability for grass root’s organizing, I will help them dream and plan.   Who knows if this could ever work.   How could a small group of independent midwives work in a male dominated, NGO based economy?   

So, if you read this maybe you could whisper “I believe” and maybe, just maybe a small group of Hatien women can rise up in small backyard birth centers and change their own country- one small birth center at a time.   

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The empty place within

The empty place within

A mother died in Cabestore and I felt a deep determination to find out why.  I walked out of the birth center doors and out into the community.  I wandered up small, muddy rained out paths, jumped over small streams and followed behind cows and horses and donkeys.  I greeted small children and sat beneath trees in neatly swept yards and watched.  I wanted a diagnosis.  We are taught to make a diagnosis before we can hope for a cure.

In the process I discovered that a lack of education and basic health services, as well as oppression and poverty, were the most likely causes of her death.  If we could have done stool samples or blood tests on family members, we never did.   If we could have tested the water or asked to do STD testing on her husband, we simply did not.   I asked visiting doctors and the community health workers, but in the end I had to accept the “Bad spirits” theory and set out to discover what the bad spirits were, where they came from and how they caused her death. I looked for a different diagnosis.

I do not know if Oliver lived or died.   In my walks up to visit the baby Oliver and to help his family, I wandered off the beaten path.      

Wen I returned from Haiti, it seemed that one parent, after another, in my community were dying too.   Wonderful people who had children and partners who still needed them.  They died of cancer or heart related incidents.   Circles of grief rose up around us as winter settled in.   They were too young. Their children were too young.   Their partners wanted more time with them. 

I took to wandering the hills and riversides in my community too.   Everywhere people were looking for answers in well-funded laboratories.    There was no lack of electricity or education of food but I was in despair.  I thought of Oliver’s mother and I thought of these parents.  I thought of other young parents who had died in recent years with only a month or few days warning. 

Around me, activists and community leaders fought against oil trains and fracking and other forms of pollution.   I saw how the very wealthiest often used the land and air and water to make fortunes with little regard for the people who depend on that very land and water and air to live.   I knew that this had been going for a long, long time.   My own community, though green and lovely, was sitting on a time of earthquake fault, oil trains and gas farms.  The air was filled with arsenic and the rivers killed the fish that tried to swim upstream. 

In the world, when the wealthiest use up the land closest to home, they head to another place to spray DDT or deforest land.  

I felt that the mothers and fathers were dying from an overwhelming greed that filters down and alters their genetic code, nestles in the site their placenta implants, in cells and blood and in time sweeps them away from us.   Perhaps it is “bad spirits.”  Perhaps it really is those indefinable ways that people put curses on us all by poisoning our air, our earth, and our water.  

I could tell a hundred stories of how our power is taken from us but I want to tell the story of how Haitians have organized themselves against all odds to throw off oppression in the form of colonialism, slavery, imperialism, and dictatorships.  What doe sit have to do with maternal health?   Everything.