Today I was once again moved by my experience in Haiti and this time in a positive way. It has been a blessing to continue to be inspired by my experiences with Haitian women.
After the earthquake, I joined with Midwives for Haiti and went to work in Hinche, at the chaotic, desperate, understaffed hospital. I spent two weeks in Haiti--enough time to see a few women birth beautiful babies and to hold space while other women gave birth to babies whose spirits were no longer with us. I am not sure how many births or babies I actually attended, but more of them were sick than healthy, and at least one in four did not survive.
For me, Haiti is a place where joy is elusive. Although I heard laughter and saw smiles, the Haitian people's joy seems to live under a thick layer of sorrow, grief, poverty, illness, and hunger. For the most part, I had to look behind the desperation in people's eyes, deep into their hearts and souls to discover their hidden joy.
As I reflect on a photograph of one of the births I attended, I feel surprised at the mama's obvious happiness. Most of the women seemed checked out and indifferent about their labor, birth, and even the new baby in their arms. This birth was one of a few that felt like a triumph--like the experience was led by the laboring mother and not by the doctors, society, fear, or tragedy. It was heart-warming to witness a birth where nothing went wrong. The mother had been told by the doctors that she would have to have a cesarean because she was at 41 weeks. She was frustrated about her options when I first saw her. The other midwife and I were able to reassure her that her baby was doing well and that she, herself was healthy. I was sure that we could get her into labor. The doctors had given her two rounds of cytotec to induce her labor, but she didn't think it was working. With some midwifery 'tricks of the trade,' we got her into labor, and she birthed beautifully and with such strength--a perfect chubby baby boy; 8lbs and healthy.
It has been wonderful to see the photos of that joy--to be reminded of that triumph. It was a triumph for more than just her, me, and the other midwife present. These healthy, empowered births, during which women got off their backs and moved into squats or other comfortable positions and during which they lead the way and used their voices; these are triumphs for Haiti.
After I returned home, I received an email from Reina, a longer-term volunteer with Midwives for Haiti. Reina said that a beautiful mama had come in looking for me. Reina said the mama was absolutely radiant. Radiance wasn't something I saw a lot of in the Haitian hospital. It makes me teary just to think about---here she was, weeks later, still happy, proud, and radiant. This mama is the reason I want to go back and do more work like this. Having someone listen to her, help her, and allow her to labor in her own way-- it made a difference! I believe we created a ripple effect with that birth--we felt empowered, she felt empowered, and she spread that message--about her happiness, her triumph, her strength. This Haitian mama has become a voice of change!
Today I read the following saying, "Tu touche la femme, tu touche la famille," when you touch women, you touch the family.
But I think it goes beyond that... Maybe it is possible to change the world, one birth at a time. Maybe when you touch a woman, when you help her find her radiance and power, that is when you change the world.