Thursday, February 9, 2012

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Not one, not two but three-Triplets born at MHI Uganda clinic

Alice arrived in the Eleventh hour. Literally, translated from the Acholi language, 5 am is called the Eleventh hour, with 6 am being the Twelfth and 7 am being the First hour; the first hour of light and a new day. She arrived in what she believed would be her Ninth and final labor. Having walked about 6 miles to reach help, she was ready to push shortly after arrival. Her body was tired, she had barely eaten the previous day, and was encouraged to drink sweet tea to give her energy for the push.

The baby's tiny head emerged, quickly followed by the rest of her, and yet the mountain of Alice’s belly still loomed before us, undiminished. As her body called her to push again, she believed the placenta would be born, yet instead, tiny feet made their appearance, then disappeared again to be replaced by another, tinier head. Then the second little girl was born, followed immediately by those persistent, delicate little feet that had tried to cut the line. And then there were three. Three tiny, beautiful little girls, instead of the last, single child that Alice had been expecting.

Needless to say it was a bit of a shock, to all involved. Earlier in the pregnancy, Alice's husband had divorced her, after bearing him 5 live children. He maintained that because he had used condoms with Alice when they had intimate relations, he had nothing to do with this new pregnancy, and sent her back to her fathers village with all of her children. She found herself suddenly single, now with 8 children all under the age of 12.

The first days were challenging, but the babies, named in Acholi tradition: Apiyo (first born), Acen (second born) and Adoch (born breech) were strong spirits, all able to latch and nurse well. Apiyo was 2 kg/ 4.4 lbs, Acen 1.8 kg/ 3.9 lbs, and tiny Adoch was only .9 kg/ 1.9 lbs. Alice was very despondent at first, overwhelmed with the reality before her. She was reluctant to hold them or nurse them, believing that at least one or more would surely die, afraid to love them. Her tired body refused to cooperate, and two, three, four days passed and still her milk failed to come in. We fed her, gave her teas, vitamins, homeopathics and loving support... yet still her milk did not come.

By the second day, the babies were crying in hunger, so we supplemented their milk, always having them first nurse for some time on Alice to continue stimulating her milk supply. The most difficult in the beginning was Adoch. She was so weak, it would take her five minutes of dripping milk into her mouth for her to gain enough strength to suck. By the third night of sleep deprivation, Alice asked me to take Adoch at night, and I was happy to, because I could see that as the weakest, unable to express her needs, she was wasting at night while the other two grew slowly stronger. And she thrived, sleeping on my chest at night and spending the day curled up with her sisters, by a week old she was starting to gain on them.

It took 6 long days for Alice's milk to come, but thankfully it did, as we knew it must. She was able to fully nurse Apiyo, but we had to continue helping her with Acen, who developed reflux, and needed to be fed small quantities in an upright position and then burped and held upright for 10 minutes after each frequent feeding. As for Adoch, more and more Alice asked that she remain with us midwives. She expressed her belief that she might be unable to care for all of her many children, collect firewood, cook, wash, find food for so many with three small babies. Who would carry the other two while she worked with one on her back? How would she manage while they were still so small and unable to be worn on the back? Several days later, her milk supply was still not adequate for three, not even quite enough for two, no matter how much we fed and hydrated her.

One afternoon, as I sat bathing the babies with her, Alice looked me in the eye, told me about her concerns and asked if I would like to have Adoch. I asked her if she was serious. She said she knew now that she could not take care of these babies alone. Could I, or someone else take one or even two of them?

With Adoch bound to my chest, and my own one-year-old daughter on my hip, I went to my co-midwife Rachel, to cry the pain in my heart because I knew I could not take this baby, yet I knew if I did not, she would surely die. And as she often does, Rachel inspired me... what if we could find an adoptive family? And as soon as we put the word out to the universe, a miracle was provided! 

Two weeks postpartum, a grateful and stronger Alice returned to her village with Apiyo, the first and strongest of the baby girls. Acen and Adoch grew steadily with us, and just a couple of days later met their new mother. Although the legal process in Uganda is lengthy, the new parents are committed to give their daughters the very best and are sticking with it through thick and thin.

At 2 1/2 months old, all the girls are now over 4 kg/ 8 1/2 lbs , healthy, strong and beautiful.
Olivia Kimball, Traditional Midwife

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Sankofa

When I was leaving my home in Hawai’i my family said, “we will see you on your birthday.” I had already seen that my birthday this year would be on a full moon, just as when I was born on a full moon 57 years again and so I answered, “no, there will be a baby born on my birthday and I will be there for her.” We have always in our family given to others on our birthdays, as the material gifts do not mean much in the bigger picture of life. The morning of my birthday as I was teaching a class before a morning full of prenatals, I noticed a young girl in a beautiful white dress with green, yellow and red colors at the top of her dress squirming as if she was having contractions. I was teaching about how important it was that the women claim their birth experience and understand what is happening to our bodies in birth. Mary Antoinette would soon have the women up doing primal dance moves that will move them and their babies through this primal experience we call birth. I watched this young mother tighten up her shoulders as another one of the Haitian apprentice midwives, Cason, gently massaged her shoulders. I explained the importance of allowing the baby to be born through our bodies and how relaxation allows the release of hormones and endorphins. I kept an eye on this young mother, now knowing that she was the reason why I stayed a couple days longer. Soon we were up doing our exercises and forming a circle of women that would learn our primal dance steps and gently massage each other’s shoulders as we moved in a circle one way, only to reverse the dancing circle and now massage the hips in front of you.

As the dancing was ending, I snuck away before prenatals started on the thirty plus women that showed up to go and connect with Betina, the young mother. We smiled, connected and said a few words as she was allowing her body to have contractions. Since she was in early labor, I worked the morning doing prenatals with the women. As the afternoon progressed and the women left, Mary Antoinette, the first translator and then apprentice at MHI, stayed with me with Betina. Her sister came and I was to find out that both of them were professional dancers in Ayiti (Haiti). Mary and I too are dancers so it was just normal for us all to dance, we could hear the drums in our heads and we would move our hips and bodies to the beat either bringing on the contractions or moving through them. Betina and her sweet baby were figuring out how to move with this birthing ceremony of life. Again it was a great honor to be there with the women doing a primal dance of life.

As night came onto us, Mary Antoinette being very pregnant, went to rest and take a nap. Betina’s mom and husband did the same. That just left Betina, her sweet baby and me to move together. I gave her a strong deep massage that loosened up all the muscles in the front and back of her pelvis and touched and talked to the baby while I was massaging. I massaged her through contractions and restful minutes, as labor was now getting more intense. This intensity is something as a midwife that I love, it not only brings the baby closer but it brings the woman to a powerful place that connects her to the greatest of all mother, the earth. It is a powerful energy that I am able to tap into as the mother now is well connected to her “work” and of course the work of her baby that connects her to a deep primal place. This hard work that we do for the earth and of course it comes back to us as women in our own personal growth.

Betina then got up after her massage and started moving in her dance, the African bird was opening her up, her baby was moving down through her pelvis and I was there to again witness and help. When the baby got low, she moved to the ground and curled up, I went and got two pillows, one for her head and one between her legs and laid down to hold her. Betina had chosen the ground, not a bed to birth and I knew and she knew just where to be. She was holding onto me tightly in a big hug and she looked and me so sweetly and said,” I love you Clare,” I did not even know she spoke English. I was so touched and honored to be part of love again. I called out to Mary Antoinette to come and catch her baby and to her mom who was also resting and to her supportive husband. Mary Antoinette gracefully supported the head and Betina as the baby come into the world, I was privileged to keep her in my arms breathing with her. Betina controlled her breath in a deep “aaaa” as her body opened up to let her baby come so peacefully to her. Again I was blessed to witness this ceremony of birth and the power of a young woman.

Later Betina and her husband asked Mary to interpret for them, they asked me if I would name their baby. I was shocked, as it is a big responsibility to name a baby, the name that they will hear and it will become who they are. At first, I was questioning whether I was ready to do this naming of a baby, but I heard my “motherwit” speak…say yes. I answered that I was honored but the name would be African,. it would go back to their ancestors just as she did when she birthed. They smiled and the next day, Mary Antoinette and I went to her home to give the baby her name. It came to me so strongly, Sankofa…the name of an African bird that means to go back and get it. It meant for me that Sankofa had come to her mom, allowed her to fill the power of that mighty African bird which Betina had become during her dance of birth. I explained this to the family when I came, and they all smiled, it was the name that they wanted. I was asked to be the godmother of my special birthday baby gift, Sankofa.

Father Love

Mary and proud Mamma & Papa of Sankofa

Clare & Sankofa's family

Monday, August 8, 2011

Midwifery Students: Stories from the Ground at Soley Lavi, Jacmel, Haiti

We are happy to share with you the stories from our midwifery students in their own words from the ground in Jacmel.

Fabienne Toussoint

Casaudre Marie Solomon

Jean Philippe, Marie Christane (Krista)

Fabienne Toussoint
Translator/apprentice midwife

First of all I like nursing. I did know if i could do this and midwifery but i saw that i could when i started to work for Soley Lavi because it was not a difficult thing. When I choose something to learn at school in PAP, I chose accounting but people told me, "Why do you choose accounting, you look like a nurse?". When I see people suffering it gave me a headache but i would think, I am suppose to try to help someone who has a problem. After I help women at Soley Lavi and see them afterwards, they always thank me and tell me that i am good. It is good for women to be able to birth and get prenatal care and after birth care at Soley Lavi. We take good care of mothers and babies. They feel comfortable with us at Soley Lavi. When I compare if to what happens in the hospital I see a big difference. The way we talk to the moms at Soley Lavi is good as we treat them with respect. We do good work for the women to believe in natural birth. At the hospital they give the women pitocin and they do an episiotomy even if they do not need it, they do it. We give waters, walking, dancing, breathing and lots of love. I want this clinic to always stay alive because it does good work.

Casaudre Marie Solomon, Student Midwife
When I was a sales woman and came to sell clothes at MHI and left my phone number with the women to call me if they needed more. Then i met Dr.Mathilde Coste at MHI (Soley Lavi) and she told me that there are classes here to be a midwife and good women here. I came to work and sleep at the clinic with Mathilde and was so happy to be with her. My dream is to learn to be a midwife so when Melinda came and Mathilde was gone I learned from her. I think about midwifery because the way we treat women here is so different than the hospital. I remember one time we had a woman birth and she bit Marie Antoinette who did not say anything. I helped hold her. I love the vision of Soley Lavi. When you see a woman you think of life because women keep life going. The spiritual side, the compassionate side, the strong side of women. I believe in that. I give help and I learn. What I learn from the other person and help other women that need help too. For example last week I met someone at midnight, at birth she needed help at her home. I knew what to do and no one knew because when the baby was born the cord broke. Although I did not have gloves on I helped that baby. I saw life and I knew I should be using gloves but i did not have them, but i knew i needed to help that baby. I want this clinic to stay alive to make a good life for Haitian women. I want more women to learn and help other women.

Jean Philippe, Marie Christane (Krista), Student Midwife
This is my dream when I was in school to become a nurse. When my father died I could not realize my dream because I did not have help. I want to go back to school, I just need one more year to finish. I have one more year of classes. I met Marie Antoinette who wanted me to come to Soley Lavi. I like studying midwifery and it makes me realize that I want to go back to school. I like Soley Lavi because it helps the women and they do not need pitocin. We talk to the women, help them, encourage them, show them how to treat the babies. I like all things here at Soley Lavi. Before my experience at Soley Lavi I was afraid of blood, now blood does not bother me. I am always happy when I come to Soley Lavi.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Birth of Esther

Summer has arrived at MHI. It was only 7:00am and we were already feeling the intense heat of the sun as a woman arrived at the clinic in active labor. Though her contractions were strong she seemed grateful to finally be doing the necessary work. She’d spent the night in the dome a week ago thinking that it was her time only to have labor stop.

We settled her in the dome and began preparing for her birth. Sweat was pouring down all of our bodies, hers most of all as her contractions intensified. The mother asked if she could birth outside. It was a beautiful quiet Sunday morning. We rigged up some sheets to give her privacy. She was without family as her husband is a preacher and needed to be at church. We took turns massaging and encouraging her.

Before long the woman’s voice changed and we knew she would soon begin to push. Her membranes ruptured revealing copious dark meconium. Baby’s fetal heart tones were normal and since we could tell birth was imminent, we prepared the equipment to help the baby if needed. The woman really wanted to be sitting upright as she began to push so Melinda got behind her to hold her up. Soon Melinda needed support and she asked my daughter, who was working in the garden to lend us her back. Tara positioned herself with her back against Melinda’s and pushed against the concrete wall with her feet and hands.

As the baby’s head emerged, Kari, the student midwife and myself acted quickly to suction, unwrap the umbilical cord and get the baby up to her Mama’s waiting arms. The baby was slow to start but came around thanks to our combined skill. I felt all of us praying, each in her own spiritual way as we welcomed baby Esther. As she began to come into her own her little voice joined the chorus of distant voices singing in their morning worship service.

Women helping women birth their babies is as ancient as our existence. What a privilege it was to be a part of baby Esther’s arrival. She is another beautiful light in our world.

Kathi Mulder, CPM. Volunteer Midwife at MHI, Jacmel, Haiti

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Volunteer Midwives Needed in Jacmel, Haiti

All of our jobs, the Medical Advisory board, the Board Directors, the midwife volunteers and the Haitian women on the ground is to continue to help this clinic grow into an independent birth clinic run by Haitian women. Soley Lavi, the Haitian name of our clinic, was given by the Haitian women who work and are studying to become traditional birth attendants and CPMs. As you come to work with us, remember that your job is to help them do their work but to not do their work from them. Your job is to help empower these strong women and support them in their midwifery education and studies. Your job is to teach the Haitian student midwives the Traditional Midwifery Model of Care. We are looking for someone who wants to give to this birth movement and well knowing what they get back is way more then they will give.

Volunteer Midwives Needed

Mother Health International is seeking volunteer midwives for the last week of August into early September. We are seeking volunteers who practice gentle birth techniques that allow a woman to birth with dignity, love and with family support. We are looking for skilled and licensed midwives who are willing to donate three or more weeks of their time to serve the women of Jacmel, Haiti. Historically, August and September the MHI birth clinic has lots of babies. Volunteers are responsible for all expenses for travel to and from Haiti. Mother Health International has a house for volunteers to stay during their volunteer time with food and basic essentials provided. If you are interested in volunteering with MHI please fill out the appropriate application ( and send it and all required paperwork to

Mother Health International has an On-Site Midwife Coordinator position available at our Jacmel, Haiti birth clinic.


  • Must be willing to embrace and practice the Traditional Midwifery Model of Care.
  • A willingness to live in Jacmel, Haiti at the wonderful MHI birth clinic for a three to six months, as a primary midwife. This position requires the individual to be NARM approved preceptor.
  • Midwife may be a direct entry, traditional, CPM or CNM who embraces the Traditional Midwifery Model of Care. Must have a midwifery certificate.
  • Must bring in a list of supplies needed for the clinic plus help raise awareness and money for the clinic.
MHI will provide: All expenses on site are paid for including housing, food, and high speed Internet. Unpaid vacation time with prior approval. If you are interested in this position please email for a full job description.

Mother Health International Apprenticeships

Mother Health International is a NARM approved birth clinic located in Jacmel, Haiti. We will accept one or two student apprentices per month at the MHI clinic in Jacmel. Apprentices can either come to our clinic with your preceptor or you can have one of a MHI midwife volunteers, who is a NARM approved preceptor, to serve as your preceptor. A minimum of one month volunteer time is required for all apprentices. Fees and other details are on the application. During the apprenticeship, you will observe and practice all aspects of midwifery relating to pregnancy and childbirth with the mother and a NARM approved preceptor. These experiences include prenatal exams, births, and postpartum visits. Our apprenticeship is perfect for those midwifery students who want to practice a traditional midwifery model of care with emphasis towards recognizing that the least interventions brings the best outcomes in birth. If you are coming with your preceptor she will need to fill out and submit the volunteer midwife application with your application. For more information visit, click on volunteer.

Our Mission: Mother Health International is dedicated to respond and provide relief to pregnant women and children in areas of disaster and extreme poverty. We are committed to reducing the maternal and infant mortality rates by creating healthy, sustainable holistic birth clinics using the midwifery model of care with culturally appropriate, education for the health and empowerment of women. With every healthy birth there is a positive benefit for the communities that we serve
and the world as a whole. Our ultimate mission is to empower and educate the local clinic staff, with gender equality, to become the health care providers for their community.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ripple of love: Working with the Strong Women and Babies of Haiti

Marzia with mother and baby-Ripple of Love from Haiti to Sicily and beyond. 

In October of 2010, I went to Jacmel, Haiti to work at the Mother Health International birth clinic. This statement of the advisory board of MHI speaks to this unique clinic, “The Mother Health International Advisory Board is a broad collaboration of practitioners advising and supporting Mother Health International to create the bridge between high technology obstetric care and the excellent outcomes provided by the low technology, hands on midwifery model of care in the lowest economic and disaster stricken countries. The collection of our data provides inspiration for birthing centers worldwide.” I would like to bring you to this unique clinic in Jacmel, Haiti with this story.

When I planned to go to our clinic in Jacmel I had a few other responsibilities in mind besides helping with the growth of our clinic. I had planned to work alongside Marzia Florida, a Sicilian licensed midwife who was working with and educating the Haitian midwifery apprentices. I had also submitted an abstract and was accepted to speak at the NHAHA (National Haitian American Health Alliance) conference and share about my time working in the clinic as part of my presentation.

One late evening I came up to the dome which is where our birth clinic is housed with nine beds, to help assist another birth after taking a much needed shower. As I walked into the dome I was surprised to see Marzia lying on the ground with a very scared woman in labor. Her cries, her arm tightly clasped around Marzia’s neck and her tightly clenched flailing legs were a sad sight for me to see, as I deeply believe in this traditional ceremony of birth. It was obvious to me that this woman’s past had been beyond what most women would be able to withstand and come out sane. I quickly went to get the rest of the supplies that are always on hand for each birth and bring them to where the mother was birthing along with a few pillows to make her a little more comfortable. She would not be moving to the nice beds that we have, she had chosen where to birth. I began to softly hum a powerful old song and say “vini babe” (come baby). Never once did Marzia complain about the position she was held in, she calmly spoke to the mother and took her other hand to rub her forehead with a cool damp cloth I handed her. As the baby emerged into the world supported by three midwives and the father, I brought the mothers hand to her baby’s head to bring the reality of what she was feeling physically to her, bringing her mind and spirit calmness, and bringing her baby the same peace and love.

The next day when this mother was to be discharged from the birth dome, she hugged both Marzia and I. As I watched her hug Marzia goodbye, I felt the deep love and respect that women have for our work. The trust was profound. Later Marzia said to me, “That woman will always stay with me, she helped me so much. I am now ready to go back to Sicilia and help women birth peacefully at home. " I was blessed to help with this strong Haitian woman and her birth. The woman and child not only transformed their own lives through this peaceful birth but also rippled that love to everyone who was present and beyond. It is a memory that reminds of how powerful it is to give each woman and baby respect, love and a safe place to let the birth happen. This is the clinic at Jacmel, Haiti. by Clare Loprinzi, Traditional Midwife, CPM, Mother Health International Midwife

As posted in White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, Stories of Midwives
Mother Health International is a proud member of this organization.

Marzia & Clare and sweet baby at the MHI birth clinic.