Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Haitian women move with strength and grace as they continue to work hard for dignity and empowerment

Haitian women move with strength and grace as they continue to work hard for dignity and empowerment. Last Friday we had a full day of prenatals here at the Jacmel, Haiti clinic. Ludnabert, a strong young woman came to the clinic in early labor. She walked and rested outside the yurt close to the outdoor prenatal area during the day with her beautiful mother staying close to her side. While I worked with woman after woman checking their babies and giving them the vitamins, I would go over and give her water and smile and check in with her. She was graceful in her movements and breathe. I was to find out later that she was a professional soccer player for Haiti. Toward the late afternoon we finished with all the women we were seeing, we being Marzia (a Sicilian midwife), Emily (CPM from Idaho), Melinda (CPM and full time volunteer midwife) and myself. Marzia and I decided to stay up to help Ludnabert birth.

As the night progressed I showed Ludnabert how to hang on the metal bars that support the dome. She and I would go into a full squat position and move back and forth. We moved together throughout the night, dancing and sitting back to back moving and breathing. The clinic uses a lot of dance movement as one of the Haitian assistant midwives, Marie Antoniette loves to dance (so do I) with birth. Marie has created some lovely dance movements that we use.  In the center of the dome we have a nice counter that surrounds the supply area and we have made it a place where they can lean on to help with their dance movements. The night moved forward with lovely movement and smiles. Around 10:00 pm Ludnabert decided to lay down, contractions slowed down just a little but were strong. She was in control and moving her baby through her body. I checked how far she was progressing by palpating and massaging the muscles that connect to the uterine wall on the side. Feeling the baby’s shoulders and head ever so low down I knew she was close to full dilation. This is often a lovely time that the mom and baby rest between contractions before the baby births.  I decided to go and lay down on one of the beds to stretch my back and adjust my hips. Little did I know that within minutes I would fall asleep. Marzia was sitting by her side. I awoke to Marzia calling, "Clara, Clara” and realized that I had fallen asleep. I jumped up and went to Ludnabert but I could see that she was still resting between longer spaced contractions. I then went to the next birthing area and saw Marzia sitting there with another older woman. Marzia told me that she had just come, I must of fallen asleep for about 20 minutes (twenty rejuvenating minutes).

"Haitian women move with strength and grace as they continue to work hard for dignity and empowerment."

Eloufene, a 50 yr old woman guesses her age from what was happening in history comes from a long line of Haitians. Eloufene was born at home in Jacmel, had all her babies at home, this birth was her 11th baby, some of her births she had done by herself. I could tell from the worried look on her face that she had some real concerns and a hard life. I knew that we needed to know what was on her mind so with my creole being basic I asked a translator to come in. She told us that she was scared because of loosing three of her babies and that she was also concerned that this baby was a month early. I told her that I understood that she must be scared but that this was her baby’s birthday. I put my hand on her belly and talked to the baby who responded to me. I then looked at her and with my eyes and then words told her that her baby had chosen to have this day as her birthday. I told her that her baby felt big and strong enough. I told her that my second child was a month early and was born at home and now he is a big strong doctor. I told her that although I could not promise her anything that I felt with all my heart that her baby was all good. She smiled a little at me and I asked her if we could all, her daughter, Marzia, her and I breathe some good breaths into this room full of love and if she would open up her legs and let her baby come. 

I talked to the baby and said the same and told her that when she was born that we would bring her right up to nurse from her mom and that she was safe with us.  Eloufeine said yes with a nod. We all breathed love into this area and she let this sweet baby girl be born in the sac of waters into the world. The baby was small and strong and went right up to her moms’ breast where she started after a few minutes to vigorously suck. MarziaElofeine checked her hard uterus and smiled with her. I went back to be with Ludabert. I opened the sheet between the two of them and Ludnabert could see Eloufeine nursing her baby. They both smiled at each other.

Within a few hours Ludabert’s baby was ready to come into the world. Eloufeine and her sweet baby girl were nursing and resting. The baby had not yet made any noise other than the ferocious nursing she was doing. Ludabert was moaning and the baby was coming. As her sweet baby’s head came out we heard Eloufeine’s baby make two sounds; veeni,veeni, so close to the ceole word come come. We all were filled with the amazing power of birth and love as Ludnabert’s baby girl entered the world.

As the early morning was coming and Marzia and I had finished cleaning up the clinic and were ready to come down to the house to sleep a little, we peeked in at the two moms with babies at breasts and smiled. We went back a few hours later to check on the women. Both were doing well. It was asked of Eloufeine, “Why did you travel two hours to come here to birth?" She said that she had heard of this clinic from other women in the country side. She said that it was told to her that we give good care to the women. She was so happy with her care. She said that we love the women here and we treat them with respect. She smiled. That late morning her family came to help her home. She walked proud out of the grounds of MHI. Two weeks later, she came back to a postnatal. You can the see the photos of the two women and their baby girls living side by side. She handed me a bag, it had two papayas and a jackfruit that she had carried the long distance. My heart was again filled with love;for this work that I am honored to do and for the resilience and strength of the Haitian women.

By Clare Loprinzi

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sheline Agella

My name is Sheline Agella and I am 22 years old. I am Haitian and I live in Lavanneaa, across the river from Jacmel. 

My dream is to become a pediatrician because I love to take care of babies. I love the MHI clinic because the clinic showed me birth. If I must go to the university to learn birth I do not have money to learn there. This clinic is giving me an opportunity to learn birth. I know that the birth that the doctors do in the hospital are not like the births that are done at the clinic. I have seen birth in both places. The hospital is using pitocin to induce labor which exhausts the woman, where the midwife makes it naturally without pitocin. When I met Clare at the clinic she told me that she would send me to English school and I can help serve and work for the clinic to help the foreign midwives. My sister in law came to birth at the clinic and I was very happy to help Clare with her birth. I loved doing that and then Clare said, "Come and work with us at the clinic." My family was very happy with the care of the clinic. Clare is like a Mom to me and I love her as she does for me what my Mom could not do.

The way the clinic helps the community is different from the hospital. This clinic does not charge us money. Ninotte, Marie, Marzia and Clare make women to come back to a clean clinic because they are treated well. When I saw Marie after she finished her work, I cleaned the bed and changed the sheets and she dances with the women in labor. Ninotte also keeps the clinic clean and helps me bring plant medicines from the house to the clinic. Marzia is very smart to see what needs to be cleaned and has a lovely touch. Clare makes the women laugh and when the women come they have problems but she make their problems leave. The women tell me in private that the women tell her that she makes them laugh even though they have problems. She pushes us to make it all better with the clinic. She makes us laugh and dance.

After I finish I can work for this clinic and do good things for this is clinic. This clinic is for the people of Haiti. This clinic is helping poor people and help them have them have birth with respect at the clinic. Then the clinic helps the women every week to come and have appointments before and after their birth. This gives the baby all that it needs to stay healthy.

To become a doctor I need I need to pass an exam with a good score so I can get in. I need to buy special books, it is hard economically for me to go to school. It is also hard because even if you get good grades many times they choose the one to go because they are friends.

Clare told me that she just attended the Haiti health conference where she spoke there and she heard a doctor say that they are sending Haitian students to learn in Cuba. They want to send them to come back and I would like to do that and come back to help my people. To get good education would be important. I am happy that doctors are helping our board, I saw a picture of Dr. Jade and I want to thank her.

I am very thankful that Clare for giving me opportunity to learn more and more. The clinic gives me the first step to learn more and I will study to become a doctor so that I can come back to work for this clinic.

Sheline, learning to burn the umbilical cord. 
All babies born with MHI have their cords burned. 
This helps to prevent infections and aids in healing faster than 
a cut cord.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Meet Ninotte Lubin-Assistant Midwife, Administrator

Ninotte Lubin listening to fetal heart tones. 

 Ninotte Lubin

Ninotte Lubin

My name is Ninotte Lubin. I am from Haiti from the southeast. Jacmel is my region. Jacmel was created in 1698 , a wonderful city that had welcomed Simon Bolivar in1812 for the freedom of some countries in the South America like: Venezuela, Equator, Peru and Bolivia

I was born in 1974, we are six children, three girls and three boys, in my family. My mom is alive, my dad was dead 25 years ago. I am the fifth one in my family. One of my sisters died two years ago, she left a son who ten years old, one of my older brothers left to the United States 20 yrs ago and has never returned. He lives in Missouri. I am living with my mom, my little brother and one of my older sisters, and my nephew. We come from an area they call Lafond, a nice area about 7 kilometers from the town of Jacmel. Lafond is the village of Merisier Jeannis ( a big cousin of my mother), an illiterate countryman who had fought a lot to escape of humiliations, hardships, and sacrifices that the rural life had been imposed on him.

I grew up with my family, my dad was a great person. He was a responsible man, he took care of everyone, even if we did not have a lot of resources. He was in the military. Before he died in 1985 he left the military because he did not want to do bad things because he was very sensitive. He tried to give us a good education like I remember he always told us life is a struggle so you should fight for what you love, for what you want to do. He loved his children because we were always at the top of our classes. He said that he wanted to help us to become whatever we wanted to become in life. That is why after his death I said my life is gone but my mom even if she did not have work she was strong and she loved her children too she said I have two things in my life that I never want to do as I want to help my children. I do not want to be a robber and I do not want to sell my body for sex to help my children. But I can do everything. That is why she never got married after her husband death or be with another man as she loved my dad so much.

She did all good things that she could do to help us. I am like my mother because she has conviction. My responsibility revolves around children. I was always thinking about children and always feel bad when I see children in the street. I ask where do they come from and why are they in that situation? I wrote about that even though my book is not yet published. I see children's lives different like if the mothers take their responsibilities from when they get pregnant they can change the children lives in the street. When I heard about the birth clinic I was working for an organization called FOTCOH ( friends of the children of Haiti) in Cyvadier. A friend of mine told me that there is a clinic at St. Helene who needs a female translator (Marie Antoinnette is her friend). He told me you can see and talk to them and see what happens.

My first impression of birth (I had not seen a birth before coming to MHI) was terrible because I saw how the baby came and when they explained to me what the placenta was and I saw the roots in the placenta I said, "Wow we are all a gift of the universe. I was scared. I did not think I was ready to see all of this. I took three weeks to understand birth. After three weeks I was ready to see all the things. Now I see life like I saw it before I understood it. This clinic has a excellent impact in my community because we have only one public hospital in Jacmel. We have some private clinic too, but this clinic after the earthquake is a miracle for everybody in Jacmel. Not only in Jacmel but from all over the southeast. People come from all areas of the southeast. They come because one after one they are excited and happy and their people are happy are to come to birth here. They love the way that we take care of them. Because we have an education problem in Haiti the nurses do not take care of the women respectfully. That is why they prefer to come to this clinic. The other thing is money too, they do not have to pay money to birth with us and the last thing that is most important is the psychological part. The way we talk to the women we help them to love themselves. We help them not to be scared and to feel their power that they have in their body and mind. When they are with us they feel secure. This is my second impression of birth. Women are powerful to give birth easily with suffering but lovely and gently.

The baby is also feeling the same thing that mom feels. When we try to help the women like we do help them to break all the bad things that they have inside. Because we help the mom we help the baby too. If you help them then you help the society and we help them to be responsible. People that are responsible are able to build a stronger society.

After two months in this clinic I remember that I talked to myself, I said
"Ninotte you are a translator but if you want things changed in Haiti you should move your mind. You should help this clinic stay alive and study everything you can study to help the mothers and to help yourself to do what you want to do in your life." That is why when the board asked me if I wanted to be a midwife I said yes without hesitation. Now the board has asked me to help run this clinic. I am very comfortable to do this.

I have a lot of things to talk about but, I want to resume all in a few words. I am a student in the midwifery school mama primativa, I am a co-administrator of MHI, one of the part of the philosophy of this group that I love so much is "educate Haitian women to be midwives, so, they can help themselves to stay alive."

Women we can, help yourselves to survive honestly with dignity that come from in the universe that has been created with LOVE. This love you have it in and around you.

In 1804, Haitian people fought for their freedom, now, women around the world must fight to change births to change the world. NOU KAPAB.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meet Marie Antoinette Helen Jeune, Assistant Midwife at Mother Health International

Over the next few weeks our blog will feature the wonderful MHI team on the ground in Jacmel, Haiti. Your financial contributions help support the salaries of these team members. Thank you. Each person has been asked to write up a short story describing themselves and the work they do. Enjoy!

Marie Antoinette Helen Jeune
Assistant Midwife, Translator
Mother Health International birth clinic in Jacmel, Haiti

Marie Antoinette Helen Jeune
Marie Antoinette Helen Jeune

Marie, Melinda and a beautiful mother on prenatal day at the clinic.

I am Marie Antoinette Helene Jeune. I was born in 1981 in  Jeremie in the area of the grand Anse in the south of Haiti. I have a son who is five years old. I have been working with MHI as a translator and now I am studying to become a midwife. I am a Haitian woman coming from a long line of strong women. My people were brought here to Haiti as slaves from America in 1503. In 1804 we got our freedom. My people bought our freedom for $90 million in 1825 from France. I want to become a traditional midwife so that I can work for my country and this clinic.

I have the patience to be a midwife. The MHI birth clinic provides very good care to the women in my community during their pregnancy, birth and postpartum. The focus of a midwife is on natural methods for pregnancy, birth and postpartum care. I recognize the difference in care when I see a doctor attend a birth; it is not the same thing that we do as midwives when we work with birth and women. I am talking about the pitocin used routinely in birth in Haiti, and the other drugs that make the it very hard for the mamma and the baby. I see the way a midwife works with birth. She makes the women comfortable during labor using massage, and uses movement such as traditional dancing during birth. My passion is to become a midwife and make a difference in women’s lives. The first time I came here to work was at the beginning when Bumi Sehat started the clinic. Now the clinic is under new leadership and is Mother Health International, and when I first came here I did not know anything about natural birth. When I saw the way the birth clinic treated women, I felt so good and love within myself. I loved the pregnant women and this work. I massaged them, give them some ideas to make them happy during labor, create some dancing steps to relax the woman so she would not be afraid. One day when I was working with Kelly, I said I want to share some ways with the the mother to make her happy, to make her dance and laugh. Kelly said to me, “Yes Marie, the woman will be very happy that you do with her her." I felt so happy inside in myself, I knew that I was a midwife and not every one else knew, but I knew.

One time while a woman was laboring she asked me, “Oh marie mwen kapab fe pa sa y o wap tiye nou avan bebe sa sa fet.” (Oh Mary I can’t do these steps, you are killing me before my baby is born.” I said no, never quit, do not be discouraged. I am here and I will support you to make the steps.” She answered me afterward her baby was born, “Oh Mary I love you and sometimes when she looks at me and our eyes are together and we are connected.”

MHI midwifery model of care is a good model for Jacmel because it is hard to find good care for pregnant women. We are kind here, we treat the women with respect. The families come to the clinic and they are very happy because their women are finding good care in the clinic. The families tell me why wasn’t this clinic here before. They asked me, “Why are you working this work of midwifery? You treat us well, like the foreign midwife, are you a midwife?” They tell me I will become a great midiwfe and that makes me feel good. I hear them say, “You know Mary this clinic is very good, it is giving good care and you especially. If the foreign midwives leave you will be there here to help us. Stay strong, do not change your behavior.”

Some of the women and families ask me who are the midwives that come here, where do they come from. I explain to them they are midwives and come after the time of the earthquake to work in Haiti but they come and they plan to help the women and pregnancy for care. I explain, the damage of the earthquake brought the midwives.

I never thought about birth much before I worked here. In 2004 I was pregnant with son, my mom wanted me to follow a midwife and she gave me all the natural medicine. I was as 23 yrs old and the midwife checked positions of my baby but I never knew what she was doing and was very afraid when she touched my belly. My mom said there is not difference between the midwife and doctor. She told me to accept the midwife, let the midwife do her work, let her give me natural medicine and check my baby. When I was in labor, I lost my mucous plug. The midwife checked me and said the baby was ready to be born. My mom said to me, "Let her help you birth and I told my mom no and she said it was my decision. So we went to the hospital. She said that I would see the difference between a midwife and a doctor. I told her “I do not know but I told her that I trust the doctor.” If I was to have another baby again I of course I would do it with the midwife. 

We are working as midwives and as professionals and rarely we to bring a mother or baby to the hospital. But if we bring a baby or a mother to the hospital we treat them with respect and they will treat us with respect. The families are very satisfied, 100%, with the care that the clinic gives to the women. They like the way the midwives treat the women, very natural. There are some families that have told me that hospital, even if the woman is having a normal pregnancy and labor with no complications, that they make problems for the mother and baby. That means that they will cut the women (episiotomy or c-section). They said to me it is not the same as when we work with a midwife to do the birth. I met a lot of the girls and families telling me often the way the midwife  works because it is natural, and it is better for the birth of the baby.

First, when a woman comes to me in labor, we share some ideas with the woman and get to  know each other in labor. You can tell the woman some jokes to make her laugh and help her not stress and help her not be afraid. For the dance for the birth, I make the woman understand that it is not a game, it is to help the woman relax and help the baby get into position. Sometimes I create some steps to show the women to be relaxed, to be happy,to be laughing with me or smile with me. I explain to the women the baby wants love even when the baby is inside of his/her mom. I tell the women, let the baby know that they are something special and that everyone is going to receive them with a lot of love. This is throughout a woman's pregnancy, I explain to the baby everybody is waiting for the baby and will receive them with love. The baby needs the love.

Marie Antoinette, Haitian Assistant Midwife
(This was slightly edited to assist with the translation.) 

Friday, October 8, 2010

MHI passes the 200 mark!

Mother Health International is pleased to announce that over 200 babies have been born peacefully, and healthy at the MHI birth clinic with the support of volunteer midwives and OBGyn's from around the world using the midwives model of care.

We want to thank the greater community for your support in making this type of maternal health care service available to the women in Jacmel. You are making a difference in the lives of these women, children and the community at large. Thank you! 

Next week marks the 40th week working in Haiti and a newsletter updating you on the wonderful happenings at the clinic will be coming next week. 

Thank you again for your support. 
We continue to look for donations of support to maintain and sustain the clinic. Consider making a donation today, 

The Mother Health International Team