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.