Friday, March 13, 2009

A New Baby is Born

During the weekend before the new Midwives for Haiti class started, there was a lot of concern over how things would work on Monday. Danise, the Haitian nurse-midwife who was hired to handle the main teaching, still had not received the key to our classroom from the hospital administrator. It was also a little uncertain how many students were accepted in the program, how many would show up, and whether we had enough books and school materials for them. We drove all over Hinche in the beat-up truck that is the Midwives for Haiti’s main transportation, with our driver, Ronel, locating supplies and equipment. There was medical equipment at the Whitney clinic, where a huge box of emergency OB drugs, supplies and a laptop were stored. There were notebooks, pens, gestational wheels, to pick up from the storage closet at the Bishop’s house. There were several huge boxes of books that came with Nadene on the plane, including the newly-printed version of “A Handbook for Midwives” in Creole. Nadene, Steve Eads, and I sat with Danise and talked about the week ahead and how to begin the teaching and introduction to the program. I had very little to add, being entirely new to this, but fascinated and excited just the same. So much energy and money and preparation was spent to “gestate” this “baby” the second class of Midwives for Haiti, and it was uncertain how the labor and delivery would unfold...

So, Monday morning we packed everything into Ronel’s truck, put on our nice skirts and makeup (except for Steve…for the record, he wore scrubs and no makeup!), and headed for the hospital. At the same time Kathie and Cindy and June headed for a big day of primary care at the Whitney Clinic. When we arrived at the hospital, the classroom was still locked, and Dr.Prince, the hospital administrator, was unreachable, out of town. Fortunately, the Ministry of Health building was open and had a room for us, with chairs, tables, and table cloths, all set up!! And gathered at the front of the building were 6 beautiful midwife students, with perfectly braidied hair, bright white blouses, dark skirts, and HUGE smiles. They were so excited it brought me to tears. Nadene and I were almost overwhelmed with excitement! We set up the table with places for each student, books, notebooks, pens, pencils, wheels, and tape measures. The students were invited in, and took places… Danise welcomed them in Creole, and then asked one of the students to open with a prayer , which she plans to do every day, as it is traditional here. Magdala, Pastor Jude’s wife, started the hymn “How Great Thou Art” , in Creole, and all the students joined in, loudly, and in harmony. With the acoustics echoing inside these cement walls, it was utterly angelic. Nadene and I both sang along (although we were so moved we were crying!) in English.

Danise then introduced the program, and asked each of us to introduce ourselves and speak about why we came here, and the background and philosophy of Midwives for Haiti. Dr.Eads told the students about how it took 2 years to train the first class, due to all the obstacles and changes that occurred during that time, but that it succeeded through great perseverance and commitment, on the part of all the volunteers, the students, and much support from friends in the US. He then explained that this second class is very important, because it will show that this process can be repeated, and become a truly viable established program . Nadene talked about saving the lives of mothers and babies in Haiti, and touched on how it is a primary value that the M4H midwives become famous for being highly skilled, and for their kindness and compassion. I spoke about my path from being a direct-entry home birth midwife, to having a large hospital practice, and how the work of a midwife in all settings, in all countries, is very hard work ,requires a love of mothers and babies, but has great rewards…”and I welcome you to this work.” Another new student arrived every 30 minutes through the morning, until there were 9, and 2 more expected for next Monday! We taught chapters 1 and 2 of the Handbook, and went to lunch in the truck, with HUGE rejoicing—the baby was not only out, it was robust and crying (or singing) loudly. Midwives for Haiti, Class #2, had begun.


  1. You are truly having a life-chaning experience, for yourself and all of these women you are helping. Just because you don't see a comment each time doesn't mean we are not following you with love and awe!

  2. Oh - I'm so proud to be associated with you. Soak in this experience through every pore in your body as you teach your mothers to do through their pregnancies/labors/deliveries. Can't wait to hear more!