Today began as all the others have, with a bleary-eyed, yet invigorating and enlightening walk with Ruth and other inspiring friends. I only got about five hours of sleep last night because my hotel room was quite chilly (there’s no heat) and, as it turns out, the walls are also a bit thin. That made it challenge today to get my spirits up, but just like the past few days, the scheduled experiences did not disappoint.
We went to meet with one of our organization’s grantees who works on behalf of local midwives. This organization is absolutely incredible. The women and a few men work tirelessly to promote safe and healthy birth experiences for women and children. The statistic given was that out of 2,000 births a year, only 600 happen in the hospital. That leaves midwives, who in many instances are shut out of hospitals and threatened for their lives, to provide care.
These women made us delicious tamales and snacks, served tea, and shared their experiences as providers of life. We viewed their birthing rooms and exam rooms for those mothers who choose to have their child in the clinic as opposed to their home, and we learned the Mayan rituals for providing safe birth.
They shared a beautiful invocation tradition, using the spirit of the sunrise, sunset, wind, and sky. Every child has a gift and a purpose determined on their birth, and the midwife’s job is to teach the parents about this gift.
I was especially touched as we arrived at one midwife’s home. The “house” was really a series of cement structures connected by tin roofs, and her exam room was surrounded on the outside by dogs, cows, roosters, and chickens. We heard all about her experience in her district. She shared that they feel birth is a spiritual practice, in which you prepare your heart and pray along the way.
These women work 24/7, often traveling late at night and early in the morning to provide support. They face dog bites and sometimes abusive husbands to do the work they do. These women exhibit moral courage on a daily basis. They understand that women and their children deserve safe, healthy, and supportive birth environments and heed the call to do this work when the government tries to shut them down. They fight for the mother and baby to have a spiritual and personal beginning in their journey together.
As we left, they were filling out paperwork. One of the midwives cannot read or write. She’s been a midwife for over 30 years, and truly knows babies. One of her co-workers was filling in the paperwork for her, and she signed using her thumbprint. We all have unique fingerprints. When we touch others, literally and figuratively, in kindness and with our full spirit, it gives birth to a better future, so to speak. What imprint will you make on others?