Since beginning volunteering at the clinic back in August, I have had the distinct privlege of watching 23 babies come into this world. If I were a preacher, I could make a heck of an analogy about the pain and gunk that leads up to the magical moment of birth and is followed by the unexplainable, unimaginable love, curiosity, and even fear that follows. But, I am not a preacher - so you'll have to get that analogy from someone else.
I volunteer in the birth room once a week. My supervisor is an awesome Filipina midwife - most of my shifts are with her - but occasionally I'll be on a shift with other amazing, very experienced midwives. I learn so much from each one. Each shift has 4-6 midwives/volunteers. Our responsibilities include monitoring/coaching/helping laboring women; preparing for and assisting with the birth; providing post-partum (after-birth) care for both mom and baby; and other tasks that make the efficient/effective running of a birth center possible.
This month we have 280 women due, which is on the high end - normal is somewhere around 250. Our patients are primarily low-income women. For some reason I have often thought that women in other countries must be "closer to their roots" regarding pregnancy/birth and that would somehow give them some "instinct" when it came to healthy pregnancy, natural delivery, and mother skills (like breastfeeding).
But - I've found that women here aren't any different than me and my friends - they have the same fears/worries; they need to be lovingly taught/shown the same things I needed to know as a new mom; they have their own set of "old-wives-tales" that are different than the ones I heard in the States, but are just as powerful in influencing their decisions.
Don't get me wrong - there are differences - but most of the differences come in the form of expectations. For example, the women here don't even consider an epidural - because we simply don't have them. And, yet, I haven't seen a single woman buckle under the pain. But I have seen the beautiful smile of a new mom look at me and say, "I did it. I didn't think I could, but I did." These women aren't stronger or better - they simply have different expectations.
Here I am in the birth room posing with a sweet mama whom I was able to assist in labor. She came back a couple of days later for a routine newborn check and we snapped this picture. Doesn't she have a great smile! And her baby had the most amazing eyelashes I've ever seen - to bad he's a boy and won't fully appreciate them!
A couple of weeks ago I was able to start assisting my supervisor/the other midwives with parts of the delivery. I'm super-excited - but also very humbled. I've been able to assist in 6 births so far. Each shift begins and ends with the midwives and volunteers gathing in prayer seeking God's wisdom, His watchful care, and His grace to do our jobs well. These moments are poignient reminders of our dependence on Him.