by Emma Dorsey
This past week, we went to El Valle de Copan, where we visited four clinics in total. Thanks to a generous grant from the Muellers in Germany, we were able to bring education materials to each clinic, as well as to the ‘’hogares materno’’ or ‘’mothers’ waiting centers.’’
For me,stepping out of La Ceiba was an opportunity to gain perspective on the work in the hospital here. I witnessed a beautifully-managed birth in Santa Rita de Copan that gave me hope for improving the conditions in the Hospital Atlantida in La Ceiba. The clinicians at Atlantida tend to be younger and more experienced. In a sense, they are ‘’practicing’’ for their later work, which will likely be with private clients. This can be painful to watch, but I also find that many of these clinicians are more open to outside input than they might be later on in their careers. I hold onto my faith that the culture surrounding birth can be changed.
One night, I felt like I made a real impact on the birth of a woman named Zoe. She was having her 4th child and felt like an old hand at birth. When we first met, I could tell she was a little skeptical of the doula role. I would peek in, make sure she was comfortable, chat a bit, and move on. After awhile, though, Zoe seemed more and more lost in her pain during contractions. The baby wasn’t descending, and when this happened with her first child, it resulted in a cesarean. I think that her fear of a repeat cesarean combined with her exhaustion and she was in a bad spot. That was when she asked me not to leave. She was too exhausted to move much, but we were able to get the bed more upright, which helped considerably. I stayed with her, talking between contractions, breathing with her and combing her hair during contractions. The hair combing became rhythmic, and soon she started moving her head in anticipation of where my hand would go next. As she calmed down, the doctors got worried that her contractions had stopped. They came by to check, but Zoe told them the contractions were the same.
‘‘¿Usted no se cansa de estar levantada?” she asked.
‘‘¿Usted no se cansa de dar a luz?” I retorted.
Zoe smiled. The next time the doctor came by he said it was time to push. She gave birth to a 9lb beautiful baby boy. Afterwards, she told me she didn’t think she endure it any longer, but that when I started touching her hair, she knew she could handle it again. I replied that it’s good to have a rhythm to focus on. The doctor was listening pretty attentively to
the conversation, and I believe that Zoe had communicated to him the importance of the emotional aspect of birth in a way they probably didn’t cover in med school.