by Maj Østerbye (November 2011)
Having worked in Denmark as a midwife for five years, I decided to take a break for a couple of years, pursuing my dream to travel through Latin America in search of traditional midwives and inspiration. In Denmark midwifery is a recognized university degree and the midwives attend births in the hospitals as well as in the home of the woman when desired.
About half a year through my travels, having met and studied with many traditional midwives, I felt a deep longing to work again and to get the possibility to apply both old and newfound technics.
In this very moment a friend from Denmark gave me a hint about the existence of “Dar a Luz Honduras” and fortunately I was accepted into the project.
For a little longer than a month I’ve been working here in Honduras, in three hospitals with different ways of practice, each representing their own culture.
My job has first of all been to give support to the women through labour and by doing so to demonstrate other technics to the staff here.
Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa is a very busy hospital and with around 60 births a day it’s suffering from lack of equipment and an amount of patients
that by far exceeds the physical capacity. The staff is running in all directions to try to keep up, which gave room for me to be with the women.
Sometimes I had the experience of dividing myself into 5 persons to try to make a small difference for all the women in need of encouragement, physical and emotional support. Other days I found myself staying by the same bed the whole day.
In the hospital in Tela they attend around 10 births a day and there I found in the staff a beautiful openness to learn new ways and they were observing me with curiosity, sometimes wondering what the purpose was of the actions of this crazy Danish midwife. We laughed a lot together and they laughed at me, though still observing with a curios eye. In Tela I found the optimism I was missing in Tegucigalpa.
Here in La Ceiba I found new challenges. The hospital attends around 18 births a day and I really experienced how different the communication is here compared to the direct form we use in Denmark. I found myself in situations where without realizing it I somehow managed to offend a doctor or another member of the staff. I found it difficult to work in a place where the practice is so different from what I’m used to. The staff here get almost no training in how to give psychological and emotional support to a woman in birth, when support is so badly needed. The women depend completely on the support of the staff as their husband and family members are not allowed access. Dar a Luz Honduras is working with one of the gynecologists of the hospital on preparing an education program.
Silvia had arranged for me to stay with wonderful hosts all with open hearts and open minds to the work we are doing here. With them I could speak openly and with them I found so much support and help.
Change that last takes time and can’t be done overnight which is why it’s so important that more volunteers will come to continue the job here. I’s been so wonderful to be part of this process and most importantly it’s been a pleasure to work with the women and to share their experiences and special moments.
I came here partly to teach another way of attending births and feel that I’m ending up leaving with so much learned.
My plan was to end my stay with Dar a Luz Honduras en La Moskitia which is a somewhat isolated area in the Jungle where the people have a very different way of living. Here I would have had the possibility to work with traditional midwives, investigating their birth practice and their needs for equipment and knowledge. Unfortunately I’ve had to change my plans because of the rainy season so this adventure will still be waiting for me in the future.