Dr. Emilie's recap from the Midwife training; supporting humanized birth practices in Chiapas, Mexico
By Emilie Salomons Dr. TCM, FABORM on Sun, Feb 02 2020
In parts of Mexico, to have a humanize birth that respects the body and feelings of the birthing woman can be an act of rebellion.
In Chiapas, Mexico, violent birth practices in poor and indigenous populations, like unnecessary standard episiotomies and vaginal exams every 5 minutes for ‘students to learn’, as well as mandatory manual revisions of the uterus without anesthesia are a reality that women have no say in. In private for profit hospitals, cesarean section rates range from 75%-95% (much higher than the national average), making women feel they are incapable of having a birth without a major abdominal surgery.
But a movement has started to bring back humanized, respectful birth practices. The goal, to teach both women and birth attendants how to support a physiological birth and get cesarean section surgeries back down to the 10-15% suggested by the WHO.
When someone challenges or questions a dominant system, it is often met with resistance, intimidation and bullying, and this case is no exception. However the midwives I met during my trip were no longer willing to backdown. These midwives were determined to gather all the tools they could to support their clients, mentally, emotionally and physically during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, and heal their communities in the process.
This is where our group comes in and my vision began. As the co-president of the Obstetrical Acupuncture Association, I and the members of the association believe strongly in supporting and promoting the highest level of safe and respectful perinatal care globally. So when I was approached by the Global Acupuncture Project to provide an advanced Obstetrical Acupuncture course at the Luna Maya Centre, for a very keen and motivated group of traditional and formally trained midwives from Chiapas, Mexico who had completed the basic acupuncture training, it really was a no brainer.
The training exceeded my expectations in every way. The midwives were motivated and capable, and the training felt like a series of ah ha moments, where each challenge brought up, was met with solutions and tools help address it. We were able to provide an acupressure in labour class to partners of the pregnant women, as well as local doulas and support staff, and also offered a free clinic for the community every afternoon. We even had a woman working with remote indigenous communities along the Guatemalan border travel 3 hours each way, to take the acupressure class so that she could teach the communities without access to medical facilities due to a lack of infrastructure in the region.
Throughout the week, the midwives told us stories of the challenges they faced and the dreams they had for change. The midwives talked about being deeply moved that they and their communities were being seen and heard by us and they felt empowered and reenergized to continue to fight for these communities knowing they were not alone. Finally, someone else agreed that the indigenous communities and their pregnant and birthing women had value and should be treated as humans, with kindness and respect.
The trip ended in a way I don’t think I would have believed if it were in a Hollywood movie.
On the night beforee our last day of training, 4 of the midwives were called to the birth of their client. She was in labour and the baby was breech. The midwives explained the risks of breech birth and advised, as they were trained, to transfer to the hospital. However, because of some previous experiences the family had had, and a family history of breech birth (the father and grandfather had both been born breech) they refused to go and insisted on a home birth. The midwives knew they would need to do everything possible to support a smooth labour and reduce the risks associated with breech birth.
When they returned the next day to the centre they were giddy with excitement. They had used it all! When they realized her pelvis was not relaxing and the baby was not descending after the water had broken, they used the tools from their manual and performed both acupuncture and acupressure. The women went on to have a beautiful birth with her elated husband and sister by her side. The family decided to call the baby Luna after the Luna Maya Centre and its midwives.
Our farewell was filled with tears and deep gratitude from both the midwives and from us trainers. I will forever be grateful because we were able to witness how determination, empowerment and love can heal and transform communities.
My sincerest thanks to all of my colleagues and patients who supported this trip in the myriad of ways you all have. From donations and kinds words of support, to helping me translate my lectures notes into Spanish (they surprisingly understood my hilarious French/English accent! They were so grateful I learned Spanish for this training that they wrote a letter to my Spanish teacher to thank her personally)
Your support was felt and appreciated by all of us and every bit of it helped make a difference. So THANK YOU ALL!