Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Childbirth Education

Five years ago, pregnant with my first child, I was introduced to the craziness that is pre-natal care and birth in the Dominican Republic. I fought hard and long against pointless c-section, but in the end, my son was delivered via surgery (and thank God he was) at almost 42 weeks of gestation. at every turn, i encountered hostility and tension - i wanted a natural birth, but, as a first-time mom, had no idea what i was up against. when i had pain in my belly, i was sent home and called a cry-baby and told "if you can't handle that pain, how will you handle child-birth. we can schedule the c-section now if you want"and so i went home, day-after-day with no explanation for my pain and insulted on top of everything.

the doctor never checked to see what was going on down there, and only sent me to get a special ultra-sound when i argued with her for it. finally, we spoke with the director of the clinic who sent us asap to a different ob/gyn who was convinced i wouldn't be able to give birth - and scheduled the c-section for the next morning. samil had the cord wrapped around his neck and was lucky to have been born at just the right moment.

i'm thankful for the second doctor who touched me, who calmed me down, who spoke to me like a person and not an animal. but the trials didn't stop then - finding a pediatrician who was pro-breastfeeding was impossible (we still haven't found one) and after my daughter was born and put under the lights for jaundice, we had to fight with the nurses to not feed her RIGHT BEFORE we showed up to breastfeed during visiting hours.

i became a crusader for breastfeeding - if the pediatricians weren't going to support it, i would. and i'd let women know all of the benefits of it - all of the information they weren't getting because the doctors were being bought out by the formula companies, i'd get it out. because that happens. and because doctors advocate formula feeding, many children in the dominican republic are being insufficiently fed to the point of severe malnourishment and even death.

i've been looking for a way to plug in this passion to the communities we work and live in, but have been at a loss. late last year, i plugged into a midwifery group from the USA that works here in the DR. i'm no midwife (yet) but these women, and the women i have met (online) through this connection, have encouraged me, supported me, and even sent me tons of books to get me started on the road to promoting healthy pregnancies, natural birthing and breastfeeding.

since december, i've forged a friendship with one of these ladies who has really egged me on, supporting my idea to start a pre-natal class at the school i work in in cienfuegos. she got me the resources, sent me links and videos and even sat down and typed out a whole class by class outline to get me started. i am so grateful, you cannot even imagine.

and with the midwives for the dominican republic, i've seen the real need and desire to bring this kind of education to the island. my friend who is the leader of this group is working to get healthy, natural births and breastfeeding into the hospitals. it's amazing to see all of this happen - the support there is for it, the power in women working together.

now! now, i will be putting all of this into practice. scary, i know. on june 9th, we start childbirth education classes at futuro lleno de esperanza - free to all the pregnant ladies in the community who want to know more about how their bodies work, how they can take care of it, how they can make labor a little more bearable and how to take care of their newborn once they're here. most of the interest i've had so far is from first-time teenage moms. the youngest is 13. when i began my crusade, i never realized where it would bring me - and this demographic is so much different than what i'm used to. i'll write about the "marriage" situation in a different post so you can understand more about why 13 and pregnant is a little more severe than "teen mom" on MTV makes it out to be.

i've found pre-natal vitamins for 1 peso a piece - that's like 2 cents. which is next to nothing, but still too much for many of our mamas. the plan is to dish out seven vitamins a class, in an attempt to insure attendance the following week. of course, we'll have snacks (what better way to get people together than food? it's universal, people). if you'd like to help out with this project, helping us to buy the pre-natal vitamins or even some of the snacks for our classes, please email me @ melanie @ gmail . com (without the spaces) and i'll let you know how you can do that!

Monday, May 28, 2012

what's been going on?

 i feel like i keep writing "i'll be back soon" - seriously. annoying, right?

it's just that we haven't had an internet connection and, more importantly, i hate making blog posts with no real pictures. and my camera is on the blitz - and by camera i mean my cell phone with flash camera (so if you've called and i haven't answered... forgive me please - it's going to the shop soon enough).

the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. i was on semester break at the university and i think i tried to fit every thing i possibly could into those blissful, work-free weeks. i took the kids to the campo to visit their grandpop and cousins the first weekend.

i love the campo for so many reasons - it's close to the beach (we didn't go), it's cooler than the city (it wasn't) and i don't really have to watch my kids (amely just about busted open her forehead), so the following weekend we went back - this time with friends, and a car (well, two). we hit one of my favorite beaches - a river/beach with just-right waves and spent time taking care of cows and reading and playing dominoes.

samil had a presentation at school - it was cute, but the whole process set my blood boiling a few times. the thing was delayed three times and in the end it started an hour later than stated. i know i should be used to this by now, and thankfully i was on vacation (or would have missed out on three days of work since not only was the activity postponed, but they didn't bother to inform until the actual days of the event). samil was a tree. and if you judge only by this picture, not a happy tree. but he took part in the english portion of the activity as well and told everyone his favorite "aminal" is a zebra, and neighed like a horse. too cute.

on the last weeked of my vacation, i turned 30. that's right, people the big 3-0. instead of dreading it, i celebrated (and am still celebrating!) we used my new grill (with a few hitches - it went out in the middle and we had to relight it) and had a barbecue (american style) complete with bachata and merengue dancing (dominican style). we, as a family, have been so blessed with good friends who share in the good and the bad with us - and we're all just as mixed and matched as any UN meeting :) (i do love diversity).

now, i'm back to work - working on some new projects and trying to get everything done and still enjoy it. i've been walking in the mornings again - and after a long time without any real exercise, i feel good. i don't know why i stopped, but it's back in the routine now and i'm feeling refreshed.

so, i've taken over the "leadership" of a school - working in collaboration with two amazing people i've known for so long (and am learning that i never really knew) to bring quality education in a faith-based environment to one of the most marginalized communities in santiago. i'm working with a friend to create job opportunities for impoverished women (more on that to come) and i've just finished a quickie (4 class) course on pregnancy and childbirth in our community. i'll be offering a more extensive course for pregnant teenagers starting june 9. i was blessed by a wonderful woman, tracy, with all the books i needed to get started, i've been blessed.

more is happening, but i just hope to get back on here on a more regular basis. i hope all you faithful (5) readers are content and healthy!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

why i have no time.

i'm not one to speak poorly about classes i'm taking. especially not on the internet, but man.

our university offers some online resources for students and teachers alike. and in order to incorporate that into my classes, i'm taking a class to learn how to do use some of this stuff.

it's four classes, on thursday nights - on top of all the other crazy-good busy-ness that's going on in these parts right now. today i was late and thought i'd miss a ton.


in fact, i've been here 1.5 hours and have learned how to sign into the webpage.


and as you may or may not have noticed, i've disappeared from the blog. and it's just that i'm so busy. it's a filling ,amazing kind of busy and i really am more content than i've been in ages. i'm working in an area that has always been in my heart and in an environment that i thrive in (mostly, me in charge!)

i have some classes at the university, and i've gotten students that are eager to participate, and speak english at a level that makes it worth the work - seeing what they are passionate about, what affects them.

and i'm still working with midwives for the dominican republic, and have even branched out from my training with them and am teaching a pre-natal class. (on top of that, there are plans in the works to enhance the training for childbirth educators, bring in more women's healthcare advocates, etc...)

more. i'm working with a friend to start a little micro-enterprise that empowers women, and in turn changes lives. with the same friend, working on getting biogas into these communities (for so many reasons, that will come when i have a minute to sit down and think it out).

community garden project, and rain-water collection system because we only get potable water three days a week for a few hours in the new school i'm working at.

samil and amely are growing and growing and just as involved in all these new projects as they can be.

and now, i've been in this class for 2 hours and 15 minutes, and still have no idea why i'm here. the guy is still showing us examples of other people's pages (that i could look at in my free time!)

be back soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

regularly scheduled blog-casting.

it's report card time - which means we're out a regular internet connection in the house  for a week or two while they use our 3G stick to do what they need to do. i'm also just starting back to a crazy-full summer semester at the uni,  and getting into the swing of things.

i'll be back soon (with pictures and my 30th birthday pictures and "goal list")