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!


Yasmin said...

Wow, what you are doing is so exciting, especially since I am expecting my first child in October. I have been wanting to come out to Santiago for some time now and maybe this will be my motivation, to attend your first class as a visitor. I would just love to be present and I think I can help out with some snacks as well.

EmmaK said...

Just found your blog and it is really informative as I'm planning on visiting Dominican Republic soon. I'll be back!