Becoming a doula has been hard work. Ensuring that time with my son isn't sacrificed means I spend a lot of time doing things while he naps and after he goes to bed. It means I don't get to write as many blog posts as I'd like and that I spend my fair share of nights going to bed later than I should or staying up to think about what I could be doing.
There are moments as I build this business with Emily that I think maybe I should give up because it's hard work but then sweet opportunities like Monday night come along and help strength and align my perspective.
Ryerson Universities midwifery program supports Horizons of Friendships program to save the lives of women and children through the training and support of indigenous midwives. As a nurse who has traveled to Ecuador to provide nursing services to indigenous peoples in their rural communities I instantly wanted to go and hear about this program and hear directly from the indigenous midwives. Although it was a free event it came with many challenges, driving to Toronto, a subway ride with two babies, a stroller and all of our bags, a 10min walk and a search to find the hall that was actually holding the event. Despite all this, we made it to the event, happy babies in tow. Although it was a great deal of work - it was worth every ounce of effort.
I've always been passionate about arming local people to do local work. Although missionary's can often assist with projects coming and going is unhelpful if there's no one able to assist when no foreigners are around. This is where this program shines. Although foreigners make trips to this area often to offer their help they noted that they learn so much from the indigenous midwives and in return the indigenous midwives are educated and able to serve their communities thoroughly, consistently and with great continuity of care.
I learned a great deal on Monday for example the hardships these indigenous women and their midwives endure to receive and give effective care. Women's husbands or mothers-in-law make decisions for them around birthing; striping them of their autonomy. Many believe despite warning signs that birthing at home is safer than birthing in a medical post or clinic. The infant and maternal death rates are high. Indigenous mothers are twice as likely to die as non-indigenous mothers and indigenous children under the age of 1 are 67% more likely to die than non-indigenous children. These rates are unacceptable.
These indigenous midwives walk through rural terrain in night time and unsafe conditions, chased by dogs and wild animals to support these women, they face hostility and denial from families, sometimes drag women with warning signs in a sheet wrapped around their head to the closest road, flag down cars or use their own money for gas for the ambulance to ensure these women remain alive and birth healthy live infants. These women are often unpaid, going with minimal supplies and with minimal support through rain, mud, heat or shine and yet their presence is ESSENTIAL to their community. They SAVE lives.
Global Affairs Canada has partnered with those in Guatemala through Horizons of Friendship on a 13.2 million dollar initiative that will directly impact 218,000 indigenous. This partnership also benefits over 700 midwifery students. Horizons for Friendship still needs to raise 1.8 million to maintain their portion of the partnership.
Hearing this women's stories first hand, their struggles, their joys, their extraordinary abilities and restrictions due to education, funding and supplies is amazing. I left with my perspective realigned and was reminded that my work will have its time but my child, supportive people and my over abounding privilege as a Canadian and Doula is a reality many don't enjoy. My hardships are nothing in comparison.
Please consider donating to the Horizon of Friendship today or on an on-going basis. You're supporting other women and children, supplies, education, gas for their ambulance, equipment for their medical centres and showing some pretty hardworking, sacrificing women that Canada supports them and their initiate to save the lives of indigenous women and their children.