March 6th, 2017
Today we woke up early to go to the birthing center conference at Hotel Montana in Port Au Prince. I first need to take a moment to acknowledge the history of Hotel Montana. It opened in 1947 and became a 4 star hotel that diplomats and famous people frequented. On January 12th, 2010 a large earthquake hit and the hotel collapsed. An estimated 200-300 people went missing there. When I learned the history and ominous feeling came over me. I tried to shake it throughout the day but every time I went out onto the balcony I thought of how it must have been. It’s was haunting in a way. Being in Haiti just a few short weeks after that earthquake I saw many things and heard tale of many things so be it may my mind kept getting sucked back in.
The hotel was rebuilt and reopened a couple years after. It is a shockingly beautiful place. There’s a beautiful pool, outdoor dining and bar rooftop and a mind blowing view. Seriously, mind blowing!!!
I was at Hotel Montana for a Haiti birthing center conference put on by the Good Birth Network. We had amazing speakers present. Our own Claudin (such a funny guy) spoke very professionally about MamaBaby Haiti and dang we do a lot of births. Others spoke from organizations such as the Carrie Wortham Birth Center, Mika from Heartline Ministries, Sarah from Olive Tree, Family Health Ministries, Maison de Naissance, UNFPA, Chris Alanso from Luna Maya in Mexico and Kay from Global Force Healing also spoke.
I learned ONLY about 35% of Haitian Women deliver in a facility whether it be hospital or birthing center. Why? A huge survey was done and the biggest barrier is fear of bad treatment in the hospital. Wow!!! The highest maternal and neonatal death rates in the Western Hemisphere are in Haiti and the biggest barrier, bigger than money or transportation is fear of poor treatment in the hospital. Ok, let that sink in for a moment. Let that really sink in.
The conference went on in a fascinating way all day. It was primarily in Kreyòl and translated to English. Such an amazing learning experience. The president of the Association of Haitian Midwives spoke today as well. She was not there to make friends. She spoke in such an intense manner “like fire and brimstone” about how basically none of us in the room were midwives and Haiti only recognizes one school for midwifery education. It may have been more targeted. It was intense though. Those in Midwifery reading this understand that this in not a unique situation for midwives to hear. This topic comes up around the world. Who’s a midwife? Who’s a traditional birth attendant? Who’s a skilled birth attendant? On and on, round and round we go. There are many people in Haiti working to train midwives, us included. Why? They are needed!!! Again, remember only 35% of women in Haiti go to the hospital for birth and Haiti also has the worst maternal and neonatal death rate in the Western Hemisphere. There is a goal in Haiti to open over 100 more birthing centers around the country over the years to come. A statement was made today by Chris Alanso “Know that birth centers become a movement in countries and they change policies”. That’s a lose translation of what she said but really, isn’t that the truth.
The day ended with Jeanette from Midwives for Haiti speaking. She told of the great work they are doing. She ended by saying “You can call us whatever you want but we will keep calling ourselves midwives”. There was more to that quote but I’ll leave it at that.
Amazing day, amazing people.
So…crazy things today. Driving almost 2 hours to get 7 miles in Port Au Prince traffic, being haunted by ghosts so to speak, getting scolded with a group of amazing people for being a midwife, sitting on a roof top of a crazy extreme 4 star resort in Haiti 😳 (scratching my head) with a breathtaking view and tap-taps are always crazy.
And thank you Santo for always looking after me in Haiti even when you are far away. Today he messaged me to let me know there are riots on the way home and I need to check reports before we head back on the bus.