July 21, 2014 Leave a Comment
*Click pics for enlarged view*
This installation includes fresh, new graffiti found around Cochabamba as well as photos I took over a year ago. Some of these photos were taken by Guillermo Deheza, a fellow Cochabamba dweller who likes graffiti art.
The variety of impressions about women represented in these pieces span all time, past, present, and future. Some repeating themes we see are: braids, hummingbirds, symbols, nature, nurture, protection, and colors of passion. Do you have a favorite?
>> Guillermo Deheza’s collection of hundreds of photos of Cochabamba graffiti on facebook
>> Past posts with dozens of pics of Cochabamba Street Art here at ‘the @’
June 26, 2014 Leave a Comment
Sounds like the set up for a great joke, right? It amused me to be the missionary in this scenario; so to that extent it is humorous. Aside from my own chuckle this is nothing more than a statement of fact:
A missionary, an astrologist, and a midwife walk into a yoga center.
My exploration of midwifery training began with a good ol’ Google search. Using as many phrases in Spanish and English I could think of I searched for schools and midwives in Bolivia. Then I extended my search to Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest.
Conclusion: midwifery in Bolivia is 1) rare and 2) rural.
Two seasoned midwives in other countries have suggested that my next step in midwifery training be to find out what the legal requirements are to practice midwifery in Bolivia. As I understand the laws the government is still figuring out the best way to incorporate midwives and their ways.
The law requires the midwife to be registered with the “Ministry of Health and Sports, Vice-minister of traditional medicine and interculturality” branch of the government. Registration is obtained by the presentation of a formal letter from a certain government official in your town or city of residence on your behalf validating and vouching for your abilities as a practicing midwife in that region for the previous five years. Upon approval this registration allows you entrance into any hospital or clinic to perform your midwifery skills. This is the process required of all those who practice traditional medicine to grant them validity and clinical privileges, such as: herbalists, naturalists, spiritual guides, witch doctors, and midwives.
I know that “Western” practices are far from infallible. I also know there is much we have dismissed or forgotten from our ancient ancestors due to prejudices, industrialization, and commercialization. These errors are essentially throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Yet, I am still coming to accept where the government has chosen to slot midwives. I am not yet at peace with it.
Rural Bolivian Midwives
In the Bolivian countryside and the small towns, which make up the majority of the land in this nation, the midwives learn their skills from the generation before them. Their aptitude is identified as young as 11 years old. Usually the skills are inherited and instilled from an elder in the family. It’s a beautiful thing to think how natural and communal it is to give birth in the villages. It is also a frightening reality that many of the practices are based solely on tradition rather than science. The rustic rural areas are located far from additional support services of modern medical facilities.
To put myself under the tutelage of a traditional Bolivian midwife in a small village would give me loads of experience with laboring women in-the-flesh. But I don’t think it could provide the level of training that I seek to obtain. I respect those midwives and I see their role as vital for this nation. I just don’t feel like that is the path I am supposed to take to receive my training.
The full list of those officially registered in Bolivia can be found online. I scoured the names and categories to find the ones registered in the department (state) of Cochabamba. There were 22 (out of a population of 1,900,000+). I did a Facebook search for each of their names. I didn’t find any on facebook. Most likely they are all in the small villages of our department.
Urban Bolivian Midwife
Through Facebook, though, I did find one “partera” (midwife) in Cochabamba. I wrote a little message to her introducing myself and explaining I would like to meet her to discuss the training options that exist for a person like me here in Cochabamba. I also googled her name and found a few articles by and about her. I was able to ascertain from a YouTube video that she became uneasy and unsatisfied with the entitled, prejudiced, and rude treatment of the doctors towards the women she began to seek out a different way. Her journey led her to become a midwife.
She responded to my message with kindness and suggested a time we meet. At first we were going to sit in a plaza and talk. The day of the meeting she texted me to say that a friend of hers had graciously offered the space of her yoga center for us to meet. I was so excited.
I found the place and remembered seeing signs out front that they specialize in prenatal yoga. The place was every bit what you would expect. Low lights, soothing decor, and incense lingering in the air. The yoga instructor ushered me in to Vivi, the midwife. Vivi is lively yet calm with a sweet countenance of peace and acceptance. She has a soft voice that resonates confidence. Her long hair, beaded jewelry, and flowing flowery garb reminded me of pictures I had seen of my parents’ hippie days. I loved her right away.
We sat at the small table in the kitchenette and drank herbal tea sweetened with natural honey. She shared her story. I shared mine. Then I asked about the education possibilities. She spoke of her dreams of a state of the art birthing center with a training arm here in the city of Cochabamba. Then she spoke of the challenges of money, initiative, and legality. I understood. She encouraged me to continue on this path and urged me to seek out the training in any way I could.
As we rose to leave we encountered one of her friends in the entry way. She introduced me to the astrologist and explained how they work together. Vivi has a few women who are expecting babies in the coming months. She does their prenatal care and then attends their births.
I was disappointed to know that training to be a midwife would have to come from abroad. I was surprised, too. I thought there would be a more midwives because of the practicality of the role in a society like this one. I feel sorry that the expectant mothers in the urban areas do not have the option of the services of a midwife. It just makes sense to simplify and reduce the high number of unnecessary cesarean sections with a midwifery program. The great divide created by classism is shocking and quite abhorrent. Bolivia could benefit greatly from more midwives.
Now I have to look beyond Bolivian borders for a school. That search has begun.
June 25, 2014 10 Comments
When? Where? How? So many questions at this point. I am not without options. I just know I am facing a few challenges.
- Age – Just turned 38. I know we never stop learning. I feel like my body and brain are up for this. I do feel also some urgency to make this happen sooner rather than later.
- Geography – Bolivian midwives are few and far between in the city of Cochabamba. More practice in the villages and rural areas. Not impossible to access to get some hands on training, but difficult. No formal midwifery training is to be found in all of Bolivia (correct me, please, if you have other information). If I were to work alongside a practicing midwife in a village I wonder if they would accept me, culturally speaking.
- Education – I have a high school diploma from the U.S. and one year of mission school training. No medical background, whatsoever. Many of the distance schools I have seen online require a basic nursing or paramedic degree as a prerequisite.
- Realistic responsibilities – My life is here in Bolivia: as a missionary, as a mother of 5 kids still at home, as a wife supporting a man who works to provide for the family. My seriousness in choosing now to pursue this passion (that has been steadily growing for about 8 years now) dramatically affects each of those realistic responsibilities.
- Baby steps – Right now I am gathering information from around the globe about how this can become a reality. I’m researching online. I am talking to people in the field. I am blogging about it in hopes to get some feedback. I made an Amazon wish list of 30+ textbooks and books I want to obtain based on a few different reading lists that distance schools made available online. I’ve begun to crunch the numbers for textbooks, distance training, etc.
- Apprenticeship – It seems that most programs are about three years long. Some you can start from zero, like I am doing. All require time and experience spent under an approved practicing midwife, which I totally want to do, but it seems that none are close by, thus demanding I place myself in a physically different location for a significant amount of time. (I did meet a Bolivian midwife. For a upcoming blog I will be speaking about midwifery in Bolivia.)
- Money – This part stumps me, but doesn’t stress me out. Training, textbooks, and travel are all costly and necessary for this to happen. And right when we are trying to figure out about launching our three oldest kids in a few short years. Hmm. Somehow, though, I have a feeling it’s all going to work out.
Do you, my handful of faithful readers, have any questions for me? Are there some challenges I am not seeing that you would like to mention? Do you have any suggestions for overcoming these difficulties?
The process which has brought me to this place of action is very precious to me. I don’t want to skip any step because I know all of them are important. Ambition and zeal got burned up in my younger years. Patience and persistence will be my strength as I walk out this journey. I am grateful for those following me, walking this out alongside me, and helping me to birth this desire. Thank you!
June 24, 2014 6 Comments
Making close friends is a necessity for survival when you are far from blood relatives. The Holman family has a few kids the same ages as a few of our kids. Mrs. Holman and Mrs. Washington have formed an especially tight bond. Yes, I just referred to myself in the 3rd person. According to Mr. […]
June 23, 2014 Leave a Comment
The induction was scheduled. Romon and Melinda graciously agreed to allow me to be present for the labor and delivery. I consider this one of the highest honors I have had in my entire life, alongside the honor of birthing our own five children. The labor pains began slowly then progressively strengthened throughout the day. […]
June 19, 2014 3 Comments
By: Jill Houtz as a birthday gift to me today We took Lamaze classes to prepare for your birth. Driving home after the first class I was sober and thoughtful. Your dad on the other hand said, “This is gonna be a piece of cake!” I was glad he thought so. I told him, “Then […]
June 18, 2014 2 Comments
Adoption is a different kind of birth. The process doesn’t follow nature’s timeline, but all the elements are present: conception, gestation, labor, delivery, post partum. A whole book could be written about my personal struggles through each step in the process. Start to finish it took 24 months. Fun facts from Google: “In Mammals, Elephants […]