This article was contributed by graduate student researcher Jazmine Garcia Delgadillo.
Earlier this year while conducting evaluation work we interviewed women who held a very special role in their communities. Though our main objective was to find out what impact GPA has had in their lives, we learned much about their experiences and histories as traditional midwives in Chiapas.
Doña Soraida (left) with GPA Training Program Director
The following is the story of Doña Soraida:
Doña Soraida lives in the municipality of Yajalon, Chiapas. She has been a midwife for approximately 20 years. As we began to engage with her in a conversation of what it means to be a midwife in Chiapas and whether or not this was her personal choice, she began telling us her story. Doña Soraida explains that being a midwife was never something she aspired to be. In fact, it was something she felt she would be very bad at doing and initially avoided it. She remembers the first time she saw a woman giving birth. It was her neighbor and the midwife at the time needed additional help. Her neighbor was hemorrhaging severely and that image is one that deeply traumatized her. Doña Soraida explains that her neighbor passed away and she spent weeks trying to get rid of the feeling of blood in her hands.
Months later, her grandmother (who used to be a midwife) appeared in her dreams. Doña Soraida explains that her grandmother told her, “tu eres a quien quiero darle midon, ” – You are the one I want to give my gift to -.
But Doña Soraida said she did not want her gift, that she was traumatized from her past experience and would not be a good midwife. Thereafter, her grandmother began to visit her weekly in her dreams to ask if she had reconsidered. Doña Soraida says she got tired and finally agreed. Her grandmother then said, “Good, I have to teach you quickly. They will come looking for you soon.”
In her dream, she made Doña Soraida lay down and began to teach her step by step what she should do when a woman is giving birth. Her grandmother then abruptly stopped and said, “I must go; they are coming to look for you.” Doña Soraida was then awakened by a knock on the door and found it was the mother of a pregnant lady who said her daughter was asking for her. Doña Soraida informed the mother that she had never assisted anyone in a birth alone. But the mother pleaded and Doña Soraida finally agreed. Doña Soraida explains that she followed the advice her grandmother had given her and fortunately everything turned out well. Thereafter, women continued to call on her for help.
She says the very first woman she assisted was the secretary of the President of Yajalon, and when GPA started offering trainings she told Doña Soraida that she had to participate. Doña Soraida again told her that she was not interested; she did not want to be a midwife. Eventually, she decided to go to the trainings. She realized that women were asking her for help regardless and that she might as well learn more about the subject.
Doña Soraida expresses that she is very happy she decided to attend. Before, none of the midwives would talk to one another. Now they have the space and opportunity to share their experiences and learn from each other. She says that most importantly, she now knows when to take a woman to the hospital.
The biggest issue Doña Soraida now has to face is the fact that her patients do not always listen to her. Sometimes she wants to take them to the hospital, but the women or family refuse. Other times she gives recommendations but they are not followed. Doña Soraida explains that as a trained midwife her role goes beyond helping one particular patient or another. With her new and acquired knowledge, it now involves changing ideas and preconceptions in her community of what a woman should and should not do before, during and after labor. This is extremely important as it has the potential to save lives.