Thursday, May 05, 2011

By Beth McHoul

Heartline Maternity Program Battling Forces of Darkness

Lots of birth going on around here.  As I write this, a very pregnant mastiff dog is sitting at my side – she will deliver any day now.  Several missionary homes are waiting for her offspring to provide protection and fun for their families.

Our maternity center is full of pregnant women and post-partum women and babies.  A woman calls us when she starts labor and we spring into action. 

Occasionally this even happens in the daytime.  Many births go perfectly and women put into action the things they have learned in class.  Sometimes it doesn’t go perfectly.
Women in the US have their birth plans, their birth bag all packed and most likely they have been to childbirth classes and have their methods of coping (or not feeling) pain all arranged.  We try to prepare our ladies as well, through months of prenatal care, healthy food, vitamins and iron supplements and education.  It’s the education that gets sticky.

A woman comes into labor with her belief system.  Some feel they are cursed if they haven’t gone into labor on their “due date”.  They might take herbs or potions to remedy this.  What they meant to start labor might kill their baby.  Others come in filled with fear and apprehension and can’t get beyond it.  Their fear stalls their labor and won’t allow them to progress.  Some think if they drink too much water their babies may drown  therefore our instructions for hydration go unheeded.   Our women come into the program with lots of cultural baggage.  Some wives tales are silly, some are downright deadly.  All countries have them, all families have them.  Most won’t kill your baby but some do.

We fight against these wives tales.  We teach truth.  We teach breast feeding, family bonding, and mother/child attachment.  Most of our ladies hear us, they respond, they try to do what we tell them.  Sometimes families interfere and take over and our lady is caught between two loyalties.   Her mother or mother-in-law may be the person of power in the household and our woman must give over the parenting  to them.  That  means bottles of canned milk, sugar water, bean sauce, flour and water and an assortment of other things that don’t provide complete nutrition and cost money.  These babies often come back to us sick and near death.   We ask, “have you been breast feeding?”  Most often the answer is, “yes, but I don’t have enough milk”.  They are surrounded by voices that tell them they don’t have enough, it’s not good for the baby and only bad mothers breast feed.

We battle this.  Almost daily.  We battle the forces of darkness that want to kill these babies.  We send them home after birth doing well.  They come back starving.  Our hearts break.  This is why we are building a post-partum wing. 

We will keep moms and babies for several days.  We will teach the families who come to visit and work on getting grandmas and aunties on board with us.  If they are the bosses of the house (or tent) we’ll teach them to be the breast feeding boss!  We’ll get them on our side ordering new mom to rest and feed her baby.

More and more we see to be successful we have to target the whole family.  We have to expose and break harmful traditions and superstitions.  We have to bring light into darkness.   Our women don’t have to be victims of ignorance – they can be successful mothers.  They can win – their babies can live!

Christ came to give us life more abundantly.  This includes mothers and babies.

Your prayers and support do matter and are making a difference.