Bridget’s Blog Day 3: Teaching in Xela Part 1

Yes. The answer to yesterday’s question is Yes, there are roosters in Xela and they will wake you up early. Today was our first day teaching the indigenous Mayan midwives, comadronas, from the Xela region. The comadronas are similar to lay midwives here in the US in that they do not have any formal midwifery education, but rather their mothers and/or grandmothers were comadronas and they learned by working alongside them. Many of these women are quite elderly and unable to read. We travel with two interpreters who help us communicate with the midwives in their own language.  But even beyond that, it’s remarkable what a shared love of women, babies, and birth can do to dissolve a language barrier.

The first day of training is always Helping Mothers Survive: Bleeding After Birth which focuses on recognizing and managing a post-partum hemorrhage. Post-partum hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide, the US included. The maternal mortality rate in Guatemala is approximately 120 women per 100,000 live births.  Among indigenous Mayan women, the maternal mortality rate is three times higher. Since the comadronas are the primary birth attendants for women in their communities, this is life-saving training.

Our classroom for the day was pretty small and we “borrowed” several wooden tables that we found randomly hanging about in the walkways. There were 12 comadronas, 3 trainers and 2 interpreters crammed in that tiny space, but we made it work. The comadronas were bright, incredibly motivated to learn, and regularly expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to attend this training.  They shared with us their lively senses of humor and their many experiences in attending birthing women…..some experiences were funny, some were sad, some were straight-up tragic, and we learned from them just as surely as they learned from us.

Training days are long and tiring. At the end of the day, all I wanted to do was snuggle a dog and Guatemala has lots and lots of stray dogs everywhere.  My natural inclination upon seeing a dog on the street is to exclaim loudly, “Puppy!” and go in for a snuggle. However, I was told in no uncertain terms that I can’t do that here because the dogs all have fleas and/or rabies. It dang near killed me.  Today though, we stopped by our driver, Eric’s house and lo and behold he had a 3-month-old puppy named Bumper that I could love on as much as I wanted!  Happy day!  Speaking of animals, when we got back to our hotel, I looked out my window and saw a couple cows and goats grazing on the open lot next door.  In the second-largest city in Guatemala.  Next up: Training Day 2.

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