First time back to Tanzania since 2020...
Dearest Birthworkers, Friends, and Family,
I write to you from my frozen winter wonderland in Colorado while still applying aloe to the sunburn I brought home from Tanzania.
This was my fourth trip to East Africa. We have now facilitated trips for thirty-three birthworkers to learn from the incredible strength of birthing women and to share their hearts, hands, and skills. Each trip is a reminder of how our realities are constructed. Diving into a drastically different culture is an opportunity to question our own.
This was our first time back in Tanzania since January 2020.
It was amazing to see the ultrasound machine in full swing. In 2019 and 2020, with your help (thank you!!), we were able to buy an ultrasound machine for the Karatu District Hospital and fund the training for a doctor to use it. It has changed the services they can offer at the public clinic, improving maternal health outcomes yet also increasing their monthly delivery rates because fewer mothers need to be transferred elsewhere now. Needless to say…the labor ward is a busy, busy place; and those nurse midwives are working incredibly hard.
It is also so special to reconnect with people who are now life-long friends.
I was in awe of my doulas and how they threw themselves into the work. It can be awkward at first, walking into a crowded clinical setting where you do not speak the language, and your presence alone makes the room giggle...yet these women quickly pushed past their discomfort and worked their magic.
As we know, birthwork is a calling, not something one casually finds themselves doing. And, as if experiencing deja-vu from previous trips, the grandmothers were all pulling at us to care for their daughters in a matter of moments after witnessing what it is we do. The laboring women quickly embraced our physical support (who doesn't love a hip squeeze?!), and our bonds with the nurses grew deeper.
We had the incredible privilege of sitting with the women of a Masaai family and learning about their traditional ways of birthing. The Masaai are one of the oldest nomadic people on the planet, yet their culture and history are deeply rooted. I loved hearing about the differences in their birth rituals, once again questioning the ideals I am attached to as a birthworker and woman.
For instance, after the first trimester, the women stop eating and only drink milk and blood (this is common even when not pregnant). They intend to stay lean and grow smaller babies for an easier birth.
I encourage my participants to always enter spaces with curiosity and observation. Never judgment. We cannot possibly begin to put ourselves in their shoes.
Witnessing birth is an honor. We are there as doulas to be of service. Not to impose our standards on what could be improved or changed. There is too much we contextually cannot understand; therefore, it is not our place to make suggestions. That is how we break cycles of medical imperialism and saviorism. What we can do is offer evidence-based tools of care to birthing people and their newborn babies. We can share the benefits of delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin, or alternative labor or pushing positions. It is already a compelling conversation to explain that we traveled across the globe to support birth in a non-medical, non-invasive way. We are incredibly grateful to the Karatu District Hospital and Lutheran Hospital for welcoming us back with open arms.
Many projects are unfolding in Tanzania we wish to support. I will send a different email about that soon!
Wombs of the World curates educational experiences for birthworkers. My objective as the trip facilitator is for my participants to gain new skills and insight to bring back to their respective communities. I also want them to sit on their plane homeward bound, heartbroken because of how much they will miss the other doulas, yet with their cups overflowing. Beyond the hands-on birthwork, I want us to enjoy ourselves and the gifts of travel! Whether that is gawking over incredible animals or a morning yoga flow and delicious breakfast, rejuvenation is a core intention of these programs.
Huge special shoutout to our incredible co-facilitators Madi DuPond, Alexis Commodore, and Shaunacy King, who made all this possible.
2023 has plenty on the horizon for Wombs of the World!
Our spring trips in Ecuador this May and June are already fully booked! Thank you to all of you who have applied! I can’t wait. I may offer a third trip later in the summer, so stay tuned for that!
In the fall, we will finally head to India to start scouting. This has been a goal for many years now. We intend to offer a program that blends perinatal yoga, ayurvedic nutrition, and hands-on doulas support. Trips to India will begin in 2024.
We will return to Tanzania next winter. Tentative dates are late January/early February.
(You can apply now on the website or join the waitlist wombsoftheworld.com)
More exciting things to come!
Thank you for being here. I am sending you all my gratitude.