I have been in Ecuador a little over three weeks now, and I am humbled and inspired. It has been such an incredible gift to spend time with these midwives and hear their stories and soak up what they have to teach us.
Our first group of doulas was amazing. They were flexible, open minded, attentive, hilarious, beautiful, and brilliant. Spending ten consecutive days with a group of doulas is nourishment for the soul- powerful women from such different walks of life, hailing from all over the world, gathering with a shared intent to learn and serve is literally making me cry as I type.
Our Wombs of the World trip was broken up into several different pillars.
One was to serve in the local maternity clinic as active doulas. This region is unique and amazing because the hospital incorporates indigenous medicine with western medicine, and the two beautifully compliment each other in the birth room. Mama Rosa is a birth master, shaking babies out of mamas. Watching her in action is a lot to take in. The hospital offers two birth rooms, one a more traditional western room with stirrups, the other designed after a home, with a rope hanging from the ceiling, squatting bars on the wall at various levels, mattresses on the floor, birthing stools and birthing balls. In this space they encourage vertical births and allow women to follow the intuition of their bodies. They dim the lights and it's amazing to see a doctor laying on the floor ready to catch a baby.
Despite awesome birth options, women labor alone until they are ready to push and then a family member may joy them. So our doulas worked hard. It was a beautiful reminder that no matter where we are in the world, laboring women crave support, presence, comfort. Simply being by their side, holding their hand, breathing with them, rubbing their backs, makes such a huge difference. Basically, doula work is amazing- obviously.
The next pillar was visiting indigenous midwives in their communities. We shadowed them as they gave prenatal checkups, called El Manteo, where they feel and adjust the position of the baby. The indigenous women who are observed by a midwife during their pregnancy have a 90% vaginal birth rate. Pretty amazing.
Being welcomed into people’s homes to witness el manteo was such a gift, one that we are all profoundly grateful for. It was a beautiful way to take in different cultures, learn, and grow as individuals.
The third pillar of our program was learning about plant medicine. Several midwives walked us through gardens, we made medicinal salves, and we learned recipes for antenatal and postpartum health. However, we are all aware that we are not qualified to offer these plants to our mama clients until we have done further training… But it was just so cool to learn how important plant knowledge is and how they have solutions to every problem with different plants. They either bathe, drink, or directly apply leaves to the body to add warmth and magic.
And lastly, there was the culture immersion component of our trip. We explored Quito and attended an indigenous celebration giving thanks to the harvest. We danced from house to house giving thanks to Pachamama while also taking in a festival that felt very foreign to all of us. We stayed with host families and all have Ecuadorian grandmothers now. Thank you Isolina and Marianna for being such beautiful hosts.
And big big thank you to our incredible translator Rosa Botilla for joining us on this wild ride!
Travel in itself is a learning opportunity. You are stretched outside your comfort zone, forced to look at yourself and the construction of what you believe in. It is our biggest pleasure to support women traveling. And for birth workers to gain experience, knowledge, and connections that they can bring back to their communities and continue working towards better maternal health.
Thank you you beautiful doulas.