Thursday, August 28, 2014

"If you were looking for the opportune moment, that was it."


This quote by the esteemed Captain Jack Sparrow from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean has been running through my brain all week. I keep thinking how maybe somebody has been wanting to donate funds to Casa Compasiva, but has delayed, thinking that maybe we don't have any critical needs right now. How wrong they would be! And what an opportune moment this is to contribute to a worthy cause!

In the last two weeks our clients have birthed five babies— three in Casa Compasiva, one a planned hospital birth with our staff, and one a Caesarean after a previous Caesarean. We are so proud of each one of these amazing ladies, ranging in age from sixteen to forty-two, who summoned up the strength and courage to bring new life into the world. And we are so privileged to be able to participate in their pregnancies-- providing quality prenatal care, praying and supporting them in their spiritual journeys, and being at their sides as their babies are born. Every one of our staff members is loving the challenge!

However, it is not without its cost. Although our staff considers what they do to be ministry at its finest, and they serve as a labour of love (pun intended...get it?), they still need to receive something for their time. Salaries, though very modest, must still be paid, and the obligatory government fees and taxes must be allotted. As it says in the King James Version, “The labourer is worthy of his hire.”

We cannot ask our doctor and midwives to make their way to Casa Compasiva in the middle of the night to meet a mama in labour. And then expect them to stay up all night with her, attend her baby's birth in the wee small hours of the morning, and then take care of mama and babe post-partum—dealing with the placenta, eye drops, Vitamin K injections, weighing, bathing, helping get nursing off to a good start, filling out charts and birth certificates, and serving breakfast to the happy family. Then after that to have a quick shower, report for their shift attending all the day-clients that arrive for their scheduled prenatal visits, teach a prenatal class, sterilize the instruments used the night before, disinfect and clean the birth room making it ready for the next mama who may arrive at any time, and then go home and make supper and care for their for their family's needs, while preparing for the possibility of a repeat performance the next night. All of that is too much for us to ask of them, yet that kind of heroic dedication is exactly what each one of our staff members displays on a regular basis--- for an average of $3.00 US per hour! Would you do the same? Could you? 


Even though our doctor and midwives serve so sacrificially, at the tiniest fraction of what they are worth, it still adds up. The payment that we receive for birth and prenatal services does not begin to cover the actual cost of providing and maintaining those excellent services. I was reminded of that yesterday as I went on a post-partum visit to sixteen-year-old Diana's house. Our midwives had spent the night with her in labour, and then she had her beautiful baby girl on Friday. Her nineteen year old husband is just beginning to get his feet under him in terms of dealing with responsibility, and he and Diana live in one room of her parents' house with all her younger brothers and sisters there, too. They literally have nothing—except a lot of love and gratitude for the loving care they received at Casa Compasiva. They realize that if they had gone to any government hospital it would have been an automatic Caesarean because of her age. And three months ago we realized that they had no ability to pay our regular birth fee, so we had awarded them the “Mother's Day” free birth “scholarship.” Some of you have contributed to that “birth scholarship” fund---thank you so much! Your investment paid huge dividends in a very precious and contented little family. Now we look forward to providing all their postpartum care, continuing in relationship with them, and building on the message of God's love for them through Jesus Christ!

Quality care costs money—it just does. And our funds are now completely depleted. I do not say that in despair, but in faith that God has gone ahead of us to provide the funds needed to pay this week's salaries and other expenses. God has been faithful in the past, is faithful today, and will be faithful tomorrow—we know that. And perhaps He wants to use you to show His faithfulness. So, to paraphrase Captain Jack Sparrow, “If you were looking for the opportune moment to give to Casa Compasiva ...this is it!”

-Lila Joy

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Married ... wth Children

In the town where I live, it is not considered unusual, unexpected, or tragic in any way for a girl to be married and pregnant at the age of fifteen or sixteen. The other day I visited with three young women in their homes, and it wasn't until after the last visit that it even occurred to me that their lives would not be considered “normal” in my Canadian culture of origin.

One of the girls is sixteen years old, pregnant, and expecting her first child. Her husband is seventeen or eighteen, and they are both very happy to be expecting a baby. She has always been punctual, responsible, and enthusiastic in her pre-natal classes and appointments. Because they are very poor, living with her mother and siblings, Casa Compasiva chose her as the winner of the “free birth prize” that we were promoting for our clients during the month of May. Please pray for Ana (name changed for privacy) and for her baby's upcoming birth in August.

Another of the girls, who is also sixteen, was a stranger to me until the night she went into hard labour. Her family was scared and unsure of how to help her, so her sister-in-law went out in the night to get help. They had never heard of Casa Compasiva, but knew from a friend that I lived nearby and was (sort of) a midwife. When I arrived at her mud-brick, one-room, cement-floor house, I showed her how to breathe and relax with the contractions. After teaching her twenty-year-old husband how to rub her back and support her in labour, I drove home up the dirt road just before a thundering rain-storm hit us hard.

Back home I called our doc and Casa Compasiva midwives to see if we could possibly take her as a CC client, but the decision was a negative because we had no lab work on her, and no pre-natal records. Two hours later, just before midnight, her family called asking me to come back. When I arrived the second time, she was in heavy labour, and it was obvious that it was time to go. So she, her husband, her mother, and her mother-in-law all loaded into my Ford Explorer and we set out for the hospital in a nearby town.

Unfortunately their hospital of choice provided the classic example of how the indigenous people are often dis-respected and mistreated by the medical establishment. The nurse who received them was indifferent and cold; the doctor was rude and verbally abusive--so much so that I couldn't even look at him. After I left them in his hands, to do with what he would, I cried in frustration on my way home. I knew that he would not give her the chance of a normal birth, but would automatically perform a Caesarean on her.

Sure enough, the next morning I got word that the young mama had delivered a baby girl via C-section because she was “too young” to have a normal birth. The hospital would not discharge her and the baby until they paid the bill, so the young husband was forced to go around begging to borrow money from all their friends, family, and neighbours. Now in debt up to their eyeballs, the young couple is nevertheless happy with their new baby, and mama is recuperating and nursing the baby well. When I went to visit, I was able to pray with her, give a small financial gift, and present her with a gift and New Testament from Casa Compasiva. Although they are very grateful for my help, how I wish that we had been able to do more!

The third young mama that I visited that day was also married and pregnant by age sixteen. She is now nineteen, and facing the realities of life with her three-year-old boy, her new baby girl, and her husband away much of the time. 

These girls and many others like them in Oaxaca are so young, so vulnerable, and, having little education, are so susceptible to misinformation. Economically marginalized, they are more or less content with their lives and the choices they have made, never expecting anything better. We at Casa Compasiva recognize the challenges that life will bring their way, and we long to be in a position to minister health and abundant life through Jesus to them and their families. The three girls I visited that day provided a sampling of the young women of Oaxaca: some of them we are able to reach, others just a little, some not at all. 

Financial constraints prevent us from being able to fully advertise our services; thus, many are still unaware of Casa Compasiva. Like the young girl in labour during the rainstorm, many women don't realize that a better pregnancy and birth-care alternative like Casa Compasiva even exists—until it is too late. We need better advertising! We need an excellent, professionally-designed website; we need a promotional strategy that will get the word out more effectively! 

Then for those who do hear, but who are unable to pay, we need to be able to offer “birth-scholarships” or really skookum discounts so that they can afford it. We make our prices as low as possible to achieve accessibility for the majority of clients, but the reality is that for many women any price is too high. Somehow we need to be able to serve them freely while still covering our expenses. Will you help us to do more? Will you help us to help these young girls of Oaxaca?



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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Typical Week at Casa Compasiva


What is a week at Casa Compasiva like? Well, on a typical Monday I might walk in and find the midwives teaching a prenatal education class to six or eight women and some husbands/boyfriends. One midwife is leading everyone in exercises, another shares the gospel in a devotional “chat,” one might demonstrate bathing and caring for a newborn, someone will show a birth video emphasizing breathing and a variety of positions, and finally one midwife will lead a “nutritional focus” awarding prizes for the mama with the healthiest diet or perhaps the most pure water consumed the day before. After class, the pregnant ladies disperse to different rooms all over Casa for their prenatal check-ups with the different midwives and usually a final once-over-the-chart with Doctora Donaji.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are quieter, with the midwives attending a handful of clients—many of whom are “walk-ins.” They can also be found working on promotional materials, preparing classes for the next week, going out on postpartum visits, sterilizing instruments, organizing inventory, etc. I am always impressed by their diligence, responsibility, and creativity in approaching each task! Fridays are taken up with staff Bible-study, staff meetings, and lots of client consultations.

And of course, any moment of any day or night the team could spring into action when a mama arrives in labour. Setting up the birth pool, getting mama (and dad) comfortable, and preparing for labour and birth are fun and rewarding activities, but also represent hard work. It is so wonderful to observe the growing confidence of the midwives as each one knows and executes well her area of responsibility on the birth team-- supporting the mama in labour, monitoring fetal heart and mama's vital signs, receiving the baby, newborn exam, lactation support, post-partum care, —in short, all the different aspects involved in labour and delivery.

So I just want to take a moment to say how proud I am of our staff. They are truly an amazing team!


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

May 5th - International Day of the Midwife








In honour of this special day, my brainstorming “dream team” staff came up with the idea of hosting a “caminata” or march in downtown Oaxaca. Our city is notorious throughout Mexico for staging very inconvenient marches, blockades, and strikes, so we thought we may as well get in on a little of that action. (Just kidding!) No--instead of burning buses and blocking traffic, Casa Compasiva invited mums and dads with their babies in buggies or rebosos to join us for a fun (peaceful!) march. 

Together with Nueve Lunas—another local organization dedicated to training midwives and promoting natural births-- we all walked along starting from the Santo Domingo Cathedral to the zocalo (city square), convening at another cathedral, and then marching back. With babies in tow, decorated buggies, and even puppies, our whole group handed out flyers and balloons to the catchy tune of “Rumba de Rosa Zaragoza.” 
 
Some of us were sporting t-shirts that said, “Keep calm and call the midwife”, or “Keep calm; my mum is a midwife.” :) The husband of one of our former clients put together a fabulous promotional “radio spot” for us with about twenty minutes of facts promoting midwifery, and the husband of a current client played it through a solar-powered sound system on his bicycle as he rode along with us. 
 
All in all it was great fun, and great advertising for Casa Compasiva. The only downside was that two of our midwives were away at conferences that day, and our doc and the two other midwives were busy welcoming a new baby boy (Mateo!) into the world. They missed the whole thing, but I guess that's what it's all about, isn't it? Babies are seldom convenient but always a blessing! And good midwives are committed to sacrificially serving their birthing mamas--no matter what!

Lila Quezada

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Casa Compasiva Branches Out!

We are excited to announce Casa Compasiva's new prenatal education classes being offered in Mitla. The municipal government in our small town invited us to provide this free service to the local women.  

Delighted to oblige, Dra. Donaji and I (Lila) began our first series of eight classes at the municipal palace downtown on February 20th. So far we have approximately ten pregnant mothers showing up for each class, along with a few husbands and mothers. 

Last week we were honoured to have a previous Casa Compasiva client from Mitla to come and share the story of her birth with the class. Monica did a great job, raving about the wonderful care and love that she and her baby received at Casa Compasiva, while also boldly encouraging the women to put their faith and their lives in God's hands.

Being an official government-sponsored class, one benefit is that the DIF office (think Mexican WIC equivalent) takes care of everything from providing snacks to announcing the classes on the radio. 

The main reason that we are so pleased with this development is that these classes provide an opportunity to better serve the women of Mitla. Since they live about an hour's drive from Casa Compasiva, we are offering a special deal to the women who attend these classes. After they begin their prenatal care at Casa Compasiva in Oaxaca City with their first appointment, they have the option of attending prenatal appointments right here in their own town. Our CC Doctora Donaji will offer consultations at her mother's house here in town while we gradually renovate her father's old clinic and open up a  new Mitla branch of Casa Compasiva!

This is exciting, but--as with anything worthwhile--will call for some work. Let us know if you are skilled in plumbing, drywall, or decorating, and would like to donate some of your time and talents to the cause! And stay tuned for news of other exciting (and exhausting!) projects soon to come. :)

Monday, November 04, 2013

Sponsor a Birth

Natural birth scholarship:   

A recent video that went viral on Facebook and YouTube shows an indigenous woman from Oaxaca giving birth on a government health clinic lawn after having been ignored and refused service by the medical staff.  The plight of that woman and her baby underscores the predicament of underprivileged indigenous women and their babies in Oaxaca.

Help us provide a compassionate alternative to a traumatizing birth experience. A "birth scholarship" will allow a low-income woman and her baby to be lovingly attended in a clean and safe environment, with professional doctors and midwives.  The normal cost of a birth at Casa Compasiva is approximately $480 US, and although we give frequent hefty discounts, that is still well beyond the price range of many low-income families. Let the love of God touch both mother and baby at this critical time of passage!


Caesarean birth scholarship:

Complications sometimes arise in even the best-planned births. And sometimes a pregnant woman is "screened out" from a natural birth because of pre-existing medical conditions. In these cases, a "Caesarean birth scholarship" will allow a low-income Oaxacan woman to transport to a decent private hospital for a surgical birth.  For $1250 U.S. she can be promptly attended by a respectful medical team rather than waiting hours (and sometimes days) for care at the public hospital.  Instead of isolation and abandonment during the most difficult hours of her life, she will be accompanied by loving Casa Compasiva staff who will pray for her and her baby, ministering peace during anafter surgery. Your gift can help to make a necessary transport to hospital a time of peace and confidence in God rather than trauma, fear, and neglect.



For Donations:

U.S.A:
Missionary Ventures
P.O. Box 593550
Orlando, FL 32859



Canada:
Missionary Ventures Canada
336-H Speedvale Avenue West
Guelph, Ontario N1H-7M7

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Missionary Ventures with a note preferencing it for Birth Center / Oaxaca



For Online Giving:

From the U.S.A. click here and go to Special Projects and specify Birth Center - Oaxaca





Lila Q.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Setting the Record Straight


A friend kindly pointed out to me the tone of my last blog post- Misrepresentations, Mistreatment, andMisproportions.  According to her, my article made it “obvious that the doctors and hospitals are all out to ruin women and babies.” And in re-reading my post, I can see how that could be the reader's take-away conclusion. For that I am sorry, because that is obviously not true.

Oaxacan medical personnel are much the same as their colleagues worldwide-- motivated by a strong desire to serve humanity in the best way they know how—by caring for physical needs.  My challenge is to accurately represent the needs here in Oaxaca, exposing and hopefully helping to correct imbalances while not defaming or misrepresenting the medical community.   

Because many of Casa Compasiva's clients have experienced the seamy underside of the medical establishment and share their sad stories with us, we tend to forget that the seamy underside is only half of the story. The other part is the noble and often heroic role that doctors play in the lives of women here in Mexico.

We have the best living example of that in our own Doctora Donaji , who serves with Casa Compasiva.  She selflessly gives up sleep to sit all night with a labouring woman.  She gives up vacation days rather than being unavailable to her clients around their due dates.  She spends her days off making herbal lotions and salves to donate to Casa in order to raise money for needy clients.  In short, she is an amazing example of a physician who lays down her life for her clients.

Dr. Jesus Guzman is another great example of a Oaxacan doctor of integrity.  He is          
an OB-GYN to whom we often refer our clients, and who has performed Caesareans for us in cases where we have had to transport.  Both he and his wife, Dra. Patricia Diaz, a pediatrician, are committed to a standard of excellence in serving their clients- refusing to make medical decisions based on economic gain but always instead based on what is best for the client.

And then there is the doctor who attended my friend when she was pregnant. When her water broke, he went to their house to check her and then took them in his car--(they didn't have one at the time)--to the private clinic where their baby was born.) How many OB-GYN's in the U.S. or Canada would do that for their pregnant client?  

Dr. Angel Quintero is another OB-GYN who has worked tirelessly to educate medical personnel and improve maternity services in Oaxaca—working with midwives to effect positive change for birthing women of Oaxaca.

For all of these doctors and for many others like them, we are extremely grateful. I hope this helps to set the record straight.  Yes, there is a serious fly in the ointment of Oaxacan obstetric care—the Caesarean rate here is the highest in the world!  Abuse happens.  And yet Oaxaca is also privileged to have outstanding examples of doctors who understand and uphold the very best aspects of the Hippocratic Oath—dedicating their lives in skillful service to their patients.

So it is always good to be reminded of the need to present a balanced report, and again I thank my friend for calling this to my attention.  We love Oaxaca; we love Mexico; we love the mamas and babies whom we serve; and we highly value and respect the many fine doctors and medical personnel with whom we are privileged to associate.  

Lila Q