Thursday, May 05, 2016

Cinco de Mayo or International Day Of the Midwife?

Today is Cinco de Mayo—touted as an important holiday by Hispanics in the U.S., but largely ignored in Mexico—except in the state of Puebla.  More importantly for us here in Oaxaca, today we are celebrating the International Day of the Midwife....and what a thing to celebrate!

We celebrate natural birth!  God has designed women's bodies to have the ability to give birth with strength, dignity, and intuition—unimpeded by unnecessary medical interventions. Our Casa Compasiva midwives work hard to facilitate these natural births by supporting women with quality attention, excellent care, and unwavering compassion.

We celebrate women attending women in the vulnerable, yet empowering seasons of pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation. Our Casa Compasiva midwives and doulas understand and appreciate the unique needs of women clients in each of these phases. 

We celebrate education! Much of the intrinsic fear surrounding the mysteries of labour and birth can be dispelled by knowledge of the process.  What is happening to me? How will I be able to cope with the pain?  Is this normal?  At Casa Compasiva, we teach an ongoing series of eight classes designed to educate and prepare prospective parents for all phases of pregnancy, labour, birth, and post-partum. Ignorance creates fear; the truth sets one free!

We celebrate God's sovereignty and human choice—both/and-- not either/or! Casa Compasiva's pre-natal care and childbirth education reflect an understanding of God's sovereignty over human affairs, and human volition both. We prepare, we educate, we facilitate-- we do everything possible to allow for natural births.  When  complications arise and our best-laid plans go awry, we bow to God's sovereignty.  When clients choose to have an elective C-section or to go elsewhere, we respect their right to make informed decisions.

We celebrate community!  Pregnant women are not just clients to the Casa Compasiva midwives and doulas.  They become friends—important members of our ever-widening circle of loved ones.  In this last year our midwives and doulas attended six women who have come back for their second or third baby with us because they know that we love them!

We celebrate the love of God through Jesus Christ and the power of prayer!  Our pre-natal appointments and classes include short devotionals and gospel messages making clear the hope we have in Jesus.  Our midwives and doulas pray for each clients' needs—physical, spiritual, and emotional.  We take our stand on the authority of scripture and we seek to honour God in our lives and our service to the people of Oaxaca.

So why do we ignore Cinco de Mayo and instead make a big deal of International Day of the Midwife? Because in Oaxaca, midwifery care with Casa Compasiva midwives is reason indeed for celebration!  

 Lila Joy

Monday, January 25, 2016

Belated Christmas Message

Christmas 2015
Our first grandchild
One month ago, in a far-away land called Germany, my daughter gave birth to her first baby—a son. She laboured quietly alone for several hours, not calling her husband at work or even realizing that she was really in labour until the midwife came by for a routine check. By that time she was so far along that the midwife popped her in the car and drove her immediately to the nearest hospital instead of to the family-friendly hospital an hour away. Baby Micah was born quickly and safely, but not in the peaceful environment or with the quality midwifery care that our daughter and son-in-law had planned. Our first grandchild is strong and healthy, but our daughter is still recuperating from the second-rate experience of her second-choice hospital care.
Which all begs these questions: Was their Plan B back-up-hospital choice actually God's Plan A experience for them? Or did their midwife jump the gun in rushing her to the nearby hospital instead of opting for the longer trip to the better facility in Hanover? Was God's sovereignty somehow trumped by exigency? Or were the circumstances of baby Micah's birth exactly what God had decreed they should be?
I will leave those questions of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility to the theologians of both Calvinist and Arminian persuasions. While it bothers me that my daughter suffered more than she “should have,” I don't have time or energy to wrestle with the theological implications. And in all honesty, I have to admit that her experience was not unlike what sometimes happens at Casa Compasiva.
“Juana” was a recent client of ours anticipating a lovely cozy birth at Casa Compasiva. She laboured well until 5 cm, when suddenly her labour slowed down and she failed to progress—at all. Hours and hours later, after trying all the tricks of the trade that we know—and all to no avail-- our midwives reluctantly made the call to transport her to a local hospital. Both Juana and her baby's safety were at stake, not to mention our integrity as a medically responsible birth-facility.
Plan B back-up- hospital experience was less than ideal.
Eventually Juana gave birth to a healthy baby girl—in a cold, sterile, unfriendly atmosphere isolated from her husband and from everyone she knew. She and baby were safe, but she was traumatized by being alone at such a time. Instead of the loving and supportive Casa Compasiva staff, Juana was surrounded by unfamiliar strangers critical of her intentions to birth naturally. Her birth experience fell far, far short of her expectations. Just like for our daughter in Germany, Juana's Plan B back-up- hospital experience was less than ideal.

And yet, I have to ask myself... was her Plan B actually God's Plan A? For whatever unfathomable reason, did God have a purpose in allowing the circumstances of Juana's baby's birth to be exactly as they were? Did He have reasons far beyond that which we can see or understand in allowing Juana's isolation in a Mexican government hospital... and in allowing my daughter to suffer “needlessly”... and in allowing Mary to be forced to give birth to Jesus in a dirty stable far away from mother and midwife because “there was no room in the inn.” The answer, I suspect, is “yes”. Just as “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of...” (Blaise Pascal), so also God has His own reasons which His creatures cannot begin to comprehend. He allowed our Saviour's birth to be in terribly unhygienic conditions---definitely not Mary's Plan A choice! He sometimes allows medical complications for which we at Casa Compasiva have no solutions. In a fallen world, stuff happens...
As the old hymn goes: “Ask Him not then, 'When?' Or 'How?' Only bow....only bow.”
We bow, then. Casa Compasiva will bow to God's inscrutable ways, continuing to serve the Oaxacan mothers and babies to the best of our ability. Being human, we will feel frustrated when things don't work out as planned-- when a mother's Plan B must be applied and it yields unsatisfactory results. But we will continue to trust that ultimately God is working out His Plan A purposes in each mother's pre-natal care, birth, and post-partum recovery period.
It is a privilege to do what we can. It is a privilege to provide Oaxacan women with quality maternity care, ministering God's love through Jesus Christ in both word and deed. It is a privilege to comfort them even when their Plan A's go awry, and we are hindered in our ability to provide all their care. Then we encourage them to look to Jesus in their disappointment. We grieve with them when their birth plans fail to materialize as hoped, resulting in inexplicable suffering. And when we can offer absolutely no explanations as to the “why's and wherefores” of that suffering, we pray for the strength and the grace for all of us to bow.
Our first three midwives graduated from the Casa Compasiva midwifery course at the end of October. ... just in time to serve through this very busy Christmas season. These three excellent midwives will attend some of our Oaxacan clients in relaxed and joyful births at Casa Compasiva. They will all celebrate the successful conclusions to the natural birth classes that we offer.

However, in spite of everyone's best efforts, it is likely that some of the labours will end in the necessity of higher-level medical intervention. Our midwives may be forced to make the agonizing decision to transport to nearby hospitals. There will be tears shed all around. Some of the women whom we transfer will suffer difficult births under deplorable conditions. Those babies will be born during an imperfect Christmas season into an imperfect world.
But in God's economy, even the sorrows of their mamas' labours can be redeemed into something of eternal value in imperfect lives, and we stand ready to minister His love into their hearts. Please support the imperfect ministry of Casa Compasiva as we attempt to bring good tidings of great joy in both Plan A and perceived Plan B circumstances. We cannot do it alone. We ask you to remember the mamas and babies of Oaxaca this Christmas and in the coming year, and we thank you for your gifts and your prayers.
Feliz Navidad!
Lila Joy Quezada

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Our "Iron-clad" Guarantee

I have been thinking a lot lately about what “product” we are trying to sell at Casa Compasiva.  What is the most important Casa Compasiva focus that is our raison d'être-- our reason to exist?

Is it childbirth education?  Of course that is part of it... we want our clients to be well-educated in order to be well-prepared and make informed decisions. To that end we offer a series of eight mandatory childbirth classes, as well as various and sundry other public classes and workshops.  But that is only part of it... only part of our promise.
What then?  Is it natural birth?  We want our clients to be able to have a natural birth, and whenever possible we prepare them for that event, and help them through it when it arrives.  But what about clients who have already had two or three C-sections, or are diabetic, or have a heart murmur, or have a low-lying placenta, or some other condition signaling a higher-risk birth?   Do we then shoo them out the door saying there is nothing here for them? No, we continue to offer them pre-natal and post-partum services, while also referring them to higher level care...
Well, then, is that it?  Is it pre-natal and post-partum care?  Is that our hallmark, our principal product? But what about the woman who only hears about Casa Compasiva while already in her thirty-eighth week of pregnancy and who then goes into labour and delivers with us at thirty-nine weeks?  Did she just miss out on the quintessential Casa experience because she had no time to attend classes? No.

What is it then?  What is the one “product” that we can guarantee all of our clients will receive—whether wealthy foreigners, middle-class locals, or lower-income indigenous women from the surrounding mountain villages? I figured it out: it is love-- God's love distilled into quality maternity services, flowing through the hearts and hands and words of our midwives and doulas.  It is not a fake cheery smile, or a pithy team slogan, or a one-size-fits-all approach to pregnancy and birth.

No two women experience the same pregnancy, birth, or recovery period.  No two clients will go through exactly the same track of treatment with exactly the same results.  We can't guarantee a natural birth... unexpected complications can arise requiring transport and an eventual Caesarean.  We can't assure that her baby will be healthy.  That is in God's hands, not ours. But we can guarantee that if she is a Casa Compasiva client that she will be treated with respect, that she will be as informed as time allows, and--most especially--that she will have the chance to hear and experience the gentle love of the Lord Jesus as ministered to her by our midwives.

That is our “iron-clad” guarantee.  That is our promise-- not a particular outcome, but a particular exposure. We hope and pray that it will be enough to touch the hearts of the women we serve.  We hope that the exposure will “prime the pump” motivating them to reach out for more of this same Jesus whom they see in our lives and whom they hear about in their classes and appointments.

I need to be up-front with you right now.  Our funds are depleted;  rent for this month had to come from a private source;  I have no money to pay the obligatory Christmas bonuses or even the regular salaries for next week. We have many pre-natal clients and several births scheduled for December. In a season when demands on the midwives' time and energy are at an all-time high, our funds are at an all-time low.  This ministry depends on partial funding from outside sources; we cannot do it alone.

Please remember us in your prayers and in your giving.

We invite your continued participation in the ministry of Casa Compasiva, helping us to guarantee the only “product” that can really “deliver”--- God's love through Jesus Christ!

 Lila Joy

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Problem We've Always Wanted

  “Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.” Paul Hawken

Since Casa Compasiva opened in January of 2011, we as a staff have made frequent wistful comments about how nice it would be to have too may clients. Like: “How many chairs should we set up for class? What if we don't have enough chairs? Wouldn't that be a great problem to have?!”

Up until recently, that particular problem has never been our experience. On a couple of past occasions we have even prepared and advertised for an entire series of special pre-natal classes only to have nobody show Disheartening, to say the least! For so long we have been praying and brain-storming trying to discover “how to scratch where Oaxaca itches.” How do we find the right combination of education, pre-natal services, group interaction, etc to attract clients to our classes? In the early years we congratulated ourselves if we had three couples come to class, and four was almost unheard of.

But the times, they are a'changin ... lately our problem is one that we have always wanted: a packed-out houseful of pregnant mamas and their partners showing up for class! Sometimes we have sixteen ladies (and family members) in the Oaxaca City class, and up to eight ladies in Mitla!

Thanks to the hard work of our doctor and midwives in developing an excellent childbirth educational series, both Casa Compasiva Oaxaca and Casa Compasiva Mitla are currently experiencing a boom in clients attending the pre-natal classes. Our very real challenge now is how to organize the rooms to make space for everyone, and how to still provide warm, personalized attention to each attendee. Also, the dynamic involved in presenting a winsome gospel message to thirty or thirty-five people is very different than that of presenting to six or eight people!

I am reminded of the wording in Isaiah 54:2-3, where the prophet is prophesying of Jerusalem's restoration: “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.”

Growth, expansion, development, progress, boom—all related terms referring to the current situation that we face. Please pray for our Casa Compasiva leadership that we will manage these excellent problems well, making them and their solutions interesting and constructive—and all to the glory of God!  

Lila Quezada

Monday, June 22, 2015

Oh, For a Father's Love

On this Father's Day I would like to ask prayer for a young lady named Katrina (not her real name). Instead of love, she has experienced only hurt, neglect, and betrayal from the men in her life.

She was married, but her husband abandoned her and her little boy when her little boy was tiny. Unable to make ends meet, her mother sent Katrina to the Yucatan to work, while grandma stayed with the little boy. While away, Katrina was raped while waiting for a bus. 

When she realized that she was pregnant, she decided to try to make the man who was “sort of” her boyfriend at the time believe that he was the father and so take responsibility for the baby. But in the end her integrity won the day and she didn't go through with it. Her boyfriend broke up with her when he found out she had been raped, and she came back home to Mitla traumatized and in disgrace. Her mother is also traumatized and guilt-ridden for having sent her young daughter away to work. 

Enter Casa Compasiva. Katrina and her mother and little boy came to our “Pregnancy Fair” outreach at the municipal hall last week. Then again yesterday they came to the Mitla clinic for pre-natal class and her first appointment. Now she wants to have her baby with us at Casa Compasiva, but the thing is that she is due today!!! -- and she has had virtually no pre-natal care except for an ultrasound through the local Health Center. With no lab tests, we have no idea if she is HIV-positive, or anemic, or even what her blood type is.

Plus, she has no money and no dad herself. She and her mum are both lovely people—cheerful, kind, friendly-- but they eke out a living for themselves by sewing and embroidering. They have $600 pesos saved (about $40 U.S.), which is just enough to get her lab work done tomorrow. We are praying that she will NOT go into labour until after the blood-work results are in, so at least until Tuesday. And we are hoping that her health will be good enough for us to be able to accept her as a client without undue risk to our staff. Then she can be spared the additional trauma of harsh treatment at the government hospital. We are committed to helping Katrina--whether with a birth at Casa, or just labour-support until time to go to the hospital, and follow-up post-partum care. We ask you to please pray for healing and salvation for this precious little family. Both Katrina and her mum seem very tender and open to the gospel, and they are getting counseling from a local pastor's wife. 

The other thing is that if she can have her baby at Casa, we will need to provide her with a full birth scholarship. But this comes in the first month since Christmas that we do not even have sufficient funds to pay the rent and staff salaries. God has blessed us with a six-month rest from constant financial pressure (Thank you, Lord!!), but now the reserve funds are gone and we must again ask your prayers for coverage of these needs. I know that you may not be able to give money, but everyone can certainly pray for Katrina and for the other clients at Casa Compasiva. We had five new mamas at our class yesterday!

So that's it for now. Katrina, along with the many other pregnant mamas who do not yet know the Father's love need your prayers. Casa Compasiva needs your prayers.

Thanks so much!


Lila Quezada  

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Circle is Complete


We are excited to announce that January 8th, 2015 marked an historic event in the ministry of Casa Compasiva. That was the day that we inaugurated a new branch of Casa Compasiva in the small town of Mitla, Oaxaca. Mitla is about one hour of bus/taxi travel from the original location in Oaxaca City, so having a clinic here will be a great benefit for many women who have a hard time traveling into the city.

The new clinic is a tribute to the lifetime work of the parents of our beloved Doctora Donaji. Her father was the town doctor here in Mitla for forty years before his death, and her mother was an obstetric nurse-midwife, delivering many of the Mitleño citizens of the last forty years. Their clinic was eventually converted into a home where various missionaries lived over the last few years. Now, with the help of an awesome Canadian work team and the Canadian funds they brought, we have renovated one half of the home, making it once again a functioning clinic, and coming full circle! Faithful local friends here in Mitla have also dedicated much time, energy and money to make this vision a reality. To God be the glory for His amazing plan! 

Our initial plan is to provide prenatal care, childbirth education classes, spiritual support, and post-partum care for our clients in Mitla. At this time we are not advertising that we will attend births here in the Mitla clinic, preferring instead to direct most women to our more extensive facility in Oaxaca City. But we are also being realistic about the possibility of facing surprise situations in which someone might come for a check-up in full-fledged labour with no time to transport (it happens). :) Accordingly, besides the standard equipment for maternal and infant care, we are also planning to gradually equip Casa Compasiva Mitla with the necessary emergency supplies for such an eventuality. 

The inauguration day was a delightful time of honouring Donaji's mother for her decades of work as a midwife, as well as letting the townspeople know about the philosophy, vision, and mission of Casa Compasiva. The new clinic was full to capacity with guests come to celebrate with us and with town dignitaries who helped to dedicate this new location. There is lots of enthusiasm among the new clients now coming for classes and for prenatal care, with promised support from the local municipal government for low-income clients who cannot afford to pay.

We are eager to see this new clinic become fully-equipped and functioning effectively as a center for sharing God's love through Jesus Christ with the indigenous Zapotec people of Mitla. Doctora Donaji will hold office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays for both general clients and maternity clients. This last Saturday we had our first in the series of eight childbirth education classes, and word is spreading among the townsfolk of Mitla and the nearby villages. Please join us in prayer and with financial support for this new ministry which vastly expands the potential kingdom impact of Casa Compasiva! 

Lila Joy