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:

Missionary Ventures
P.O. Box 593550
Orlando, FL 32859

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

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Misrepresentations, Mistreatment, and Misproportion

Misrepresentations and mistreatment surrounding childbirth are deeply entrenched in the Oaxacan culture.

Consider, for example, the story of one of our clients who came to Casa Compasiva after seeing her OB-GYN for most of her pregnancy. He scheduled her Caesarean early on in her pregnancy, claiming that it is always better to have a Caesarean because it makes for better sex afterwards! He explained to her that normal birth would leave her body very damaged, and that her husband would be disappointed in their times of intimacy afterwards. For that reason, he said, he had already performed two C-sections on his own wife.

Or what about the woman who wanted a natural birth but was taken to a well-known private clinic here when she was 10 cm. along and ready to start pushing? They had her lying flat on a table, writhing in pain as they yelled at her to push. After only five pushes they deemed her efforts ineffective and whisked her away for a Caesarean—no reason given.

A friend of mine recently told me about her cousin who gave birth last week at the government hospital. Her blood pressure was dangerously elevated and nothing was done about it. Then she gave birth to a dead baby. That was on Tuesday, but they didn't tell her that her baby was dead until Wednesday night when they were discharging her.

Another of our clients spent days in the government hospital, where they had prepped her for a D&C, claiming that her baby was dead. Although she tried to convince them otherwise, they insisted that it was dead, until finally one gynecologist paid attention to her frantic tears. Our client insisted that she could feel the baby moving and begged them to do an ultrasound—which they finally did and discovered an active baby very alive and well. She “escaped” out of the hospital (her words) and finally made her way to Casa Compasiva, where she is thrilled to be treated with kindness and respect.

Did I already tell you about the mama who went to her OB-GYN early in her pregnancy complaining of morning sickness? The doctor claimed that her nausea was because obviously her body was rejecting the fetus, due to a probable birth defect or Down's Syndrome. He “kindly” offered to do a discount abortion for her right away, but she couldn't bring herself to accept his offer, in spite of pressure from her husband to get rid of the “defective” fetus. From that moment on, her husband rejected both her and the baby, until around 32 weeks gestation, when she somehow learned of Casa Compasiva, and they began attending prenatal classes together. Through the ministry of our staff to them, their marriage was healed, and she later gave birth to a beautiful, perfect baby girl.

And what more shall I say? Shall I explain that Oaxacan women don't generally even expect to have a normal birth anymore, because every medical and cultural voice in their head tells them it can't be done? That in many cases, misproportion raises its ugly head, and it actually can't be done because the diet and lifestyle of the urban women today often preclude the possibility of a natural birth. Their babies are simply too large to negotiate their tiny pelvises. Before the 1990's, the average Oaxacan baby weighed between 2.5 and 2.8 kilos, and was between 46-47 cm long. Now the babies are weighing 3.0-3.5 kilos and are 50-51 cm long! But unfortunately, their mamas' pelvises remain the same size, and sometimes the babies simply don't come out!

So all of these factors-- misrepresentations, mistreatment, and misproportion-- combine to make the task of achieving favourable birth outcomes here a challenge indeed.

Casa Compasiva exists to counter the false information surrounding pregnancy and childbirth in Oaxaca.  It also exists to comfort and protect those who have been traumatized by medical mistreatment. And it exists to counsel and encourage pregnant women to choose lifestyles and nutrition that will keep babies to natural/ "birthable" size. But even more important than all of these reasons, the purpose of Casa Compasiva is to demonstrate the love of Christ in the treatment and education of the women and families we serve. As you can imagine, we at Casa Compasiva have our work cut out for us!

With all of these challenges, we would prefer not to have to worry each week about how to meet our operating expenses. Therefore we would like to invite you to join us by becoming a regular financial supporter.  Casa Compasiva needs:
  •  monthly donors, as well as one-time donors
  • sponsors for individual low-income pregnant women
  • “birth-scholarships” which will pay the cost of a birth 
  • subsidies for regular prenatal care, including lab-work and vitamins for those too poor to pay the regular fees (Without subsidies they are forced to choose birth in the government hospital, with predictably unsatisfactory results. We would love to be able to offer an alternative!)  
  • We also need “Caesarean scholarships” for needy women who must be transported to the hospital because of a complication that arises during labour, or for others who are “risked out,” and who we determine in advance will need a C-section.
So you see, there is no limit to the excellent opportunities in which you can invest--every one of them potentially paying eternal dividends! 

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Lila Q.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Birth is Unpredictable: Natural or Caesarean?

According to recent news, Mexico has the highest incidence of Caesarean births of any nation in theworld.  Add to that the fact that Oaxaca has the highest Caesarean rate of any state in the republic of Mexico, and you will understand why better birth options are desperately needed here in Oaxaca.

We at Casa Compasiva attempt to provide the very best birth experience possible for each of our clients, avoiding the unnecessary cascade of interventions that often lead to a Caesarean.  However, while our hope is always for a natural birth, sometimes circumstances conspire to necessitate a surgical birth, and at those times we are grateful to the Lord for such a lifesaving tool.  What might such circumstances look like? 

Well, sometimes it might have to do with the baby.  He or she could be showing signs of stress, reflected in his/her heart rate.  A very long and hard labour can tire out not just mama, but baby as well. 

Or baby could be poorly positioned in mama's pelvis, making descent impossible. No amount of work will move that baby down any further.  

Sometimes the mama's body just doesn't respond as it should.  Maybe the water breaks, but no contractions ensue.  After too many hours of waiting for active labour, infection can set in.  (Note: OB and midwifery protocols differ in this, and many midwives will allow days of waiting for labour to kick in before electing to transport.  At Casa Compasiva, however, we must be sensitive to Mexican norms, which allow only a relatively short leeway.)

Or perhaps the mama's body is doing a great job labouring, and baby is doing fine, but emotionally the mama just cannot make herself go on.  As a staff, we give all the active support and encouragement possible, using every conceivable comfort measure-- but sometimes in spite of our best efforts, mama just gives up.  Some labours are marathon events, and mama only prepared herself for a sprint. The body is willing, but the spirit is weak.  Result?  We need to transport, and another Oaxacan pregnancy ends in a Caesarean birth, adding to the already grim statistics.

So does a Caesarean outcome mean that we failed?  Hopefully not!  When we debrief as a staff after a birth, we discuss things that we could have or should have done differently. We always want to be in humble learning mode, but often we conclude that there was nothing more that we could have done to prevent a transport ending in a C-section.  We must then bow the knee to a sovereign God who is in control of both labour and birth.  We admit our human limitations, and trust God to bring the best result in each individual case.  And if the birth itself is an unexpected outcome, at least we know that we gave everything we had to give.  We also remind ourselves that every baby safely brought into this world is a blessing, no matter how he arrives!  

At Casa Compasiva, we cannot guarantee a perfect, natural birth for anyone.  Living in a fallen world as we do, we cannot even guarantee a perfectly healthy baby.  That is in God's hands. But we have found that what we can guarantee is kind and compassionate care for each client.  We can give each woman and her baby loving hands and hearts, and gentle treatment bathed in prayer.  If the need for transport arises, we as a staff all find comfort in remembering that the purpose of Casa Compasiva is not solely to improve the birth outcomes in Oaxaca, but --even more importantly-- to use quality maternity care to share the love of Christ with the women and families whom God sends our way.  That we are able to do in the context of a natural birth in Casa Compasiva's cozy delivery room, or accompanying a mama to a hospital operating room where she undergoes a surgical birth.   

Our mamas are very blessed that we can give them loving support even if they transport to hospital and have a Caesarean.  Surgery is always scary, but it is very assuring to the mama that a Casa Compasiva staff member is available to hold her hand, pray with her, cuddle her new baby, and get her started on breast-feeding as soon as possible.  

The relationship of trust that we establish with a client during her pregnancy will hopefully continue postpartum regardless of whether the birth method was natural or surgical.  The way we look at it is that no matter what the birth outcome was, we still have six weeks of postpartum visits with her and her baby to support her in her adjustment to motherhood and also continue encouraging her towards a walk with Jesus!  

Marbella is a new mama who recently gave birth via Caesarean section after a disappointing trial of labour at Casa Compasiva.   When we tried to refund a portion of their deposit (because they didn't actually deliver at Casa), she and her husband refused to take the money, expressing over and over again their gratitude to our entire staff for such loving care, such encouragement throughout the pregnancy, and such good prenatal education--including the spiritual support that we offer. 

Because of Marbella's response, and from the questionnaires that our other mamas fill out postpartum, we judge that we are almost always succeeding in our goal of providing the very best birth experience possible—natural or otherwise!  For that we thank God. 

-Lila Q.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Introducing Donaji

Here is our dear friend and doctora in her own words, translated for your benefit:

My name is Donaji Barahona, and I am a general physician with 28 years of experience.  I am 52 years old, and have 4 beautiful children, ages 26, 24, 22 and 18 years old.  My husband is a general surgeon.  I was born in the small town/village of Mitla, Oaxaca, and I grew up watching my mom attend births in a natural and respectful way.  Her name is Rosa, and she is an obstetric nurse/midwife.  My father was also the town physician.

During my professional studies, I learned another method of attending women in labor that was very different from the approach with which I had become accustomed.  It appeared that science was very far removed from feelings.   
When I began to work with Casa Compasiva, I discovered what I had always wanted for women and their babies: respectful care and attention, with love and with scientific and cultural knowledge.  But above all I never fail to marvel at the power of prayer and faith in accomplishing our goals and objectives with women and their babies.
At Casa Compasiva, I found a great team of marvelous women with a strong will to work, but even more a desire to serve.  I want to pass on to them my experience as a doctor and midwife for the benefit of humanity. I now believe that if we can bring happy babies into the world and raise them in the fear of God, we will achieve many good things.
I give thanks to God and to Lila, too, for her friendship and the trust she had in me to invite me to be part of this marvelous and blessed project.  And I give thanks to all the team: Melvis, Estela, Lety, Elsa, Mirna, and Lila—for their friendship and teachings. 

We all have different gifts that we want to use in Casa Compasiva.  (Romans 12:6-8) I want to offer these gifts in service to the Lord.  “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1Peter 4:10)


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Change of Plans

On January 7th, Greg and Jenny Norris submitted letters of resignation from their positions at Casa Compasiva.  They had worked with Casa here in Oaxaca since September of 2011, overseeing maintenance projects and a building renovation (Greg), and helping with midwifery, systems development, and training (Jenny). 

They brought much enthusiasm, passion and energy to Casa Compasiva, not to mention fun and great senses of humour! :)  Many thanks  to Greg and Jenny for their hard work and contribution to the ministry of Casa Compasiva over the last year and a half.  We will miss them and wish them well as they set out to pursue what they feel is the next step on their journey. 

You can contact Greg and Jenny to hear more about their decision by emailing them at  Their ministry website is 

I'm sure they would appreciate prayer as they make this next transition as a family. 


Monday, January 21, 2013

Newly Remodeled Casa

Rejoice with us in the successful completion of the remodeling necessary to pass public health inspections in Oaxaca.  Praise the Lord!  The following is the report sent to the organization who helped Casa Compasiva fund the project.  Thank you to all who participated - for a job well done!
Areas of remodel lower level: 
Sala de Expulsion (delivery room), Recuperacion (recovery room), CEYE (sterilization room), Filtro ( clean area), Administracion (lounge, admin), Exterior Laundry
  • Volunteer labor
  • Cleared rooms for new construction.
  • Laid out floor plan.
  • Volunteer labor
  • Rough framed walls with metal studs.
  • Purchase wood & cement for forming cement in back laundry area
  • Electrical
  • Volunteer labor
  • Purchase materials
  • Tie in at main switch and ground at street by meter
  • Shielded conduit to building
  • New breaker box near building
  • Complete grounded electrical to new rooms
  • Install inside plastic conduit
  • Install switches, receptacles and light fixtures
  • Volunteer labor
  • Purchase materials
  • 1/2 “ green board in CEYE
  • 1/2” regular board in remainder
  • Local labor final finish of drywall
  • Local labor complete paint area 1 and 2
  • Purchase materials
  • Local labor curved corners and remove old concrete uneven areas from wall
  • Local labor
  • Purchase materials
  • Modify existing drain and supply lines for sink in CEYE
  • Extend drains and supply lines for sink in clean area
  • Repair drains at back of building area 3
  • Repair concrete lid and drain box area 3
  • Add drains, extend supply lines in area 3 for utility sink & washing machine
  • Purchase filter housings, cartridges and 1/2hp pump for cleaning water system
  • Replace plumbing in toilet tanks 4 toilets
  • Local labor professional company
  • Purchase materials
  • Install anti static, grounded, curved cove base, antibacterial, seamless flooring in delivery room, sterile room, & clean area
  • Repair broken tiles where old door jambs where removed
  • Clean and polish existing resin tile floor in administration room
  • Areas of remodel lower level
Wood Doors
  • Local professional carpenter
  • Purchase materials
  • Double swing doors with windows for delivery room
Aluminum/ Glass doors & windows
  • Local professional glass company
  • Sliding doors between reception and clean area
  • Swinging self closing door between clean area and sterile room
  • Sliding window for instruments between clean area and sterile room
  • Volunteer labor
  • Clean prep and repaint metal window frames and exterior door
  • Purchase loose cut glass for replacement of broken pieces in Admin/ lounge
  • Install with foam tape and black paintable acrylic sealer
Metal fabrications and repairs
  • Local professional labor
  • Repair bowed wall in examination room
  • Repair door 3 exterior door frames
  • Fabricate sinks for sterile room and clean area of stainless steel
  • Purchase chrome and stainless steel table, rack and cart for sterile room
Areas of remodel 2nd level: 
Kitchen, Laundry, Front Study, Roof top patio

Wood Doors

  • Local professional carpenter
  • Purchase materials
  • Screen door and door casing for kitchen
  • Screen door for exterior opening to front Study
  • Volunteer labor
  • Install updated lighting and ceiling fans complete
  • Local & volunteer labor
  • Repair supply lines up stairs laundry room
  • Purchase & install washer and dryer
  • Replace plumbing in toilet tanks 2 bathrooms
Metal fabrications and repairs
  • Local professional labor
  • Fabricate and install safety railing around roof top patio
  • Repair door to front balcony
Lower Level Floor Plan