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.