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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