The History of a Honduran Midwife

Reporting by ChildFund Honduras

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program and will be sharing those with you this week, and from time to time.

At 73, Maria knows a thing or two about life. Although she completed just two years of primary school, and can only sign her name, Maria has a wealth of knowledge, especially when it comes to mothers and babies.

Her community of Culguaque, located 45 minutes away from the municipality of Lepaterique, has one health care center staffed by a nurse auxiliary.

But most women Maria’s age didn’t go to a health center for care during child birth. Instead they relied on a midwife.

Grandmother and grandaughter

Traditional Birth Attendant Maria with her granddaughter at her home in Culguaque.

“My mother was a midwife,” Maria explains. “One day my mother was called by a family to assist a birth and I accompanied her.” Maria’s mother was sick and requested her 32-year-old daughter’s help. “She kept telling me, ‘learn, my daughter, because I’m very close to dying.’”

Woman in her homeStarting at that time, Maria began accompanying her mother to assist her in all the community births. When her mother died, Maria took on the elder’s role, responding to all the families who requested her services as a midwife.

Some years later, when the Health Care Center nurse found out that Maria assisted with births, she came to her house and invited her to participate in a midwives training program.

Maria says that it had been more than 20 years since she received training from the Ministry of Health via the Health Care Center. Last fall, she was happy to get a refresher course from ChildFund, as it implements a maternal and child health program in her community. “I enjoy attending these training sessions because I used to be very bashful. With the training, I’ve learned to be more outgoing and I learn more.”

Woman in front of houseFor the most part, being a midwife is enjoyable work for Maria, who has been widowed for two years and has two living daughters and an adopted daughter. But the difficult part, she says, is “when a woman can’t deliver her baby.”

If that is the case, Maria knows to refer the patient to the closest hospital. Most of the time she goes along with the woman and her family, to reassure them and to be an advocate. If she can save the life of a child, then it’s been a good day.

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