Thursday, September 4, 2008


Some news...
we are getting used to working the center, getting more visits everyday and connecting with important people in the community. We are also making the place our home, putting up pictures, hanging flowerpots. Gabi found her own workspace and now reigns over her own desk.
Jessica came to visit and cleared a lot of our doubts regarding paperwork, stats etc.

The TV is up and the new DVD bought, now we just need to convert and copy our VHS movies.

The first prenatal class is running with three participants at first, but one of the babies was already born (see photo!).
One of the other two will also be born at Manos Abiertas. Many other people are inquiring about our services, most of them because they saw the ad on Televolcanes.

We also have our first "user" ( ...of a family planning method by PPFA), but so far most people come for prenatal care or for their pap smears.

Just two days ago I was very happy to see that one of the traditional midwives I used to work with at IXMUCANE years ago, found us and inquired about bringing in her clients both for prenatal care and for her birth. Here the TBAs are forbidden from attending first time moms, and we want to help our traditional colleages and their clients to be able to gave a "humanized" ( that is what they call it here!) birth, which by (our) definition means to keep them out of the National Hospital and allow for a natural, gentle birth experience for both mother and baby.

Jill ended up not staying with us, I understand that it is hard to keep faith when you are sitting for days without seeing one sole client... but that is what you call starting a clinic!

Next week our next intern will arrive, Karine from Quebec. I have high hopes since she sounds so motivated and organized...good for her and us, we need a bit of rest and she needs exposure!
We have had to ask Margaret a lot more to help us than planned and we do not want her to get tired.

Last but not least some news from Centro de Parto Natural in the city: we had our twins! Violeta and Ivan had their planned twin homebirth and Alexis and Marcos, 6 and a half lbs each slipped easily into this world on Sunday night.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Long time no write...

I guess it is a good sign if there is no time to write...
we have been very busy fixing the birth center, getting equipment, moving forward with the paperwork and actually starting to hold clinic hours...
The clinic is open and little by little, actually some people are coming in.
Last week Clara inaugurated the birth center by having her little son...

the official opening will be this Saturday, with Champagne and Orange juice, and hopefully with all our sponsors and board members.
before the opening we will hold our first assembly, a very scary and formal event.

The week after Jessica from PPFA is coming to help us with the worst of all challenges, the report...
I wish we had more to show her, but our beginnings have been slower than at least expected, I'm trying not to loose optimism!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

two months of silence not mean that nothing has happened!
The last months we did paperwork , means we have managed to become a legal association, and are in the process to get legal as a clinic as well. The municipality has authorized us to open the doors, and yesterday already a young girl stepped in and inquired about a birth!
Sandra, our pediatrician already has an appointment for today and other people have inquired about gyn services.
Now we have to learn to stick to opening hours, against all odds...I think all of us are having a hard time with that. Gabi has moved to San Antonio and is trying to get her act together and Jill is growing into her position as a volunteer with hopes for a future job.
Dr Menendez has been a great help and we are happy to have him as our director and advisor. I personally am learning a lot of new things, the hardest being how to actually coordinate and not inhibit, demotivate etc.
Just for everybody to see that we are not just talking but getting a women´s health center started, some photos:

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Donations coming in!

After a long birth a few days ago, see picture, we are now concentrating on getting the MANOS ABIERTAS clinic going. We have so much support, I can´t actually believe it. Karin Reichensperger from the Message Program has been particularly helpful, see the picture from her warehouse at Familias de Esperanza!
We have about half of our medical equipment already at the clinic, not even talking about disposables...
and I just got an email from Dianne Thompson , from Antigua, who wants to donate our file cabinet! Thanks Dianne! (And thanks Terry, from the Revue magazine, who is publishing our ad for free which was how Dianne found out about us!!)
Yet another donor is Raul Minondo, somebody who has actually nothing whatsoever to do with our work, but who happens to have been a friend for years. Raul is giving us our beds and the fridge.

And , of course, thanks to the best friend of all, to John Mann. Are you ever done helping people?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The English Girls

Laura and Joanna from Oxford arrived the night before last...loaded with good things for both clinics and with even better intentions. The most important thing they brought though is their beautiful energy. They are enthusiastic and looking for how to help...meaning that though they already brought several suitcases full of teaching material and decorative posters, they now asked me for a list of the things most needed! Unfortunately they are still students and therefore just have access to certain things...but they are asking a friend they will be meeting up with to bring material!
By now I have several boxes waiting to go to Ciudad Vieja. Things are taking shape. Jill comes back the day after tomorrow! But we will have to find her at least a bed... so much to do!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Time is flying and we are moving fast: the lease on the house is signed, it is being painted, Gabi is working on our logo, we had the first session with Griselda, the lawyer who is making our project legal. For all but one person we know who will be member of the association and the board. We might be able to get it in the works in time to open an account and receive the money... though we may not forget that we are in Guatemala and that things usually take more time than one thinks.
There has been a kind offer of a gynecological examination stretcher ( no idea how the thing is actually called), but it turns out it already belongs to someone else. But I trust what we need will show up.
Jill is still determined to help out, though she can not be paid by the project at this time, and Gabi and I are grateful, knowing that we will need help! A future intern has made contact with a distributor of medical equipment in Germany, who seems to be interested in donating some things. Everybody is being so helpful, this must be meant to be!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

here's a baby!


There's a baby! It was long and hard but Angela made it...we are going to bed...
I just talked to the future grandmother, who has been up with her daughter all night. They speak Quiche, and she told me that in this idiom, one of the words for "midwife" is the equivalent fo "buyer, negotiator", since she is the person to negotiate the cost of the new life on earth. In the Mayan legends, "Iyom(?)" means grandmother, and also refers to the midwife, who has a big responsibility for the baby to be born.
No wonder the current politics on midwife education are not very successful... they do not take into account the standing of the midwife in the community and the respect she is owed traditionally.

Birth happening

...obviously not at the new center yet, but in Guate, at the Centro de Parto Natural. We have been up in turns during the night, Gabi and I, to look after Angela, an indigenous woman at 42 weeks of pregnancy. She came in at 11.30 pm and now, at 9.00 am, is pushing. The baby is an estimated 9 lbs and Angela is about 150 cms tall...this is still going to take awhile!

Yesterday we chose the colors for painting the future birthcenter&women's clinic in Ciudad Vieja. in the afternoon I had appointments here in the city, and told everybody about the new project...a client says her office is buying new desks and we can have the old ones!
And yesterday Terry from our local ad magazine donated three months worth of classifieds to ask for donations for the project.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

We did it! (oh my, what did I get into...)

The silence after the storm! And a storm it was to work with Jessica and Heather. The first two days I was all fired up, the third day I felt that it was not going to happen after all... so much like that that I actually had to remind myself that PPFA would not come down here for fun but that they actually had the intention to get this project started with Us.
But the third day I felt I was tested: my intentions, my ways of working and even my philosophy was put to the test. And I ended up exhausted, dreading the last day of work, fearing that not much of what I had dreamed up would materialize.
In the end almost all of what I had imagined seems to be possible. is just going to be Gabi and I. Scary, with so much work! But perhaps we can afford somebody else before the end of the year.
Well, now Heather and Jessica have left and we have a mountain of work ahead: fixing up the house, getting the furniture..oh, yes, if anybody would like to donate, they are more than welcome to. At the same time the legal process has to get started, something I am afraid I will mostly leave to poor Gabi!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Guess who is tired... a long day of planning and discussing. At breakfast at the Macadamia farm, at my house (see Photo!), during lunch at Margaret's and back again in the afternoon at my house.
We went to see the future birth center in the morning, and everybody was impressed, though slightly scared about the rent. I can see things coming together, but the scariest part still lies ahead: the budget! I can see more staff being needed, which hopefully also fits in the budget! I'll know soon enough!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Actually working on it!

OK, this was the first day of work. Heather and Jessica from PPFA so far are very helpful,meaning that they actually encourage me to think things through and to believe in what we are planning together. My head is spinning though with all the questions and ideas they are planting in my mind. We are even considering hiring another looks BIG! Like in : a BIG breakthrough for midwifery?
Tomorrow I'll take the camera and take the first pictures of the future clinic...and of Us, working on the project!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Now that I got started...

OK, this blogging thing seems to work, though I am quite disappointed that I can not seem to change anything once it is out there! And the font options disappeared as well... well, I can live with that I suppose.
Anyway, the idea is to provide complete women's health care for women in this area... a mostly rural place with a population of a bout 30,500 people, 5,000 of them being women in reproductive age.
I was not sure in the beginning, where to put the project, actually I thought there were places around Antigua Guatemala that needed it more, but after researching it turned out that Ciudad Vieja is the most underserved place around here. How convenient. I happen to live here!

The day after tomorrow the women from PPFA will come here to elaborate the project details with me. Since I have done my homework, I hope it will not be too tedious and there will be time to take them to the municipality. I have shown up there regularly lately and I know that they are happy to hear that somebody wants to attend births right here in town . there is nobody else doing that! Which means that all babies born in Antigua will be registered there and are Antigua citizens until they turn 18. Though they use Ciudad Vieja services from day two after their birth.

And I can take the PPFA women to the future clinic.
Yeah, I found THE place! It is on the main road, a corner house with three rooms facing the road. that takes care of most of the publicity already. It has a total of 6 rooms, one for reception, an office, a consultation room ( those are the three front rooms), then two birth rooms, a kitchen, and in another patio there are two more rooms and another big bathroom, this part of the house faces the quiet street around the corner, my interns can live there. I'll take some pictures soon, so everybody will want to come and stay here!

What scares me so far: the reaction of the woman in charge of the health committee at the municipality. She sees me as a threat, since she wants to equip the Centro de Salud with a delivery room. I am not worried, the public services have such a bad reputation that you have to be really desperate in order to seek care there. but this woman can make trouble for us, so I rather be on her good side. I just don't know how!

The whole paperwork in order to get legal makes me shiver... I wonder if I could just leave that to Gabi ;)

I used to write a diary from age 12 to age 22...when I had my first baby. Babies make you stop everything else. My diaries used to contain stories of broken hearts, wild nights, tumultuous friendships etc.
Now I am starting to get acquainted with this new tool for writing a diary. I am not going to limit it to just the professional part of my life, just as I can not separate the two in ...real life, if you will. My private life happens 500 meters from where this project is going to take on a life of its own, I hope. Most of the people who are involved in it are also involved in my life. I hope I find a balance - here as well as in reality- that makes reading this both interesting and informative.

How it all started...the short version

Well, it looks as if I will be blogging, just like the rest of the world. Quite ironic, since I chose my profession believing that I would be as removed as possible from technology, as a homebirth midwife at first, then as a midwife at my own birth center in Guatemala.
but for this project about to start, I believe it is important to get out there, to the people who are supporting it and need to know what's going on, for the people who are interested in doing an internship with us and need to know what it's like, and also for me, so I can monitor what we are doing, our problems and the solutions we decide to try, the feedback we will hopefully get from the community.
Now, what is this project? No. Not yet. First a little about what I've been doing the last 15 years, since this is vital for what is happening now. After returning from MATERNIDAD LA LUZ ( in 1995), the most incredible place to study midwifery, I started to attend homebirths in Antigua Guatemala, where I live. Soon after, with a partner, we started IXMUCANE, a birthcenter. After two years I decided to split and take over a waterbirth center in Guatemala city. The owner was going back to the States and I had a hard time with my partner in IXMUCANE, so I took over.
So since 2,000 I have been attending births in the CENTRO DE PARTO NATURAL, in Guatemala City. We do on average 4 births a month, the clientele is half Guatemalan , half foreigners. Besides births we do comprehensive prenatal, postpartum and Gyn care, mostly using alternative therapies and herbs. I have been taking interns from all over the world and since last May I have a steady assistant, Gabi. Now I finally get to sleep once in awhile!
To my great surprise, last August I got an offer from PPFA to start a project for low income women in a place I could pick and to my specifications.
This is the project about to start: a complete women's health center for low income women in Ciudad Vieja, Sacatepequez.