This is part 2  a series of posts about our recent trip to Ethiopia. Here is part 1 if you missed it.

Today, February 16th, day one of our DHI time in Ethiopia, and we have a very important meeting with some incredible, inspiring women…. A meeting certainly orchestrated by God.

Today we meet with the former “First Lady” of Ethiopia, Regina Abelt, who is a leading Midwife in Ethiopia; Judy, an amazingly dedicated American Lactation Specialist; and Dorothy, a spunky 70 something year old American  missionary woman who lives alone in Ethiopia and has pink “highlights” in her short white hair.

Dorothy has called this “emergency meeting” because 4 of her friends have recently lost their newborn babies. These women actually birthed in a hospital, yet they still lost their babies! This is not only unacceptable, but avoidable!

Dorothy knows that something has to be done, and she sees hope in Delivering Hope….

We discuss the problems as a group, and with curious, yet apprehensive eyes upon us, we share our crazy vision, and then finally ask, with nerves wound tight…“So, what do you think?”

Butterflies dissipate as we find that we have solid answers to all of their questions and the “what ifs” that follow. We know our stuff…. And our program has potential.

Then we ask, listen, and learn… learn from these highly respected, wise women. We learn more about the Ethiopian culture, about traditions that are still practiced, and about current policies within the hospital system.

Then we have an epiphany. A whole new aspect to our program is birthed…

Through our conversation, we learn that postpartum care for both mothers and newborns is basically non-existent in Ethiopia.

Even if a mother delivers in a hospital with skilled maternity care (which only occurs for 10% of Ethiopia’s pregnant women), she will not receive adequate postpartum care. She will stay in the hospital for 3-6 hours after giving birth, and then she is sent on her way… often times having to walk or travel by donkey cart for many, many hours.

What? How is this so? Thousands of women die each year following birth, and roughly 75% of all neonate deaths occur during the first week of life.

Q 8th bday DHI ET 063

How is this important piece of the puzzle neglected?

And then we ask… What can we, Delivering Hope, do about this?

Postpartum care was already part of our Doula Program, however, we had probably not given it as much attention as it deserved. But after a few days of brainstorming, we developed some concrete ways to address this serious need….

  1. Ensure that our Doulas are WELL trained in recognizing postpartum and neonatal  “Danger Signs” (hemorrhaging, infection, eclampsia, dehydration…)
  2. Our Doulas will educate women and their families about the “Danger Signs”, provide them with informational handouts, and help the families devise a plan for emergency transport to medical care in case of emergency.
  3. We, DHI, will have an “Emergency Medical Fund” that will pay for medical care for women and newborns who do not have the funds to do so ($10 can save a life in Ethiopia!)
  4. Our Doulas will stay with the women for at least the first 6 hours after birth (unless the woman is not recovering well, then she stays longer), and then return  to assess the mother and baby again around 24 hours postpartum, and then on day 3, day 7, day 10 and week 6. Our Doulas are also on-call 24 hours/day.
  5. We will provide each woman with a “Postpartum Care Kit” containing important items to help with the healing process. The pads can also be used by the woman once she begins menstruating again (many women use unsanitary rags, newspaper or other trash items). It will also include some TLC items to help the mother feel loved and cared for, and hopefully help fight off the “baby blues”.

The kits will include:

  • Draw string bag to hold supplies
  • Gallon sized  zip lock bag for storage
  • 3 pairs of good quality cotton underwear
  • 20 washable/reusable sanitary pads
  • 1 pack of Tucks pads
  • Perineum bottle
  • Soap
  • Packet of salt (for mixing with warm water and soaking perineum if an infection occurs)
  • “Nutrition”, “Breastfeeding”, and “Danger Signs” informational handouts
  • Lotion for the new Mommy
  • Receiving blanket for baby
  • A new dress for Mommy

We will be collecting items for these kits on an ongoing basis, for as long as our work continues and mothers continue to birth babies, we will need these supplies.

If you are interested in helping us create Postpartum Kits, either by collecting or personally providing supplies, or by sewing washable pads or drawstring bags, please visit us here for more information!

We are so very excited to have a found a  low cost way to help care for postpartum women and newborns in Ethiopia.

And this was only day one….