Traditional Wisdom: Honoring & Reclaiming the Heart of Birth, The Beautiful Story of Midwife Dona Ivani
This story is a good example of the rich discussions we had last fall at the Human Rights in Childbirth Conference about every MotherBaby’s Father, Partner and Family’s right to give birth with respect, dignity, collaborative decision making, with whom, where and how they choose. With a long rich history of midwifery around the world it feels good to honor the midwives who paved the path and whose wisdom and caring that Gabriela so eloquently captures as in celebrating Midwife Dona Ivani. At the HRiC conference, in my roundtable with Robbie Davis-Floyd on cultural perspectives, one of the many topics discussed was how it is not enough to just survive childbirth, MotherBaby’s must also thrive. We are learning how birth effects us emotionally in both the short and long term. It is the heart, the caring, nurturing and support that we must reclaim and value as much as safety, the part that traditional midwives such as Dona Ivani embodies. Thank you Gabriela for sharing.
Submitted by: Gabriela Azcoaga Klett, Sana, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
The day we chose to make our first midwife’s meeting in the countryside was the same day there were protest in the streets of Brasil about birth humanization. As my friend doula Fabiolla said, we were protesting too in another way…
We decided to honor the traditional midwifes that worked in the valleys of the Rio de Janeiro state not so long ago, because the more we know about them, more our admiration. Here I want to share the story of Dona Ivani. She is 77 years old and we had the pleasure of her presence, hearing her story and even share a yoga class with her!
Dona Ivani was an orphan. She grew up in an orphan house and as the years went by she became to be known as the “mother of the country.”
Her first child was born when she was a teenager, and the birth was attended by a midwife in the city of Rio de Janeiro. She lived in a neighborhood where people were friendly and women started calling her to help in births- she doesn’t know why, maybe because she was gentle, maybe because it was her destiny. So she acquired some experience, and when she went back to the countryside, people knew about her and started going to her house looking for help. Not only women in labour but people with any health problem. There was no hospital in the area at the time, no doctors. Her house became the only place, she did not only the attention but also feed them and took care of the children that came together.
The neighbors helped her in her mission, as women arrived from all over walking long distances. She managed to have a place with clean sheets for everyone, and clothes for the baby. At the time it was was difficult- no electric light, no transport, wood for cooking. But she says she had always successful, even with some hard situations, she felt she had a protection from heaven. With time she was recognized for her work and authorities decided to help her. She fighter hard for an ambulance that finally arrived in the 80’s. She was called to work in the city hospital and had a salary after long years of volunteer work, and when she went back home after work she attended women that was expecting for her there.
Now she’s a beautiful grandmother and she says she misses her time, time of solidarity.
Thank you Dona Ivani, your life is an incredible example.
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