CARE And Holiday Births

Blessed Mothers


It's been an exciting week for me at Fit Pregnancy. I've got my tickets to fly to Peru with CARE and my itinerary is coming together. As I mentioned in an earlier blog; Fit Pregnancy is sending me to Ayacucho, a rural mountain area near Lima, to visit prenatal clinics and labor and delivery units. Over the past several years, CARE has upgraded obstetric care in that region and reduced maternal mortality by 50 percent. My assignment will be to report back to all of you what it's like having a baby in the mountains of Peru. I get to shadow doctors and nurses and experience labor and delivery "Peruvian style," where the custom is to deliver vertically by squatting or using a birthing chair.

Before CARE stepped in, having a baby was a dangerous thing to do. If an emergency arose, there were very few places to go to get emergency care. There was no way to get there and if, by some miracle they did find a ride to the hospital, it was unlikely health workers spoke their language or had the supplies, skills or medicines to save them. All that's changed now and though I imagine things are still comparatively primitive from American decorating standards, the medical care women receive now is top notch. I can't wait to check it out for myself and report back what it's like to become a mother and snuggle in with a newborn in a hospital bed in Peru.

Here it is Christmas week and I can't help but wonder what delivering a baby in a manger must have been like. This was Mary's first baby. How much did she know about the birth process? The story goes that she was nine-months pregnant during her donkey-ride to Bethlehem. Talk about stress, they were on their way to pay taxes. We all know how anxiety-provoking that can be even without a pregnancy and financial worries. Once she arrived, she couldn't find anywhere to stay. Some kind soul put her up in his barn where, apparently she kicked in to labor. What kind of supplies did she travel with knowing that labor was imminent? Did she have towels to sop up amniotic fluid once her water broke? Did she have a little delivery kit with string to tie off the umbilical cord and some relatively clean scissors? We know there were swaddling clothes but what about Kotex? Was there anyone besides Joseph there to help her out? Forget about pain relief, what about basic sanitary supplies like water to clean up after delivery and a place to go to the bathroom? What's really amazing is that in many parts of the world, labor and delivery hasn't improved much in the couple thousand years since Mary had her most famous baby.

I was watching the news after the terrorist attack in Mumbai last month and the image that struck me most was the video footage of a woman who delivered a baby in a shack at the side of a major highway. She was lying on a pile of blankets on the floor in the midst of absolute chaos and squalor. Bless her heart, her baby was tucked in next to her and though she wasn't smiling (frankly, she looked miserable), she had the look all new mothers have; relief, exhaustion and sweet, sweet, calm. Contrast that to the standards of care American women are so fortunate to take for granted. Sure, delivery rooms are fancier in some parts of the country than others but they're clean, well supplied and staffed and you don't have to worry about basic safety. We are indeed a blessed country of mothers.

As you celebrate the holidays this year, some of you are pregnant and worried about what labor will be like and how your delivery will go. If you're delivering in one of the developed nations, don't worry. You'll be fine. Some are experiencing your baby's first Christmas, Hanukah or Santa visit. There's no better gift than a new baby and seeing the holidays through brand new eyes. Some of you are worrying your baby will come on Christmas and will forever after have to compete for birthday attention. Don't worry, you're that baby's Mama and you'll make sure your child always has everything he or she needs. You're one of the blessed and lucky ones. Happy Holidays everyone.

Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.