Of the many thrilling things I've had the opportunity to do here in Ecuador, one has been to work as a doula in a small birthing clinic outside of Quito city in a town called Cumbaya. The clinic is unusual for its commitment to natural birth and labor support, and because it specializes in water birth. In the U.S. this is unusual. In Ecuador outside of the upper-middle class and wealthy, it's virtually unheard of.
The majority of women in Ecuador give birth in a super de-humanized hospital birth environment these days, though from what I understand, these births only became the norm in the past half-century. Before, as is still the case in rural Indigenous communities, all births were at home and attended by a midwife ("partera" in Spanish).
Though there are no midwives at the Clinica La Primavera, the head doctor (Diego Alarcon), residents, nurses, and doulas all practice in ways similar to nurse-midwifery in the States. Part of it comes from the culture, where there is always time to ask a person's name, how they are feeling, how their family is, where they're from, what they'd like. As my taxi driver informed me this afternoon, in our relatively inevitable discussion about the difference between the U.S. and Ecuador, Ecuadorians look after a person's heart and soul. His impression was that Americans look out for a person's physical appearance and monetary success. Dr. Alarcon lives up to Ecuadorian expectations, being incredibly committed to peaceful, joyful, healthy patient care.
However, as in every medical institution that I have visited, there are things that could be improved. I believe that from within a certain perspective, it can be extremely difficult to identify hypocrisies and harmful behaviors. I will soon follow this post with some birth stories in hopes of showing you what I mean.
Interested in this clinic? Check out their website at: www.clinicalaprimavera.org