by Mariam Ugarte
This morning I woke up smiling. I had dreamt of a magical moment I lived while in India. My dream was about a group of women passionately sharing how they had discovered the Power of Caring. The dream brought back memories of some wonderful moments where nurses shared how their newfound knowledge helped them in their daily tasks.
I immediately thought of my friend, Marivi with whom I had shared this moment. We are both from Spain and met in 2014 in Bathallapali, a town in Andra Pradesh, India. It was here where we did our first collaborative work with Rural Development Trust Foundation (RDT).
We experienced a very significant moment during our latest workshops updating nurses on the new Humanized Labour and Delivery guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO).
We taught in small groups and used multiple pedagogical approaches to teach the nurses. This approach allowed us to connect closely with each other and the classes became truly dynamic.
The nurses are all rural women from underprivileged castes. They are, for the most part, a reflection of their historical context, education, culture, religion, gender, and economic situation. That is, women in India are generally not very accustomed to giving their opinion in public, or to go against what their own families think. Despite this, we did manage to hear some diversity of opinions.
Women supporting women
It was important to help the participants recognize that they are the major support for women giving birth. Therefore, we included the element of ‘caring’ in the workshops. Learning how to be caring is essential for rural nurses, as it is not always integrated into their work habits.
We understood that while many of the participants were facing the harsh realities of life in India, it was nevertheless possible to show empathy when giving care. However, In order for a woman to be able to take care of another woman, not a child or a husband but, an equal, she first needs to realize how self-love feels. We believed the best way to encourage the participants to incorporate “caring” into their practice was for them to experience being cared for themselves and caring for each other as John Dewey said: "... all authentic education is done through experience."
Consequently, each day, two different caregivers would be responsible for ‘taking care’ of the others in their group. We provided examples and also demonstrated the concepts of respect and caring through our own behaviour in addition to creating a welcoming atmosphere in our classes. Gradually, the nurses included small gestures such as leading a brief meditation for everyone, telling a nice story etc.
Nurses share their stories
Padma is a tiny nurse but on this day she seemed tall and powerful! She radiated passion and confidence!
Upon hearing her words, we became excited beyond belief. We had waited so long for that moment. Suddenly, another nurse, inspired by her partner, got up and also told us of another recent experience. She was followed by four other colleagues who also shared their newly developed insights. Marivi and I were thrilled to see these nurses speak with such confidence.
Another of the participants told us, she had recently performed her first vaginal delivery without an episiotomy. "I did it too!" Mahabubjan said excitedly. "I had patience as you have taught us!” One cannot imagine how pleased we felt as we listened to their stories. We had put in so much effort to help these nurses understand the importance of a respected delivery, without aggression and with the least possible intervention.
Then Mahalakshmi exclaimed: “I taught the mother to do pelvic exercises; this helped her to better cope with the pain of childbirth. I also believe that thanks to it she avoided a Caesarean section since the woman began to lose control but was able to regain it and reached full dilation to happily give birth vaginally”.
Rhadhika, explained how a mother had been trying to breastfeed her baby for the last four days with many problems. "I took my time!", "I felt overjoyed." In India breastfeeding is not a choice. With economic restrictions, little water and few hygiene measures, breastfeeding can be the difference between life and death.