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Methods of Delivery

8:39 min. - “I’ve delivered breech babies and babies that presented by the feet. And they all survived. I’ve seen babies that weighed 3 kilos, 4 kilos, 5 kilos” Venezuelan midwife


Evelyne St-Onge - The Innu way of life is nomadic. We get our food from the bush. We were always pursuing an animal, like we do now with the caribou. We would hunt caribou, trap beaver, fish... That was our nomadic way of life. According to what my brother Bernard told us, traditional medicine is Bolivia's official medicine. And they use plants the same way we use the medicine that we buy at the drug store.
Laura Pinette - They still use plants today?
Evelyne St-Onge - Yes, even now, those are still the remedies most people use. Here, there are still Innu who gather medicinal plants in the forest.
Walter Alvarez - Learning traditional medicine or delivery starts at five years old. In the company of their mother and other family members, children learn to identify plants and their properties, and to select them. Then, as early as 12 or 13, they help their father or uncle on their trips. They may even assist them during the delivery by preparing medicine, participating in herb gathering, making mud poultices or carrying water. Then, once they're 18, they themselves learn healing, and begin to practice their first deliveries, accompanied by 2 or 3 helpers. When the delivery seems somewhat risky, they ask another young person for help. But this person must be accompanied by an older member of the community in order to be allowed to go. If the young people don't always know what to do, the elder will teach them on the spot. It's like a school. By 24, it's over.
Women - In our case, our mother delivered our babies. She did it for each one of us and for each of her 86 grandchildren. And we all gave birth at home; there was never really any problem. If we were in pain during pregnancy, she would come. She positioned the baby, comforted us and made us feel better. Many of my sisters were afraid they would need a C-section; their babies were not positioned properly. But my mother, thanks to the knowledge passed on by her own mother, and her experience, always managed to deliver the babies without complications.
She didn't practice what she learned solely on us, many people in the community benefited from it. And we're proud of that! They say that ensuring the survival of the species this way is God's gift to every midwife. But in my mother's case, it's also knowledge that was handed down to her by her mother.
For my last delivery, the baby wasn't positioned properly. With no hesitation, my mother laid me down on a table and examined my belly. She held me by my feet, shook my legs, and thus positioned the baby correctly. At the time of delivery, the baby came out perfectly, without any problems at all! One day, after returning from the hospital, I remember telling my mother that they thought they would have to do a C-section. And she said: "They won't operate on you and you'll give birth normally". When the pains started, I went to see her so she could examine me, and repeated that I was due on the 23rd. She told me that, on the contrary, I would give birth on the 20th, or even earlier. Indeed, I went into the hospital on the 19th, around 8 pm. I had gone into labour. Around midnight, seeing that I couldn't deliver the baby, I went to my mother's and the baby was born an hour and a half later. Everything went perfectly!
There's another, quite special thing my mother does as a midwife. She prepares medicine to help women who have a hard delivery, or for those who don't ovulate adequately. I don't know what it is, exactly; there are several of them. For example, she makes one from waro honey and another from branches and plants that grow here. With that, women succeed in delivering their babies. That explains why they call my mother "mama" afterwards; it's as if their children have also become her grandchildren.
Mama Isabel - I've had deliveries where the baby was breech, or presented by the feet. And they all survived! I've seen babies that weighed 3 kg, 4 kg, 5 kg. I also helped deliver twins. I saw a premature baby at 8 months and even one at 7 months. We wrapped it in a blanket for 3 days so it could retain its body warmth and not die. It had to suck on a cotton ball! We did that until it could take the nipple. This is the kit I used for deliveries. There is gauze for wiping and scissors to cut the umbilical cord. Where is the little needle? Ah! and this is to break the waters, so the baby can be delivered! This is the woman. This is her belly. So this is where the baby comes out. This is a swaddling cloth. Push! Push! Push it out! And the baby is born: here it is, in the swaddling cloth. Now we'll deliver the placenta. There are two basins. That is the umbilical cord, so by removing it we'll also deliver the placenta. I'm holding it here and cutting it. So I take the placenta and throw it out. And I clean the woman like this, I wash her.
Music - Kathia Rock

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