A mother’s story
by Shannon Van Roekel
“Babe, it’s happening.” Her voice was quiet, but intense. He looked up from the soccer game on TV and gave her a moment of full attention. She grimaced in pain, both hands holding her belly as another contraction gripped her. His wife was about to have their first baby. Excitement and anticipation combined with a sudden apprehension made him feel like he should pray.
“Get the bag from our room …” She stopped to gasp for air. After a few moments she looked at him calmly, as if this was all normal. “Get the bag. I think we should leave. Now.”
If this had happened in Canada, it would end with the couple arriving at a clean, sanitary hospital, receiving excellent care and support by doctors, nurses, and midwives all working together to facilitate natural birth. Should complications arise, the watchful medical staff would be available to offer appropriate interventions, beginning with the least invasive options and always careful that decisions be made with the couple’s full informed consent.
But this story happened in Oaxaca, Mexico, where invasive and unsanitary treatment (defined as obstetric abuse by World Health Organization) is often the norm in both private and government facilities.
In fact, statistics for Mexico show a whopping 45.2 percent rate of Caesarean sections (according to WHO, this rate should never exceed 15 percent in any population). Even worse, Mexico has a maternal mortality rate of 38 per 100,000 live births, compared to Canada’s seven per 100,000 as of 2018 (www.photius.com), and an infant mortality rate of 16.3 per 1,000 live births, compared to Canada’s five.
Enter: Lila Quezada. Born and raised in Maple Ridge, BC, Quezada is no stranger to birth, with eight children of her own–and seven of these home births! She and husband, Ellie, have spent the last eighteen years serving as missionaries in Oaxaca.
When Quezada volunteered as a doula (birth support) in the government hospital, she grieved as she saw women being subjected over and over again to trauma through racial prejudice, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, intrusive medical policies, including forced isolation of the mother from the father and/or loved ones during the birth, and caesarean section without consent.
While a caesarean is sometimes a mother’s best option, according to the Mayo Clinic, they are often fraught with the following risks: breathing problems for your baby, infection, postpartum hemorrhage, blood clots, wound infection, and increased risks during future pregnancies.
The Quezadas introduced a radically new childbirth model to Oaxaca eight years ago when they opened Casa Compasiva. Casa is a place where women receive excellent pre-natal and post-natal care (childbirth education incorporating the Gospel), prayer support, a clean and comfortable environment in which to give birth with trained doctors and midwives. It is also a learning centre where Oaxacan Christian women can train as doulas and midwives, learning to use their skills as a tool for reaching others with the love of Christ.
Confronted with her own diagnoses of Parkinson’s Disease, Quezada faces increasing challenges as Casa’s director, and yet, the need is greater in Oaxaca than ever before for this type of ministry.
“Consider,” she explains, “the story of one of our clients who came to Casa Compasiva after seeing her OB-GYN for most of her pregnancy. He scheduled her Caesarean early on, claiming that it is always better to have a Caesarean because it makes for better sex afterwards! He explained to her that normal birth would leave her body very damaged. He had already performed two C-sections on his own wife.”
Quezada’s stories of tragic consequences affecting mothers in the broken medical system of Oaxaca continue: “One woman spent days in the hospital, where they had prepped her for a D&C, claiming that her baby was dead. … Our client insisted that she could feel the baby moving and begged them to do an ultrasound, which they finally did—and discovered an active baby, very alive and well. She ‘escaped’ out of the hospital (her words) and finally made her way to Casa Compasiva, where she was thrilled to be treated with kindness and respect.”
Forced to leave Mexico due to Lila’s illness, the Quezada family struggle to cope, especially while the needs at Casa Compasiva – including financial support – are so critical. The dedicated Casa Compasiva staff continue to serve their people with joy and courage, but they are powerless to raise the external financial support that is still needed. The Quezadas have frequently paid Casa expenses out of their own pocket, even at great personal cost, just to keep things afloat.
Since she’s been home, Quezada has set up a Canadian Advisory Team that has helped to make a monthly sponsorship program available and is working to organize various fundraisers. However, with her decreasing energy and increasing physical challenges (not to mention the world news crisis overload), it’s honestly quite a struggle to get people’s attention and generate support for this vital ministry.
Please pray s to our Father God who cares for each sparrow that falls – and certainly cares for these unreached pregnant mamas – that the doors of Casa Compasiva might remain open so that many would enter to find loving care and hope for their families and future through the message of Jesus Christ.
For more information, www.missionaryventures.ca/mexico-oaxaca