It didn’t take long for the entire small rural community of Arslanbob to hear about the foreign midwife in town running a seminar. Excitement spread and anticipation increased among the women when they heard that the midwife was born only a day’s drive away and speaks fluent Russian. They began to hope this foreigner was someone who would understand their culture; someone they could trust.
Women gathered for the seminar in a local home; they sat on floor cushions around a table covered in fancy foods. Many of the women were pregnant; some with their fourth or fifth child, and others had young children. Our guest midwife was both professional and gentle in the way she invited women to open up to her about their health concerns. She helped relieve fears by giving advice on back pain, headaches, varicose veins, and anemia. “Pain in the womb is normal when you’re pregnant”, she told one anxious mother-to-be, “there’s nothing wrong with the baby – it’s just the muscles stretching.”It was clearly a relief for the women to talk to a health professional who had time to listen and didn’t frighten them with a list of what was wrong.
The health system here is very reliant on pills and injections, but our midwife suggested natural methods for preventing or curing ailments. For instance buckwheat, a local favourite, is a good source of iron and cold dill tea can be used to settle baby’s stomachs. The women knew some of these things already, but other ideas were new to them. One mother left the seminar eager to try ‘burping’ her baby after feeds to see if it helped him to cry less.
In the days that followed, several groups of women turned up at the house where the seminar was held, asking for the midwife! This was a clear sign that the community has questions and concerns about health that no one is currently answering.