by Kameron Shadrick
About four years ago the Lord began to nudge four separate families to adopt children from Ethiopia. But unknown to us, the Lord had been separately working in each of our hearts to do something beyond adoption. We were all deeply troubled by the maternal deaths that often result in the orphaning of so many children, including some of our own. And our hearts wept when our own older adopted children shared of the heartache and pain from watching a newborn sibling die.
Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve.
One day, after years of tears and prayers, the Lord gave us a clear burden and vision to help mothers and infants survive childbirth in developing countries, specifically Ethiopia. We had NO idea what this meant, or how we were going to help, but we were excited to see what God had in store.
This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
We began to research maternal care in low resource countries, and were shocked to learn that every 90 seconds a mother dies bringing forth life, and in that same 90 seconds, 14 newborns die, usually from preventable causes. We enrolled in midwifery classes, attended global midwifery trainings, read studies and reports on the global maternity crises, and became doulas, all while praying about what to do.
We began to ask WHY 99% of the women and babies who die live in developing countries… and found that the reasons include: not enough hospitals, rural living, lack of transportation, medical costs, fear of treatment by medical staff, lack of education….
We developed a name for ourselves… Delivering Hope International (DHI). And wrote our mission statement…Delivering Hope International exists to bring hope, healing and compassion to those most vulnerable in our world. Compelled by Christ’s love, we improve maternal, newborn and child health, and promote family preservation and the prevention of orphans.
And then we prayed, prayed, prayed… Finally one day after feeling discouraged about the “bigness” of the problem, we felt the Lord give us a unique solution… “What if we use Doulas?” We immediately began work on a plan, and started picking the brains of anyone and everyone who works within international midwifery. We called and emailed OBs both here and in Ethiopia, directors of birth clinics, international missionary midwives, midwifery university professors, and NGO directors. We shared our vision, each time waiting for someone to tell us that this vision makes no sense, but were repeatedly encouraged when they responded with excitement and gladly offered advice, wisdom, and guidance.
We ultimately developed a plan that included well trained and certified Doulas who will:
1) Provide education on maternal and newborn health: lack of knowledge is a leading cause for women making unwise health choices
2) Provide “Clean Birth Kits” and “Postpartum Care Kits”: maternal and newborn sepsis (infection) is another leading cause of death.
3) Help families develop emergency transportation and medical savings plans: this will address the delay in receiving care due to lack of transportation or fear of medical costs which increases risk of death. (DHI is also developing an Emergency Medical Fund that will ensure that women in our care are never denied medical services.)
4) Provide 4 Prenatal and 4 Postnatal visits, and compassionate, dignified Doula support during labor: Midwives, Nurses, and Doctors are often overworked and understaffed, resulting in lack of maternity care at all stages. Our Doulas act as an extra set of “eyes” for the medical community, watching for “danger signs” and other problems.
5) Encourage women to birth with a Skilled Birth Attendant (Midwife, Nurse, or Doctor), rather than attendant at home: 90% of Ethiopian women birth without a skilled attendant. This is a dangerous and leading cause for high maternal and infant mortality.
Just this past February, Sara and I went to visit fellow DHI board member Shelly Weiland, who lives in Ethiopia. We shared our vision with those working in the field of maternal and newborn care, and with potential ministry partners, and we asked for honest feedback. We were humbled and encouraged as, once again, we found those within this field to be optimistic and excited too.
On that same trip, we were also able to test out our DHI Doula training curriculum with 13 Ethiopians, and found that the curriculum is sound and complete, and ready to be translated for use by Doulas. (To learn more about our training, visit here)
We learned more about the needs within the medical hospitals and clinics, and were met by encouragement and support for our plan. (Visit here and here for more.)
We were humbled to visit pregnant and postpartum women at a Women’s Prison, and further established a relationship with a prison ministry, through which we hope to provide doula services to women who are incarcerated.
We are continuing to establish the foundation of our work in Ethiopia, are raising funds to provide supplies and salaries for our Doulas, are developing Postpartum Care Kits, and are preparing for our first full Certification DHI Doula Training this coming Fall. Maybe you would like to host a Mother’s Day Party! Visit here to learn more.
We are honored to serve the Lord in this manner, and it is with joy and thanksgiving that we are able to show through this work the power and grace of our God, who delights in using the ill-equipped to do things that glorify Him.
With His Hope,
Kameron and the DHI Team (Sara, Shelly, Jennifer, Michelle, Alyssa, and Marvin)