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Childbirth under Occupation: A Conversation between Yifat Susskind and a Palestinian Midwife

Posted on: Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Keywords: Palestine, Israel, Peace Building, Middle East, Women's Health, Reproductive Rights

In the West Bank, Palestinian women in labor are routinely denied access to necessary medical care by Israeli military checkpoints and roadblocks. MADRE partners with a group of Palestinian and Israeli midwives to ensure that skilled, well-equipped midwives are available to women in their community.  Every mother deserves a safe and joyful experience of childbirth.

Below is a conversation between a woman named Amina* and Yifat Susskind.  Amina is a Palestinian midwife and member of Midwives for Peace, a MADRE sister organization.  Yifat Susskind, is an Israeli human rights activist and MADRE Policy and Communications Director.

*Amina's real name has been obscured to protect her identity.

YS: Why did you become a midwife, and what do you love about your work?

A: I worked in a delivery hospital as a nurse for many years. That experience led me to study midwifery and become a professional midwife.

What I really love is that I continuously witness the arrival of new lives to this earth: free, honest, not contaminated with ideologies.

I see the power of nature whendespite the pain and agony, and the danger of a mother nearing closer to deatha new life comes to existence.  Here, the mother forgets her suffering and, with love, she holds this small being to her breast. For some women, this experience with death and life draws them again to pregnancy, delivery and motherhood and, like me, they choose to have four children.

It’s a paradox, how childbirth can bring you close to death, but is the beginning of new life.  Somewhere in this paradox is the source of hope and the belief in a better future. It seems to be a trait of humanityto realize itself in childbirth.

YS: What drew you to working with Midwives for Peace?

A: If we look closely, we see that all mothers on this earth, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, all experience the same stages of pregnancy, pain through all steps of delivery and the same moments of happiness at the end. A woman, any woman, deserves attention, care and support from the community.  This should be beyond nationality and religion. Peace and security are key words for all women.

YS: How does the Israeli occupation affect women who are pregnant or in labor?

A: Women in general are subjected to the deteriorating economic situation, leading to poorer standards of living, declining health, poor antenatal and postnatal care, and high risk pregnancy due to anemia, hypertension and more. Land confiscation and house demolitions not only make life miserable, but sow hatred, polarization and extremism on both sides. It is the women who must deal with this ugliness created by the policies.

Transportation is difficult due to nearly 600 military checkpoints in the West Bank. Many cases have been reported and documented of childbirth at checkpoints, resulting in deaths or severe complications to the mother or to the newborn. The separation wall encloses people, particularly the women, and hinders them from free movement.

YS: What is most inspiring to you about your work?

A: Most inspiring is the moment that I hear the first cries of the baby. This means breath, and breath means life. This means that the baby starts to be independent from the connection to the mother’s womb.

YS: What has been surprising to you about working with Israelis?

A: There are no surprises; our profession is humanity, where all women are in need of our support. Serving mothers and empowering women is a universal mission, and here the differences disappear.

YS: What are your goals for the coming years?

A: To build a strong midwifery association in Palestine.  To improve the living standards of midwives, fair pay and better working conditions, and other things to prevent drop-outs and to encourage fresh recruitments.

To enhance and widen the professional coordination among midwives from both sides to bridge differences and create real peace and security in this land.

YS: What is your vision of peace for Palestinian and Israeli women?

A: I think that if a real peace took place, the future for women would be shining.  My vision of peace is a two-state solution or one democratic state for both sides. Here women and their children will create a better life in the near future.



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