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What could be more rewarding than helping a woman bring a tiny life into the world? The birth of baby Yasmeen has gotten me thinking again about a long-term dream of mine- to be a midwife.

I have had all my babies in hospitals, but several of my pregnancies and births have been overseen by midwives. As much as I would love a homebirth, I have a problem with hemorrhaging that makes that impossible. My compromise is to labor as long as possible at home, and then go to the hospital as near to the actual time of delivery as possible. Sometimes I cut it a little close- half an hour with Sukhailah, who I had in Boulder, CO, and fifteen minutes when I had Mu’aadh in Sana’a here in Yemen. I’ll never forget my husband’s voice on the other end of the walkie-talkies when he called to see if I was okay and settled in for Mu’aadh’s labor, and I told him he was a new father. He had been present at all the other births, but here in Yemen they don’t allow the men up in the labor and delivery area- so I was on my own for the first time. That’s my excuse for cutting it that close- I wanted him by my side for as long as possible!

So, while I have not actually had a baby at home, I want to learn how to help other women do so. Meanwhile I read all I can about it, and I use my herbal knowledge to help women and children as much as possible. A few weeks ago a woman here had a baby and had a lot of pain and bleeding afterward. I sent over some yarrow and shepherd’s purse for the bleeding, and a tea blend for her uterus and to calm her state of mind and help her milk flow. Soon after that, another woman was experiencing a prolonged labor. I had recently made a tea for her sister for a different problem, but when I thought about it I was pretty sure it would help the mother-to-be as well, and I told her to share it. The sister drank three cups of it and headed off to the hospital to have her baby.

Herbalism is a large part of my life. I love using herbs for myself and my family, as well as to help others. I look forward to the day when I can again grow my own herbs- these plants are such an amazing blessing, something that we should never overlook or demean. Even here, in this hot, arid land, there are plants used for common ailments- the leaves off of a certain tree for debility and weakness, the flowers of a small shrub for diarrhea some small seeds to prevent miscarriage.

It is still the case, though, that there is a very high mortality rate here for women and babies. Often women deliver at home, with no trained help at all, or someone with very little knowledge. There are, however, steps being taken to remedy this situation, such as hospitals offering prenatal visits and delivery services, as well as midwifery training and schools being opened in different areas of the country. It is not possible for me to attend one of these, so for now my dream remains just a part of my heart. But I do hope, someday, to combine my love of plants and healing with the vital role of helping new life make the journey into this beautiful world.

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