Defiance of Despair: International Day of the Midwife 2023

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Sit down with any seasoned midwife working in a challenging setting with limited resources and ask her, “What is the most important tool of your trade?”


I haven’t done exhaustive research; zero double-blind studies have been run, but I’d bet my fetoscope and my right arm that the vast majority would speak of hope.


They would speak of hope and they would tell you that without hope, there is no joy. They would tell you that they find joy in the struggle.


Looking at the challenges the pregnant women in Haiti (and dozens of other developing countries) face, the average person could easily want to raise their white flag and accept defeat.


The midwives at the Heartline Maternity Center whom we celebrate today, the International Day of the Midwife, have continued on in defiance of despair. They have said, with their actions and their presence at work each day, “We believe this can be better.”


On this International Day of the Midwife, I am so grateful for the midwives around the world that stay in that sometimes lonely place of hoping, even as they struggle. I am especially grateful for the Heartline Maternity Center midwives: Fredelyne, Nadia, Youseline, Ruth Chama, Fleurgie, Loudina, Mica, Sancara, Islande & Guerline.


There is a poem written by Victoria Safford titled ‘The Gates of Hope,’ that speaks to the heart of every midwife as they fight an uphill battle:

“We stand where we will stand, on little plots of ground, where we are maybe “called” to stand (though who knows what that means?) — in our congregations, classrooms, offices, factories, in fields of lettuces and apricots, in hospitals, in prisons (on both sides, at various times, of the gates), in streets, in community groups.


And it is sacred ground if we would honor it, if we would bring to it a blessing of sacrifice and risk…


Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right.”


But a different, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle.


And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.


– Victoria Safford

Today, as we celebrate midwives, please consider “beckoning and calling” by giving a gift in honor of a maternal health care worker that touched your life.

About the Author


Tara Livesay

Tara Livesay is originally from Minnesota. She is a Certified Professional Midwife and a Licensed Midwife in the State of Texas. Tara is the director of the Heartline Maternity Center, located in Port au Prince, Haiti. Tara and her husband, Troy, along with their seven children, moved to Haiti in January of 2006, where they lived and worked for fourteen years. In addition to overseeing The Heartline Maternity Center, Tara is the co-founder of The Starting Place, a center for maternal healthcare and education in Central Texas. She’s also a co-author of The Starting Place Curriculum, which equips healthcare providers to provide holistic midwifery care in low-resource settings.

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