Reflections on My First Trimester

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By: Hellen Kotlolo, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Hellen Kotlolo, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. She will be blogging about her experience every month, and you can learn more about her, the other Young Champions, and the program here.

It is true what they say about the first twelve weeks: feeling sick, the sleepless nights spent contemplating followed by fatigue and tiredness, the abdominal cramps, and even more difficult, the food, which tastes and smells different. What they do not mention is that this period is also a joyous and life-changing experience and similarly my experiences in India have had these “first trimester” aspects. But the symptoms are slowly fading as I enter the second trimester of my mentorship.

It has been a wonderful journey of learning and interacting with the other Young Champions and my colleagues at work. I am reflecting on lessons learned and identifying certain skills that I need to improve. I have currently downloaded an introductory online research and statistics course which is helpful because I am currently working on an analysis of the Focused Group Discussions from the Birth Preparedness and Complications Readiness (BP/CR) project, and will be working on the interventions, tools and materials for implementation of this operational research project in Rajasthan, my “project in India.”

CHETNA is collaborating with other NGOs with this project as a resource centre that provides materials, tools and publication. The coming weeks will require meetings with the field NGO and training of field workers for the implementation of the BP/CR project. So the next few months will be about developing materials and planning. CHETNA also facilitated my participation at the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Conference in Delhi. Not only was I with other Young Champions but it was a great opportunity to interact with Professor Wendy Graham and Tim Thomas who both challenged us to start thinking about our projects more intensively especially when we return to our countries of implementation. Following our conversation, I have dedicated the months of my “second trimester” to the Lerato-Care YC, my own “project in South Africa”. Below a picture from the conference.

I also participated in a review meeting in Vadodara held at Shroff Foundation Trust. CHETNA provides technical support to the foundation to implement RCH activities in underserved areas.

I was fortunate to get an orientation of the hospital located on the city outskirts. While they conduct 25 deliveries a month, the maternity unit was empty when I visited and I discovered majority of the deliveries are conducted by doctors not nurses/midwives. When I was on the Surat field trip last month the maternity unit was also empty and unfortunately the community health centre in Surat only had one nurse/midwife and one doctor with majority of deliveries conducted either at home or by Dais. This CHC had nothing, not even a drip (intravenous infusion) except for IFA tablets. And the next referral centre was about one to two hours away. I am still wondering where the midwives/nurses are and what their responsibilities are if not providing care and conducting deliveries for women in labour? It has been a difficult process for me to understand the health care system in India. At the moment I am trying to figure out how I can help.

As I enter the “second trimester” of my mentorship, a lot of work related activities and planning await me but mostly I am urged to fulfil my Young Champion project.
Below an official introduction of my mentor and Ashoka Fellow, Indu Capoor and Smita Bajpai, maternal health project coordinator (working with her on the BP/CR project) from CHETNA.