In Transition

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By: Anna Dion, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Anna Dion, 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.

I have had a Mercedes Sosa song playing in my head for most of this month, I think because it gives me some comfort as I navigate the many changes that this past month has brought.

“Como todo cambia
Que yo cambie no es extraño
Cambia todo cambia
Cambia todo cambia”

This has been a month full of change- both personal and professional. We have just finished an intensive pilot course for 15 birth companions, who will now begin the ‘real work’ of accompanying high-risk pregnant women across the municipality of Pilar from early in their pregnancy until 6 months after the birth of their child. Our goal is to eventually bring this model to scale across the entire municipality in an effort to improve the accessibility and services available to women and their newborns living in high-risk situations.

It was truly inspiring to see the shift in perspective among many of the companions throughout the course- many of them starting from a position of wanting to correct the ‘bad habits’ that are often characteristic of many high-risk women. By the end of the course, the class had collectively shifted towards a more supportive and empathetic approach- understanding their own role in following the lead of their pregnant companion and helping them navigate health and social services in the way that best meets their own needs.

Working with the diverse group of women in our class, I couldn’t help but be affected by their stories and experiences. Many of them have lived through situations of violence, abuse, isolation and discrimination. Ironically, these situations will likely make them better supports to the women they will accompany.

Since the beginning of my Young Champion fellowship, I have also been in a perpetual state of change- and not only because of the work that I am involved with. I discovered early in my fellowship that I myself was pregnant, and my body and mind have been slowly getting myself ready for motherhood. While it has been challenging to be away from my family throughout all of these changes, I have felt very privileged by the love and support that I have received from so many of my colleagues and friends in Argentina. But now, 6 months into my fellowship and 7 months pregnant, I have to return to Canada to start building a home for our new arrival. I feel somewhat torn to leave Argentina, as I will be missing the true test of our program when our companions go out to start their work.

However, this also gives me the opportunity to begin developing my original idea submitted to the Young Champion competition, and I can’t help but reflect on how I have changed over the course of this fellowship and how I will put these lessons into practice upon my return home. A lot of these lessons center on the belief in my own ability to develop and deliver a targeted and relevant program, adapting from my previous experiences as a Birth Companion in Canada, and our experience in developing a sister-program in Argentina. I have also developed a better sense the balance that I myself am comfortable with between analysis- building a program based on the best evidence available- and action.

As my mind and body prepare themselves for this latest transition, I also can’t help but think about the many women who do not receive the basic care and support that everyone needs as they prepare to be a mother- whether it be for the first or the seventh time. More than ever before, I appreciate my own privilege, both as an expectant mum and as a young person given this unique opportunity to innovate, explore and shine.