Offering Life-Saving Advocacy and Education to Mothers in the Philippines

Written by Rina (Escosura) Miller
Edited by Clark Miller

The effects of poverty seem to always be most detrimental to the women and children of disadvantaged societies, and the Philippines holds no exception. Many unprivileged women and families needlessly suffer because they have not been educated about childbirth and the beauty of breastfeeding. Women living in urban areas are swarmed by social media that distorts their views on healthy childbirth and postnatal care, while women in rural areas lack access to quality birthing services.  

Rina (Escosura) Miller is a trained social worker. Her advocacy skills and knowledge of local programs are helpful in educating mothers about the childbirth experience and how to continue on in health afterwards. 

There is a Filipino saying, “A woman giving birth has one foot in the grave.” This quip horrifically illustrates the danger a woman goes through to bring another human life into this world. I would say that your foot does feel like it is in the grave, when hospitals refuse to do what is best for mothers. In hospitals here, women in labor are prohibited from eating and drinking, keeping them from getting the energy and strength they need to push. This weakens the woman so that the doctors are able to advise a C-section, which in the end, makes the hospital a lot more money. Despite many passing years with accessible medical research, there are still a number of bad practices that hospitals keep as the norm. For example, the husband is not allowed inside the delivery room, allowing the doctors to more easily persuade the laboring woman to do unnecessary procedures, most commonly C-sections. In addition, the baby is separated from the mother almost immediately after it is born. Forcefully pushing on the abdomen to “help” the baby come out is also a common practice.  These practices can traumatize or harm the mother and babies. 

When a woman is educated and has the support of her family or friends, she can be empowered to take care of her body and her family. It helps her to not be afraid, but instead feel confident and secure as she enters motherhood. I know this because it was my experience. I was able to give birth in a free birthing clinic with great staff. Afterwards, I began getting curious about the countless bad experiences friends and family had been having with their births. After getting pregnant again and having a miscarriage in my second trimester, I went to a hospital, and my eyes were opened to some of the injustices. This made me eager to help other mothers, and I began to volunteer at a free birthing clinic here in Leyte.

Receiving childbirth education from G.O.D. Int'l representatives and midwifery care from Mercy in Action, Rina experienced a healthy, empowered first birth. She is now able to educate other mothers in her area about nutrition choices during pregnancy, natural childbirth tips, and the importance of breastfeeding. (Rina wears her NOVA Birth t-shirt which reads "Humanizing Birth for Mothers and Babies".)  

The head midwife of the clinic where I work informed me that when she used to have duty at the public hospital, the first question the doctor would ask is the occupation of the woman. If they had a good income, they would be advised a C-section, even if it was unnecessary.

Here, at the Cumpio midwifery clinic where I volunteer, I teach some basic childbirth education sessions, teach about breastfeeding, and do some counseling. I find that I myself can be a source of education for these women. This last August, I was privileged to meet and teach pregnant and lactating women from Baranggay Magay, Tanauan Leyte. Over 70% of their population was wiped out from 2013’s deadly Super Typhoon Haiyan. Now they are trying to get back to the life they had, and for some, this means trying to have more babies, as many of their kids were lost to the typhoon.

I am no midwife, but I am so thankful for the friends who have inspired me to become an advocate for women’s health. This opportunity brings hope to me and many other women here in Leyte. I don’t plan to compete with professional health care providers, but I do plan to share the quality education I’ve received in order to help vulnerable women. I want them to be educated about birth and to fall in love with the important responsibility of nurturing their children through breastfeeding. I want to inspire them and make them believe that they are strong and able to do it in a natural way. I believe that I was blessed to receive education and support in pregnancy and childbirth. I want to extend that to other mothers. I am no midwife, but I am happy to play my role as an advocate, a counselor, and a friend to other mothers in need.

Written by Rina Miller
G.O.D. Int'l South East Asia Cooperative