Myanmar: Where are the pregnant people in Burma?

For a long time at Thabarwa I was looking for a way to volunteer or work with pregnant women. I am studying to be a midwife after all, and I thought it would be a nice opportunity to see what pregnancy care was like on the other side of the world. The thing is, no one really spoke good English at the Centre so it was difficult to communicate that 1) I was a student with basic skills that could be helpful and 2) what the hell midwifery even is. The closest I got was “baby doctor student” which the locals ran with … and by that, I mean they ran in many different directions.

First attempt: I ask if there are pregnant women in the centre I can work with and am abruptly (they were busy) told no. So wait, there are NO PREGNANT PEOPLE AT ALL? That seems extremely impossible to me, given there are children running around everywhere. But, alright, maybe I’ll try again tomorrow when the monks and nuns are less occupied …

Second attempt: I went to the main office and asked if I could help work with pregnant women. I’m told to wait for 5 minutes and next thing I know a woman holding an onion is pushed in front of me. “THREE MONTHS!” the office worker exclaims. Okay … does she … need my help? Can I take her blood or is she having cramping? Did you just bring me a pregnant woman to look at? We awkwardly look at each other, I smile and say congratulations, she tells me it’s her 6th baby, and then she slowly backs away embarrassed by the whole situation. I’m sure out of the two of us, she was more embarrassed than me, but still … it was confusing.

Third attempt: I meet a nun who is in charge of coordinating the volunteers (finally, on day 3 …). She introduces me to the nurse at Thabarwa, who is in charge of all 800 patients in the centre. They have a lively dialogue and I’m told there are some opportunities for me to volunteer and that I just need to follow the nurse. We agree to meet the following day at 8am to go into town and work at a local hospital … or so I thought …

I meet the nurse at 8am, and he has gathered a small group of friends with him. I’m told to get on the back of a motorcycle, and we bike to the bus stop and get on the bus. In my head and I reviewing all my midwifery skills, in preparation for the volunteering I’m about to do. We take pictures, laugh, and arrive in … Yangon. Wait, what?

We get off the bus and make our way down the street where we stop to eat some street food. Then we pop into the main Buddhist temple in Yangon and look around. Basically, we do everything I was planning to do on my first day sightseeing in Yangon, but I’m with locals and we are on our way to the hospital. We did make it to a hospital, but in the end we ended up serving food for the elderly and helping clean beds.

Alas, there were no pregnant people to be found anywhere near or far, but I did have a great time getting to know the area with my new Burmese tour guides. Life is strangely interesting, sometimes, isn’t it?


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