Sr. Esther. “The challenges of my ministry”

“My experience working in the health sector has been a journey of learning, helping, empowering, loving, giving and receiving love and hope, connecting with women and families”.  Sister Esther Alaam of The Congregation of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), reflects on her experience as a mid-wife in Ghana. 

The longer one practices, the more one will find that there are many reasons why some people have a hard time being healthy. Some of these reasons are poverty, lack of medical care, lack of education, harmful practices and beliefs, hostile husbands or family members, etc. A health worker can try to work with the individual to solve these problems with the help of the family and the community at large.

I would like to narrow my experience to the maternity ward as a midwife. Working with mothers, babies, families, the adolescence, couples and pregnant women to achieve their ultimate health for me has been very challenging.

My time in this ward has taught me that no matter how learned the midwife is, she keeps learning more with different experiences. There will be situations in which expert medical help is needed, there will be times one needs to make hard decisions, knowing when to get medical advice or when to refer the woman for further management is part of the midwife’s skills too. So, I am committed to being a lifelong learner.

From my experience, I have learned that scolding and blaming does not make people take better care of themselves. It rather frightens people from being able to share their needs and feelings. Doing that pushes them into the wrong hands and fake health workers. So, it teaches me to be gentle and understanding when dealing with them. Some of them have genuine reasons why they do what they did.

Much of a midwife’s job is to meet the health needs of women. The most important thing one can do for someone’s health is to listen to them, learn about their opinions, experiences, needs, questions and worries. Talk with them not at them; let them know you care about them. Often a kind word, a gentle touch, or a respectful talk will do more than medicine. When one shows a woman care and respect, you help her to respect and care for herself.

It is also my experience that change takes time. It took me time to come to terms with what Covid-19 brought us into. Everything went upside down and many of us became scared yet we had to be with all the people who needed our care and help.

This time really strengthened our bond and brought us together as a family. We needed each other’s shoulder to lean on, knowing one doesn’t have it all and together we continue to fight this virus. Also, when a person works with others to build a strong unit or community, he/she makes a difference even if the changes are not instantly visible. One’s presence and a little advice encourage others in ways one may not realize.

My few years in this sector made me realize that people I care for pay more attention to what I do than what I say. As a midwife, I have learned to be a good example to the women by the way l treat and handle them. For example, before I teach the women how to keep clean, I make sure my hands and environment are clean first.

The people we work with also look up to us with some expectations so we must remain honest and transparent in our dealings.

Another value I have seen and learned is to empower others. We empower these mothers through the health education we give them every day. It helps them to make their own decisions and it changes their lives for the better. When people feel empowered, they have the courage to use their own abilities; they know their own values and believe in themselves.

Each day comes with its own experience so I embrace my day with open hands believing God will be with me in every encounter. I carry with me every day as I leave the house to the clinic; hope, love, trust, compassion, empathy, ready to do my part and knowing God will do the rest.