WINGS continues to focus our activities on Alta Verapaz, a region of Guatemala with exceptionally high levels of poverty, child malnutrition and maternal mortality. In 2013 alone, thousands of women and families have been supported with accurate and empowering information on family planning and access to a range of contraceptive methods. However, every day we are reminded of the great and ongoing need for our services, as Maria's story demonstrates:
"My husband and I were happy that the WINGS clinic was coming and I would be able to get the little sticks [sub-dermal hormonal implant] put in my arm – we had talked before about not having more children but until now we didn’t know where to go to get the medicine. I have five children living. Two months ago my youngest child died; while I was pregnant, I fell out of a pickup truck that was still moving and was dragged along the road. I went into labor and they rushed me to hospital, but the baby was too small and he didn’t make it. I almost died as well because the birth was very difficult. I asked the hospital to operate on me so that I wouldn’t have more children, but they said that I would have to buy some of the supplies for the operation, and I didn’t have enough money."
"Today WINGS did a pregnancy test and it was positive – I am really, really sad. I don’t want to have any more children and I don’t know what to do. It isn’t that I won’t love the baby, but the problem is that we are very poor – my husband is an agricultural laborer and I feel very sorry for him because he has to work from dawn until dusk for very little money. The money he makes doesn’t go far and everything is getting more expensive. Our children are still very young and we did not want to have another baby, but we will keep struggling on. I hope to God that WINGS returns so that I can get the little sticks put in my arm and take care of myself after having the baby. I can’t have any more children - I feel very ill and I am scared of dying and leaving my young children without a mother. There are many more women like me who need these medicines so that they don’t keep getting pregnant."
Candelaria, 38 and the mother of 5 children, had never heard much about family planning methods before. “If I had, I wouldn’t have so many children,” she explains.
In March, she took a one hour trip in the back of a pick-up truck to attend a WINGS mobile clinic after a a community leader stressed the importance of attending since there had never been any family planning related outreach in their area before.
After receiving information from WINGS and weighing her options, Candelaria decided to have a Jadelle inserted. The sub-dermal implant will protect her from unintended pregnancies for up to 5 years.
Candelaria is very grateful. “I do not want to have any more children. Family planning will help me and my husband give more to each of our children, and maybe even help me live longer. If WINGS hadn’t come to my community, I never would have had this opportunity.”
Berta, 29, suffered a terrible loss when one of her four children died as an infant. Now, her two-year-old son is also sick. Berta and her husband, Juan, have spent a lot of money trying to keep him well, but on the combined salary of about $150 per month that they earn as bus drivers, they simply cannot afford to buy all of the medicines that might help him.
This harsh reality motivated them to seek out a reliable family planning method at from WINGS. The couple wants to make sure that they do not bring another child into the world in such difficult circumstances. Berta has been getting a Depo-Provera injection every three months, but explained that sometime the government-run health center runs out, and she is forced to go for months without protection from unintended pregnancy.
“It seems that every day life gets more expensive. We are living with my in-laws to try to save money, but sometimes we still have problems making ends meet. We need time to figure out if we can support more children,” said Berta.
At the clinic, Berta received a Jadelle, a sub-dermal hormonal implant that will protect her from unplanned pregnancies for up to five years. WINGS offers the implant at a deeply subsidized price of approximately $3, and will waive the cost for families who truly cannot afford it, so it is accessible to couples like Berta and Juan. The couple is pleased that they can now focus their resources on their surviving children, without worrying about having to provide for another child in the future.
When we saw Sandra, 21, at a recent mobile clinic, she looked tired and bit sad. She explained that she came on foot from her village, about 2 hours away, with one-and-a-half year old Ana in tow. Her aunt had told her that the WINGS mobile clinic would be arriving in the center of town a few days ago and Sandra did not want to miss it.
Upon asking Sandra why she it was important to her to come to the clinic, she hesitated a moment, but then went on to explain that that her husband, a day laborer, drinks too much. “It isn’t fair to bring any more children into the situation we are currently living in,” she said.
She had used hormonal injections and condoms as forms of birth control in the past, but Sandra wanted a more reliable method. Her face lit up a bit when she began to talk about the Jadelle, the hormonal birth control implant which will protect her from unwanted pregnancies for up to five years. “There is nothing I have to remember to do. It just keeps working. I liked the talk that [WINGS Family Planning Educator] Ester gave because I now know exactly what to expect.”
Sandra also expressed her gratitude for the reduced price because it meant that she could pay for the implant with a bit of the money that she usually spends on household expenses, like food and cleaning supplies. Lamentably, not every story we come upon is a cheery one, but we hope by providing Sandra access to a reliable birth control method, she feels more empowered.
It is not typical to see men at our Family Planning Mobile Clinics. Instead, a group of women normally assembles to listen to WINGS’ presentation and chat as they wait their turn to have a private talk with one of our Family Planning Educators. The room swarms with small children-running, playing, crying, getting fed. Husbands, boyfriends, and other men are usually out working or uninterested in attending. However, this day in Santa Clara La Laguna, on the coast of Guatemala´s renowned Lake Atitlan, was different.
Juana, a 24-year-old housewife, came accompanied not only by her two sons (the older at two-and-a-half years and the younger, a four-month-old bright-eyed baby), but also her husband Ever. Ever had seen the announcement for WINGS’ mobile clinic in the town hall and was very interested. On the day of the clinic, he came to make sure his wife’s procedure went well and to take care of the two boys while she was with the doctor.
Ever is a day laborer and does not always have steady work. He says despite economic difficulties he wants to be the best dad he can be, and that means “having the least number of children to provide for possible.”
Juana strongly agrees. She came to the clinic to get a hormonal contraceptive implant which will give her family protection for up to four years. “At times,” she says, “I feel helpless with our economic situation because I have to take care of the kids and cannot go out and find a job, but this is a way I can take responsibility to help us both feel less stress.”
This couple was satisfied with the decision they made for the wellbeing of their family. They were also very grateful to WINGS who provided the service at a deeply subsidized price.
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