Akwesasne has begun fundraising for a long-awaited and much-needed birthing centre on the territory.
Like many other issues, Covid has brought to light the need for a birthing centre in Akwesasne as new parents navigated an impersonal birthing process in off-reserve hospitals this past year that the Onkwehonwe Midwives Collective says wouldn’t have happened if the community had its own birthing centre.
“Bringing birth back to our community is incredibly important and that’s the main reasoning behind the birth center,” says OMC Interim Executive Director Anastasia George. “OMC believes that being born into the community is an incredibly important part of the birthing process. In terms of Covid safety, a birthing center would allow for family members to be present in a safe way. In a hospital right now, there is only one person allowed to be with you and they must follow safety protocols. A lot of people are choosing their mother over their partner, in a very tough decision, but we can allow for those people to be there, with safety precautions, of course.”
George says a birthing centre in Akwesasne will help new parents feel closer to home and allow for closer connections during the birthing process. In many instances during the pandemic, women had to choose between their partner or mother to be with them while they give birth, said George.
“The birth center allows for our new members to be born into our community, within the community. This is very important to us, as people whose community defies the confines of international and regional borders.”
The Mohawk community of Akwesasne straddles the Canadian and United States border, as well as the Quebec and Ontario border.
The GoFund Me campaign has raised $450 since Feb. 4.
The team, which includes other Onkwehonwe midwives, hopes to raise $3 million. “It has always been the dream of many an Akwesasne midwife to have our own birthing centre in our territory,” the OKC notes. “The Onkwehon:we Midwives Collective believes we now possess the power to bring this dream to fruition.” Jasmine Benedict is one of the midwives looking to bring the birthing centre dream to life.
A midwife in Akwesasne, Benedict has been working with Akwesasronon and Indigenous families for the past 15 years and has seen the necessity for birth to be brought back to Akwesasne.
As a mother of seven children, Benedict believes each pregnancy and birth is a unique and precious experience in which the mother should be the foundation, the GoFund Me notes.
Benedict now works to help other women have a more personalized birthing experience. The OMC hopes to build a 6,000 square foot, state-of-the-art birthing centre that will exceed standards for environmentally conscious and sustainable buildings.