Volunteer heading for India in hopes of saving mothers’ lives

       Deborah Greymoon has an unusual definition for birth control. For her, it means a woman taking charge of how her child is born, where it happens and who is with her at the time, she explained in a recent interview. Deborah Greymoon holds an Afghan child during her trip to Afghanistan in 2002. 
Courtesy of Deborah Greymoon
       A mother of six, she has spent much of her life since her first baby in 1971 studying how to make childbirth more meaningful and healthy for women.
       “It should be a spiritual experience rather than a medical intervention,” commented Greymoon, who grew up on the Westside and now lives in Cascade.
       On April 21, she will leave for India, where she plans to live for 3 ˝ months, volunteering in a maternity hospital in the town of Tirunelveli in the state of Tamilnadu through a program called Projects Abroad.
       A simple reason for the trip is to “broaden my experience,” she said. But Greymoon also has far-reaching goals. One was the choice of India. Although the country has become a world industrial leader, it has an abysmal death rate for mothers giving birth: 301 per 100,000 (compared with 7 in the U.S.). “It's unbelievable to me that could be happening,” Greymoon said.
       The typical cause of death is hemorraghing and infection, she said. She thinks these tragedies generally result from lack of attention to women's health during pregnancy, insensitivity at hospitals and a general attitude in India that women “are not as valued as men,” she said. “A culture change needs to come about.”
       What should be happening, she believes - in India as well as other countries - is women being less dependent on doctors and hospitals (as in past centuries, when women had good success giving birth naturally). What mothers-to-be really need during pregnancy, she said, is be visited regularly by health professionals to check the health of themselves and their babies-to-be.
       Thus, part of her plan in India is “to train maternal health care providers,” she said. “I'm going to try to talk to these people about change, to get them to focus on women's health care - not just hospitals, anaesthesia and surgery.”
       Greymoon knows her mission won't be easy. “I hope that I can get through to a few people,” she said, “and then that they can get through to a few.”
       Her path to this point of her life started with the birth of her first child in '71. Hospitals then did not have amiable birthing rooms like they do today, and she decided to to exercise her own “birth control” the next time. Her next four kids were born at home (the last had to be in a hospital because of an injury she'd had); in the meantime, “people started asking me to attend their children's births.”
       One of Greymoon's beliefs is that when a woman feels empowered in giving birth, it has the side benefit of making her feel “more vested in the child” in the years to come.
       She describes herself as a “direct entry midwife, even though I have medical training and am a National Registery EMT.” She intends to become a certified midwife when she returns from India, she said.
       “I never made any money off it,” she said, in response to a question about her birthing background. “I've just helped out.”
       Her money-making career has been in technology, where she has been involved in chemical labs and in purchasing. A contract with Intel will run out just before she leaves for India. “So the timing is right,” she said.
       This is not her first trip abroad. In 2002, she went to Afghanistan as part of a group effort to study the effects of bombing on women.
       Greymoon and her family moved up Ute Pass four years ago. During her Westside years, her children attended Whittier Elementary, West Middle School and Coronado High School. She also is an EMT with the Cascade Volunteer Fire Department.
       She is fundraising to help cover the costs of her trip. “I have sent out several letters to business leaders in the community but that was only about a week ago, so I may yet get more results,” she states in a recent e-mail. “All of my friends have been very supportive and contributed what they can. Several people showed up at the talk I gave at the Ute Pass Library on the purpose and background of my trip on March 12 and at the knitting workshop I taught on March 10. I have some people signed up for the next knitting workshop on March 31 and I have a couple of spinning wheels that I am selling, so we'll see how that goes. I also may do another informational talk but haven't set a date.”

Westside Pioneer article