Students deliver life, hope in Philippines

There is a flurry of activity.

People rush in and out, fetching instruments. Adrenaline is pumping and the tiny room is filled with a mixture of excitement, awe, and nervousness. Medical training and instincts kick in.

And then a baby cries.

Witnessing the birth of a baby is nothing short of miraculous. Two Mount Mercy students have had the rare privilege to not only witness a birth, but to play a key role in bringing the baby into the world.

Last summer, nursing students and soon-to-be seniors Megan Watson and Chantel LaPlante decided to take a leap of faith in their quest to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for personal growth and a mission of service. Their vision landed them in the Philippines, where for nearly a month they exchanged their roles of students for that of midwives.

“There is so much built into that moment,” says Watson, from Clear Lake, Iowa. “Each birth is so unique and special, it never gets old.”

Newborn Nathaniel rests safely in Megan Watson's arms

Culture and language barriers provided an additional dimension to the medical challenges the women faced, yet their faith and solid nursing background gave them the tools they needed as they worked at the Mercy Maternity Center in Davao, Philippines, the largest city off the coast of the country. “It was overwhelming at times, but class definitely prepared us very well,” says Watson.

The clinic serves as one of the only birthing centers in the city, providing a safe haven for women who want to deliver their babies away from the terrible third-world conditions of the local hospital.

“The women there were just so appreciative of us,” says LaPlante, from Chatfield, Minn. “They were so grateful we were there to help, and I just kept thinking, ‘look at what I can do with the skills I learned in school — I can really help people.’”

Both Watson and LaPlante were called on to help provide newborn checks, post-partum support and assistance during labor and delivery, and both women were thrilled to be able to deliver their first babies at the clinic, experiencing the joy of new life alongside the families they were assisting.

“There’s such a huge adrenaline rush, because so many things could go wrong,” says Watson. “My proudest moment was getting to be a part of a birth. We were a part of these families’ lives — we’ll always remember them and they’ll always remember us,” she says.

The trip provided the women with a rich array of opportunities, career experiences, and personal growth. As they stepped outside the norm, their faith and professional development was infused with new experiences that impacted them more than they could imagine.

“I gained so much self-confidence, and I’m so proud of the growth I saw from the beginning to the end,” says LaPlante. “I knew I’d grow, I just didn’t know how. I’m surprised at the different areas of growth I experienced.”

With both women holding strong personal calls to serve, the trip perfectly fused Mount Mercy’s deeply held beliefs with their desire to travel and serve. “It was great that we were coming from a University that supported [what we were doing], with both nursing and volunteering,” says LaPlante.

“We left a legacy for the women there,” says Watson. “I think it was hard for them to understand exactly where we were from, but we were there — and we were helping.”