Last night, I had a strange dream. I was marrying Angela Gehrke at a Hawaiian church. She looked young, much younger than how she was when she died.
Both she and I knew what was happening. For she had died anyway, she could look any way she wished. So she chose the age she liked, 28. Now to come to think of it, it was the year when she arrived in Monte Azul Community Association from Germany.
Angela worked as a midwife, when there was no recognition for such a professional category in Brazil. In other words, she was a clandestine professional as she assisted the births of so many babies in the favela.
She continued anyway. At points she did not have a proper visa to stay in Brazil either. A clandestine midwife in a clandestine village…
My own child was born in her house under her care. It was a holiday for the City of São Paulo. When we went to Angela’s house to pick her up, she casually asked, “Why don’t you give birth here at my house?” She was busy making plum jelly that day. We were the first couple to give birth at her cozy house in Campo Limpo.
That was the life-changing experience of my life. I will never forget the dim light, the sound of the water in the shower room, the smell from the kitchen… I probably cried louder than my daughter when she finally came to light.
The nursing association became annoyed by her practice and came to the favela to close the clinic. Mothers, professionals and media that loved, respected and supported her work went crazy. People mobilized to resuscitate her work.
In a matter of a few years, the Brazilian Ministry of Health decided to recognize midwifery as a formal profession. She went to Rio to get that diploma, by teaching at a college of nursing instead of being a student.
Angela received the diploma, was about to reopen her birthing house, then was diagnosed with cancer. She died in only half a year or so. She was only 43.
It has been 20 years since her parting. The year when she parted, we held an international conference on the humanization of childbirth in Fortaleza. The first of so many others to come. We gave her a humanization of childbirth award posthumously.
With midwifery profession newly recognized by the government, and new midwifery courses and birthing houses being open all over Brazil, the movement for the humanization grew.
So, a happy 20 years anniversary! To Angela and to the humanization conference!