• Mom We Love: Deborah Gustafson of Shiphrah Birthing Home

    From a foreign woman's advocacy was born a center for pregnant women in the Philippines
    by Kat Castaneda .
  • Mom We Love: Deborah Gustafson of Shiphrah Birthing Home
  • Bringing life into this world is a woman's ultimate joy. It is a responsibility, a gift, and an affirmation, and the fulfillment it brings is comparable to none.

    In reality though, the sacred act of giving birth is often reduced to an unpleasant experience. With high medical and hospitalization costs, a pregnant woman often finds she has very few choices with regard to how she would bring a new life into this world.

    In 1990, in response to the need for dignified and safe birthing for lower income families, Shiphrah Birthing home was founded. "My parents moved the family to the Philippines when I was 14 years old to work with churches in the provinces," says Deborah Gustafson, daughter of Shiphrah's founder Jeri Gunderson. "It was during this time that my mom met an American midwife, Diane Teague, who was assisting women in their birth in her own home. She decided to help out -- maybe rub the backs of laboring moms and bring coffee to Diane -- but never to become a midwife or open a birthing home." But God had other plans.

    Shiphrah birthing home

    For more than 26 years now, Shiphrah Birthing Home, also commonly known as Bahay Paanakan in Cainta, Rizal, has been helping empower pregnant women and guide them in making informed choices through the efforts of Jeri, Deborah, and a small team of volunteers. "As a midwife, I love erasing fear in couples who are expecting a baby through physical birth or adoption birth. It is so sad for me to know that fear is entrenched in creating a family. If I can make a difference and help an expectant couple be less afraid, then I have done my job well."

    Every May 5th, they join in the celebration of the International Day of the Midwife, which aims to encourage, educate and train more midwives to help women and their families build a stronger society. "I deeply know the importance of caring for your family's emotional needs. I work with broken families all the time. I also know how lucky I am for I was raised in a loving family. It goes a long way into who I have become, that is why I constantly remind my husband and children that they are loved deeply and truly."

    Shiphrah birthing home

    Amidst her busy schedule in doing lectures and volunteer work, Deborah, midwife and Executive Director of the birthing home, also makes sure she builds a loving home for herself and for her husband, Darren and their children Aubrey, 14, Auden, 10, and Bernadette, 9, a Filipino child they adopted. "My ministry is top priority and I believe my family is my first ministry. My husband and kids come before my work. My kids need to know they come first. I am a model of Christ's love and Jesus gave His life for us."

    When she's not at the birthing home, she plays the role of wife and mother to the hilt. "I play soccer with my kids. And swimming is my way to relax and stay sane. We are also starting to hike mountains and camp as a family. We also sing songs together and I find playing the piano and guitar great fun."

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    Shiphrah birthing home

    What drives Deborah is her desire to help people. "Helping others is part of who I am. I believe God gave me the desire to help others in life. It is my hope that we could train more midwives in attending mother-focused births."
     
    If there is one thing she could tell first-time moms who are anxious about giving birth, it is this: "Believe in your beautiful woman's body. God created us to grow a baby in our womb or our heart. You can give birth through your body or through adoption. Have faith. Do not fear. Kaya mo yan."

    Shiphrah Birthing Home is located at Gonzales Street, Taytay, Rizal, Philippines. For inquiries, call (02) 660 7565.

    Photos by Isabell Steinert Photography. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.
     

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