Medicine & Healthcare, Midwifery in Mongolia by Abbie Tressider
The question I was asked over and over once I had told people of my plan to stay in Mongolia for a month, was why? It seemed that even within the country, people could not seem to grasp why I had chosen Mongolia. In truth, I had an idea in mind that included working as an observational midwife, however I had not even considered the specific details of my placement.
Mongolia, from my limited understanding at the time, was untouched, beautiful and cold - so very, very cold. For me, the beauty of the country lay in the uncertainty of what I would discover.
Arriving in Ulaanbaatar
After almost a full day of travel, touching down in Ulaanbaatar came as a big relief to my system. Projects Abroad had ensured that someone would be there to meet me at the airport and escort me to my host family, just off of Peace Avenue in the capital.
My host mother (in fact, all of my host family), were astoundingly welcoming, even when we struggled with the language barrier. On my first day, I took a stroll through the icy roads of the capital, navigating my way down the main road and trying to pin point key areas to remember.
After my first few days trying to figure out Mongolian culture by myself, the Projects Abroad staff had organised a cooking night at which all of the current volunteers could meet. After some questionably edible cooking, we all took to a bar and begun to get to know each other.
Meeting other volunteers early on was a great help for all the little worries I had had over the past few days and it was also really nice to be able to have a fluent English conversation with someone again! I had soon made some lovely friends within the group and it was a great night.
My Midwifery Placement
Originally, my plan had been to do two weeks in a Care placement for disabled orphans and my following two weeks in the various maternity hospitals in Ulaanbaatar. I found it rather difficult to work with the disabled children and became too disheartened with the difference in culture when it came to the treatment of the children and so decided to change placement sooner.
Fortunately, my time spent in the maternity hospitals was more than I ever could have hoped for. Though throughout my trip the language barrier was always present, I found that everyone was willing to try if I was. The smallest of gestures such as saying ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ in Mongolian, was considered the most polite thing to do and they, in turn, would try very hard to communicate back.
Within my time on the Midwifery placement, I had the chance to spend some time with a group of trainee midwives in their nursing university. The girls were extremely enthused to hear about my experiences both in the hospitals of Ulaanbaatar and what growing up in England was like.
Every day spent in the maternity hospitals was different, and with help from my supervisor and a neonatologist who I had befriended, I got to experience all kinds of procedures, both observing and aiding when I could. From C-sections to helping premature babies, I was left with no question as to whether my time spent in Mongolia was worth it.
Knowing that this was the career I had in mind before coming to Mongolia, I was particularly interested in the cultural differences of the job and took note of each birth I witnessed during my time. As well as confirming that this was the job for me, the time I spent with the different teams at the hospital was absolutely incredible.
On a rather spontaneous whim, three other volunteers and I decided to travel to the Gobi for a week. With no plan and nothing but a budget and a place name written for us, we set out on the most inspiring journey across Mongolia. I didn’t hold any expectations for our trip and I like to think that even if I had done, it would have exceeded them by far.
Visiting the flaming cliffs, the ice waterfall, the sand dunes and an iced lake, we took in every bit of what the desert had to offer us. I would 100% recommend travelling to the Gobi in Mongolia.
A shorter trip on my first weekend in Mongolia took me to the countryside, where two other volunteers and I spent the night in a Ger, rode horses across the expanse of land, milked a cow and climbed a mountain.
I may have spent a good deal of my month justifying why I chose Mongolia, but every second of that was worth it. I had fallen in love with this country and what I'd been doing there, yet home felt rather appealing.
While all of the other volunteers I'd met in Mongolia prepared to leave (whether it be to another part of Mongolia or the world), I'd contemplated my time spent in Mongolia. I feel that I could have easily spent another couple of months learning, living and exploring there. I met some amazing people, both Mongolians and volunteers and I was sad to leave it all behind. Despite my initial reservations I grew to appreciate the culture that Mongolia had to offer.