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Orthodox Christian Centre for Childhood and Obstetrics (Nizhny Novgorod)

" Inasmuch as ye have done it
unto one of the least of these brethren,
ye have done it unto me"

(Matthew 25:40)

The current demographic situation in Russia make each and every of us think about their responsibility to the country. It is the redoubtable number of abortions in Russia and a relatively tolerant attitude to them in society that has encouraged me and some of my acquaintances to start a research in spiritual and psychological aspects of obstetrics. What reasons make women commit this deadly sin of abortion?

Our attempts to find answers in economic, intellectual or social aspects have failed. Then we shifted the focus of our study from external factors to the woman herself, to the type of her psyche. It turned out that the woman changes radically when a new life occurs in her. The biochemical processes that are triggered, change everything: her mood, attitude to herself, to the environment, her interests, and many other things. She becomes a completely new person with a feeling of concern and maternal instinct. The woman may not be aware yet that she is pregnant but her feeling and approach to life have changed. At this moment she becomes vulnerable if there are no supporting factors, positive stereotypes and an enlightening piece of advice. The woman begins to fear the unknown. She consciously must undertake some discomfort, which is not justified in her milieu. You should admit, that not every woman will sustain the pressure of negative stereotypes. In many cases the woman seeks support from her relatives who are not always of help.

The spiritual authority of Church is the major factor, which can influence the woman's decision to give up the idea of an abortion. For this reason it was decided to organize a systematic missionary and educational work to prevent abortions and help women who decided to keep their baby.

The Orthodox Christian centre for childhood and obstetrics was set up as a joint project of the secular health system and the Nizhny Novgorod diocese. The movement was initiated by the staff of the Nizhny Novgorod Health Department, heads of medical and preventive treatment institutions for obstetrics in Nizhny Novgorod and V.M.Kuzmin, health minister of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast.

The Orthodox Christian centre for childhood and obstetrics in the name of St Seraphim of Sarov started its work on the blessing of bishop George of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas in 2004. The Centre targets its work at children's and gynaecological medical and preventive treatment institutions of Nizhny Novgorod, including those of the oblast ranking: 36 children's health centres (including branches), 4 children's medical and preventive treatment institutions, 6 gynaecological medical and preventive treatment institutions, 13 maternal welfare centres, 6 maternity hospitals, 2 rehabilitation centres, the research institute of children's gastroenterology and even a central regional hospital.

The centre's goal is to protect motherhood and childhood, revive and strengthen families through Christian enlightenment of people in the spirit of the Orthodox family tradition.

The team of the Centre consists of Orthodox Christians with professional medical, pedagogical and theological education who are ready to serve for free to civilization, society and their country. Nine specialists and 40 volunteers work at the Centre. Its full-time staff includes:

  • Two perinatal psychologists;
  • Two children's psychologists;
  • Doctor;
  • Teachers of catechism.

The doctor and psychologists gives lectures once a week and individual consultations, whenever necessary. The specialist in methodology prepares plans, reports, drafts new projects and organizes polls. The teachers of catechism work immediately at medical and preventive treatment obstetrics centres.

Work in the Centre is organized by:

  • Its head;
  • Senior nurse for interaction with children's medical and preventive treatment institutions;
  • Senior nurse for public relations;
  • Curator of work with volunteers.

The senior nurse for interaction with children's medical and preventive treatment institutions coordinates possible fields of work with the administration of these institutions, organizes volunteers and allocates them according to areas of work. The senior nurse for public relations negotiates the Centre's projects with donors and represents the Centre and the community of volunteers in different organizations. The curator enrols new volunteers and instructs them, and does paperwork.

The Centre has developed a number of programmes of spiritual and psychological support. The psychologists of the Centre deliver talks on spiritual and psychological responsibility to babies at some maternity welfare centres of Nizhny Novgorod. Information educational stands were installed in 60 medical obstetrics institutions where women can always learn about the malignancy of abortions and about responsible attitude to children. Chapels and prayer rooms were opened in some of maternity hospitals through the work of the Centre. A priest comes to the chapels once a week, and teachers of catechism work there regularly. These chapels sometimes become the only shelter and place of consolation for many women.

The churches organize family, psychological and medical lectures read by highly qualified specialists for wide population. Currently the church of Stt Peter and Paul organizes lectures on family, psychological and medical issues, and the church in the name of the Icon Consolation of All Who Sorrow organizes lectures on spiritual preparation to childbirth. The lectures are devoted to the following issues:

  • Spiritual and moral life of the family during the perinatal period;
  • Spiritual and psychological preparation to childbirth;
  • School of breast feeding;
  • Spiritual aspects of rearing a baby, etc.

Classes are organized by an Orthodox Christian doctor who explains about the Christian understanding of illnesses and gives information on prevention. The lectures are attended by 20-30 persons weekly.

The church in the name of the Icon Consolation of All Who Sorrow, Nizhny Novgorod, has served special prayer services for a successful delivery of healthy babies by pregnant women for three years already. These prayer services are very popular among the pregnant, who learn about them from announcements in maternity welfare centres of Nizhny Novgorod. As a rule the majority of the pregnant come for confession and communion after such prayer services. The prayer services are attended weekly by 30 people, many of them come to church for the first time. The prayer services also attain a missionary objective as many of their participants become true Christians. We know from numerous responses that these prayer services encourage women, give them hope and serenity.

A number of comprehensive private and public schools of Nizhny Novgorod have introduced optional classes Formation and Becoming a Family, which curriculum has been developed by the Centre.

The Centre's staff works with medical workers on many aspects. Together with the Nizhny Novgorod State medical academy and Health Department of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast the Centre convenes educational forums, conferences and seminars on bioethics, demographic issues, spiritual and moral rearing in the family. Priests regularly meet with doctors who work directly with future mothers and help them during delivery, so that they [doctors] could offer spiritual and psychological support to their patients.

Special prayer services are offered for women at churches where they can get blessing for childbirth. Churches organize schools for spiritual preparation for pregnancy and delivery for Orthodox Christian mothers. The staff of the Centre try to support every woman at the difficult period of her life when she makes choice for or against future life. Our experience shows, and it echoes with experience of other centres in Russia, that such work reduces the number of abortions by 10-30%.

The Centre has opened a methodology section, which accumulated and analyzes its own experience and experience of its peers. The Centre publishes methodological papers on the organization of such work at parishes and towns of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast. The methodological section is responsible for the preparation and publishing of articles on family, maternity and childhood issues in the mass media; it also drafts projects and programmes for the Centre's further work.

The Centre has set up a group of volunteers Miloserdiye (Mercy). It works at medical and preventive treatment obstetrics institutions doing the following:

  • Collects and hands out cloths for babies;
  • Collects and hands out essentials for baby care (baby's dummies, bottles, gauze, baby's soap, cream, powder, etc.);
  • Maintains hygiene;
  • Takes wards with neglected babies under patronage: rearing, distribution of toys and clothes, etc.

Thousands of women have received support during a difficult period of their life through the work of the Centre.

Priest Michael Zazvonov

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