Amina Nona started her own clinic in Haritan, a town in the countryside north of Aleppo, at a time when the area lacked midwives or even female doctors specializing in gynecology. As a result, women flocked to her clinic, which catered for 20 surrounding villages and towns including Amdan, Hayan, Bayanoun, al-Layramoun, Nabl and Zahraa as well as Kurdish villages.
Amina says, “I used to see the nurses on TV treating their patients with kindness and humanity, and I dreamt of becoming like them. I studied nursing with an emphasis on obstetrics at the University of Aleppo’s School of Nursing and graduated in 1983. I still practice the profession to this day.”
Amina started helping women deliver in their houses. In difficult or critical situations, she would transfer them to nearby public or private hospitals in Aleppo. She worked very hard all day long, sometimes facilitating up to 10 deliveries per day.
Work did not affect her family life much before marriage because her mother and siblings would help with household chores. However, after getting married and having her first child, she had to quit work at the university clinic and limit herself to working in her own private clinic. Her husband also helped raise their kids, and would accompany her to faraway villages to facilitate deliveries.
“I received great respect and appreciation from society,” she says. “There was a huge need for a midwife given society’s conservatism and the unwillingness of men to send their wives to male doctors for screening and delivery.”
Amina dealt with different classes of society, from wealthy people to middle-income to poor people. Everyone preferred giving birth at home with the help of a midwife, but this changed with increased medical awareness regarding the requirements of newborns and the need for hospitals and doctors where appropriate. So, Amina would perform deliveries in hospitals under the supervision of specialized doctors, who were confident in her long-standing experience in the field.
“I am legally entitled to assist with natural childbirths only, whereas doctors can perform natural or Caesarian deliveries if the need arises,” she says.
“I worked in different areas and diverse communities of Arabs and Kurds, Sunnites and Shiites, and I performed deliveries for many women in Nabl and Zahraa, two Shiite majority regions,” she adds. “I never felt I was different from them. Even when I was studying at the School of Nursing, I was the only one from rural Aleppo while the 14 other students were from the Syrian coast, but we became good friends and continued visiting each other many years after graduating.”
Amina says that the women gathered in the pregnant woman’s house during delivery always prayed that the baby would be male. This is due to the social tradition, which prefer males over females even if there are already many males in the family. However, she personally didn’t prefer one sex over the other. What mattered to her was the success of her daughters or sons in their lives, education and careers.
Concerning some of the difficult situations that Amina faced during her career, she says, “I was in the recovery period after giving birth to my second child, and an emergency childbirth came up. I went with the woman’s family in a tractor. I wore knee-high boots to avoid stepping into mud and silt when we reached our destination. After delivering the baby, I fell sick for about 20 days from exhaustion.”
She adds, “After performing difficult deliveries, I used to feel stomach pain due to the stress of the work. I was very dedicated. One time, I was helping 4 women deliver while I, too, was in labor. I took the 4 women to the hospital, delivered my baby, and then went to check up on them while carrying my baby in my arms.”
Amina remarks that some women in the villages and towns of rural Aleppo worked in obstetrics and were called “Arab Midwives” but most of them were illiterate. She herself studied nursing after obtaining a 3-year high school diploma in the scientific stream. She then specialized in obstetrics and took the same courses that medical students take in their fifth and sixth years of university.
She says, “I adore my job. The most important and happiest moments in my career are when childbirth is successfully completed, and the mother prays for me from her heart. At this moment, I feel like I own the whole world.”