This is a birth story. If you don’t like birth stories, you can skip it. It’s not graphic, at least I don’t think it is. Nope, no pictures, I forgot my camera (and it probably would have been intrusive).
A week ago I was napping, and Michael woke me up to tell me that we had visitors.
I grumpily went out thinking, “can’t anyone get a nap around here?”
They told me, breathlessly, some stuff that I didn’t understand, and “could I please come?”
So I went and got my notebook, told Michael to be ready to go with me, and then slowly asked all of the questions I know how to ask, and wrote all of their responses. They must have been frustrated by my slowness. When I took the paper back in to Michael, I had at least figured out that someone was giving birth, and he then told me that what I had written was that the baby was stuck.
I told Michael and the boys they didn’t have to go after all because the ladies assured me it wasn’t far, and so I got ready; packing the few “baby stuck” things that I have (fetalscope, gloves, blood pressure cuff, books, and some tea and sugar), and grabbed my sarong (my ubiquitous wrap). Then I went out and told them that I was ready to go, but I didn’t have any experience, so PLEASE please call someone else. On the way they told me that her water had broken about 22 hours before. After a long, tiring hike we finally arrived on the top of the mountain. The small little garden hut was perched on the side of a very scrambly hill (meaning I had to scramble up it, digging my fingers and toes into every little nook). Once I finally got to the little house, I shook off my sweat and crawled inside. There was the mother, sitting, moaning.Yikes.
I felt her belly. She wasn’t having contractions, at least not very regularly. I tried to get her to change positions. I got her husband to sit behind her and massage her back. I tried to figure out how far along she was. I tried to do something. At least I got her to start drinking the sweet tea to give her energy.
I was so SO relieved, when I heard the voice of the local midwife. What an amazing woman. She was trained by our friends. And then she kept on doing continued training, and practicing. She has assisted generations of mothers through all kinds of problems (even breech, even placenta previa, even tubal pregnancies, even when the uterus came out…). She immediately folded her small little self into the tight spot beside the birthing mother, and started doing a check amidst all of the sarongs (I couldn’t manage it). She also managed to get the mother to change positions, and keep changing positions. The midwife decided that the baby was sideways, and I concurred (how sweet of her to ask my opinion, and show me how to feel the head and bum and feet). Then she asked what my books said. So I read them by flashlight (it was dark by now), and decided that we (NO she) needed to turn the baby. It is dangerous to do (my book said), and I told her that. But birth wasn’t progressing, contractions weren’t regular, the water had broken for way too long (chancing infection), and the mother was pretty exhausted. Besides, my midwife friend had done it before, she just needed the book’s wisdom to back up her position. So, she began slowly turning the baby until she got the babies’ head down. I tried to disappear, because the mother kept on worrying about me and focusing too much on my presence (I’m such an outsider, still).
Then things started to progress, a little. We were given some corn, and then I curled up and went to sleep on the hard floor. Praying. Feeling hopeless. “Not much we can do here on the side of the mountain, in the middle of the night. It’s up to you God.” I woke up several times to hear different people praying (the birthing mother’s father, the midwife)…it was a cool feeling. Finally, I heard the change in the mother’s voice. She was pretty exhausted, but I could tell it was time. It still took a long while, but the baby was finally born (head first…good job midwife), but with her foot and arm up, tightly wrapped by the cord (probably as a result of turning the baby). I was happy to hold the baby’s head as my midwife friend gently, and expertly untangled the cord.
I disappeared again (the mom was getting worried again) as they waited for the placenta to be born. It happened. They got the baby wrapped up and warm. Everyone fell asleep. I sort of did. Then I couldn’t sleep anymore and counted the minutes until sunrise. It was absolutely freezing (good thing I had brought my sarong). Finally, dawn. I took a mental picture of the beautiful white chicken sitting on its perch crowing out over the emerald green mountains, as the feeble light pushed away the fog.
I went outside to stretch my legs. Even more freezing. I marveled at the six men bundled in their sarongs, curled around the embers of the fire, laying on the cold, hard ground. Finally my friend was ready to go (she gave last instructions for taking care of the baby and mother). We walked. I forgot that early morning is very slippery because of the dew. Oops. I scrambled, slipped, got cut up by grass…for an hour(ish). I felt like a real wuss.
And then we were home. I love my home. I have it so easy. Water in the tap. A shower. A gas stove that can heat water. A mattress. A blanket. Nourishing food. All the coffee I want to drink.
Now imagine if my friends hadn’t trained the midwife. Imagine if they had just done it themselves. That’s ONE huge reason why we have to teach others.That’s one way to keep community programs sustainable. I’ll keep encouraging my midwife friend to bring other, younger women along to do the same thing she did with me. Then the process can continue on.
So, people who know stuff about medicine and birth and community programs…anyone want to comment. I’d love to keep learning.