So much of my life revolves around waiting on a call to a birth, even in Africa J
There is a young woman, first time mom, who has been in labor all day at the clinic. Our neonatal resuscitation training was right next door to the clinic and labor rooms so Masa (the MCH aid) asked me to come by and help out. 4 of the TBAs I trained all those years ago were in the room with the young mother and started singing to me my favorite song. Whenever I have seen any of the TBAs here over the past few days they have started singing that song that has a characteristic dance which involves shimmying backwards with your body slightly bent over, it always makes everyone laugh with delight to see me know the dance and when to do the appropriate move. The song essentially says “When you are going Ami, when you are going…I am coming with you” (may o may bussoway) I’ll try to post a video when I get back stateside. I was in and out of the labor room all day; the poor mama had a premature urge to push, which was making her cervix swell. I was there as her bag opened in a rush all over the floor, green with meconium. I was a little worried because the baby’s head had been so high but the hear tones were good and the baby descended well after that point. I made sure that all the tools were laid out and nearby especially the delee suction and the ambu bag. Masa said that she wanted me to do the delivery but many hours have gone since I left the clinic to come home for dinner and I have not heard from them. I left the young mama safely ensconced with a gaggle of TBAs, encouraging food and water and rest mixed with activity, at this point I am not sure if she will call me to the birth and if I will go. I am tired and will need to sleep soon, so we’ll see.
Tomorrow is our last day of teaching on this trip. Our one day with the Daru TBAs. I am really looking forward to seeing everyone. Unfortunately the TBA whom I was closest to when I was here last is no longer in town and while she is well physically she is having some serious financial issues, she is a single mom raising 4 boys on her own. The 2 days of Helping Babies Breathe has gone well. Yesterday was an especially enthusiastic and intelligent group. They were engaged, curious and excited. I have especially enjoyed working with and getting to know Masa the new MCH aid here in Daru. She is really happy to be working side by side with the TBAs, willing and excited to learn and has an absolutely infectious smile. She saw me reading today while sitting outside the clinic waiting for the woman in labor and told me how much she missed reading. She has asked me to leave her a novel. Most of what I have with me is trashy detective stuff, so I’ll see what I can find to leave with her.
Kande’s daughter passed away last week. He was our driver 4 years ago and a friend. I met the little girl once when she was just a baby, a few months old, she and her siblings joined us at the beach our final day in country. His daughter was 4 years old and suffered from sickle cell disease, she was very sick and nothing could be done Kande said when we spoke on the phone yesterday. I am heartbroken for him and his wife and children, such a hard thing to have happen. Hopefully we will be able to see him this weekend when we are in Freetown and express our condolences in person.
A historical note: Jitta was reminding us today that the most famous and most feared rebel leader during the war, Rambo (and yes he named himself after that Rambo because he was such a great killer of men) was finally shot down on a bridge in Daru. The soldier’s barracks in Daru were one of the only places that the rebels never took, they took the town, they even held Freetown for a while, but they never took the barracks in Daru. It is a great point of pride for this place, and there are many retired soldiers here as a result.
Just before 6am this morning, a healthy baby girl was born to the young mother who was in labor yesterday, the nurse told me that everything went well. They didn’t call us to the birth, which is too bad because I was up anyway, lying in bed staring at the mosquito net, listening to the rainfall and watching the sky lighten from black to grey.
Today was the day that I have been waiting for this whole trip. It was amazing to see the TBAs in Daru who I helped to train 4 years ago. There was singing and dancing and learning of course, lots of great questions and stories of how they have been able to put into practice what they learned. Stories of hemorrhages stopped with uterine massage and women whose babies moved down the birth canal when they got her up to shake her hips and walk around. It was such a gratifying day. They paraded us home through town dancing and singing all the way. The chiefs and counselors all stepped out of their Bari to watch and tell us we danced like Mende women and the town people gathered around, many joining us along the way. I started crying when we were saying goodbye. It is hard feeling such affection for them and not knowing when I will be able to return and who will be here when I do. 2 of the women from our class have died since I was last here and others have moved away. I am feeling full of love, joy and gratitude mixed with the sadness of leaving it all behind. This is truly a special place and it is entrenched in my heart.
I gave Masa the book I was reading and had finished this morning. It is certainly not great literature but at least it is not too trashy or gory. She was delighted, kissing the book and dancing around. I will need to remember to bring her a novel next time I come or send one with the next trip for her.
There was another woman in labor at the clinic when Jitta and I went to check in o
n the young girl from yesterday. Masa again asked for my opinion and if I would check her. She is having her 5th baby, she has been in labor for over 24 hours already. The baby is big, but she says that all of her baby’s are big. Her belly is a bit pendulous and her contractions are not super strong even though she is 8cm. So I wrapped a rebozo around her lower belly to try to help pull the baby up and into her pelvis a bit more (I showed Masa and the TBAs how to do this) and I encouraged the mom to get up and move around. I also showed them nipple stimulation to help increase the strength of the contractions, they had never heard of that before. It was good, everything was picking up as Jitta and I headed back home. Jitta is helping Katmoon fix dinner but after I think we are headed back to the clinic to see if the baby has come and if not to stay until it does. Jitta is anxious to see another baby born on this trip.
I sit and write as Jitta and Katmoon fix spicy chicken and rice over the propane stove on the front porch and the smoke from the outdoor kitchen in back, where the rest of the compound cooks, wafts in through the open window. The blacksmith is pounding away next door and life is generally moving on. We leave here tomorrow to head back to Jitta’s home in Bo and I must say that I will be sad to see this town in the rear view mirror.