Friday, April 9, 2010

The Maternity


Seeing as I’ve been spending so much time at the clinic lately, I’ve started to make friends over there. I know I keep saying that nobody here speaks French however it’s not that there is no one who speaks French, all the “professionals” (the pastor, principle of the school, doctor, NGO workers, etc.) speak French however they are pretty much all middle-aged men and although we speak the same language, we really don’t have anything to talk about. Then there’s Suzanne. I met Suzanne at the clinic where she introduced herself as the wife of the doctor. She speaks perfect French and so whenever I’m at the clinic (which lately has been daily) we always chat for a few minutes. Last week she told me to come and see her office. I hadn’t realized she actually worked there but when she told me she had an office I figured she does some administration or something. As it turns out, she is a midwife and she runs the maternity (which I didn’t even know existed) right behind where I take the kids to see the doctor. She took me back to see where she works conducting prenatal exams, delivering babies and vaccinating infants. There were two women in the recovery room and as she picked up their babies to show me I asked if I could hold one. She handed me a beautiful little girl and when I asked how old she was Suzanne looked down at her watch and said, “Oh, about 30 minutes… I just delivered her.” Priceless!

Suzanne was telling me that every Monday she has 150-200 women come for prenatal exams and she invited me to come and see what she does so this week I took her up on it. I did preschool with the kids early and then headed over to the clinic. There were indeed at least 100 women there between the ages of 18-45, some for whom this was their first pregnancy, others for whom it was their 6th or 8th and one for whom this was going to be her 12th child. Suzanne said that this is the only reputable maternity in the area and so women come from many surrounding villages, some on them walking 3 or even 4 hours to get there (at 8 or 9 months pregnant!). Each month they deliver 40-50 babies. On Mondays they begin by educating the women on how to protect themselves from HIV and also how to protect their babies if they themselves are infected. Then the women are weighed and begin filling into the examination room where they measure their stomachs, check the position of the baby and listen to its heartbeat. It was truly a hands on experience as Suzanne showed me how to tell how far along they are, feel for what position the baby was in and listen to the baby’s heartbeat.

Suzanne and some of the women...

Feeling for the head...

Listening to the baby's heartbeat...

On Tuesdays Suzanne vaccinates the infants and as I was leaving on Monday she invited me to come back the next day to see what that is like. Let see, spend the morning with a bunch of little African babies… obviously I took her up on it. Once again, I did preschool with the kids here and then spent the rest of the morning at the maternity. There were a couple dozen women there with their babies, all between the ages of 1-10 months. As is the case in nearly all impoverished countries, the mortality rate for children under the age of five is quite high here so they are doing their best to prevent that by ensuring that the health of these young children is followed closely. Suzanne starts off the morning by educating the women about proper nutrition for them and their babies. Suzanne told me that they often see babies who are malnourished even though they nurse regularly because the mother herself is malnourished and therefore her milk does not contain the nutrients that the baby needs. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have your child totally dependent on you for nourishment and know that you don’t have what they need… After that all the babies are weighed and then vaccinated against Polio, Rubella, Yellow Fever, etc. depending on their age. I spent the morning helping to weigh the babies and register those who were there for the first time… and I managed to find time to hold a couple as well :)

Suzanne and I with some precious little ones...

Weighing the babies...

Without a doubt however, today was the best day of them all. As I mentioned, Suzanne’s job includes prenatal check-ups, vaccinating infants and delivering babies… can you see where this is going? As I was leaving on Tuesday, Suzanne told me that now all I needed to experience was a delivery and she would call me over sometime to witness one. Well, this morning as I was outside with the kids, one of Suzanne’s assistants came over and told me to come to the clinic right away. Since Tuesday I’ve been excited about the idea of watching a baby being born but at the same time not sure how I would handle it, whether all the blood, etc. would make me feel sick, how I would deal with the woman screaming, etc. Well, I don’t know if I’d feel the same watching a woman give birth back home but here everything is so matter-of-fact that it just seemed natural (which it is I suppose). It was scary for a while though. It was a tough delivery and when the baby finally came out the umbilical cord was wrapped so tightly around his neck that he wasn’t breathing and it took them several minutes to resuscitate him. My heart was racing as I stood there watching and praying and when he finally let out that first cry I breathed a big sigh of relief. Suzanne had told me to bring my camera and so I did, looking forward to getting some pictures of a brand new baby. As I was watching the mother give birth however Suzanne kept saying, “Take pictures of the head coming out”, “Take pictures of the placenta”, etc. Welcome to Africa, no such thing as privacy here… Needless to say, I will not be showing those pictures here however I thought you might like to see the newest resident of Bideka…

Resuscitating him...
 
Finally, he lets ot his first cry...

Tying / cutting the umbilical cord…

Weighing him… 3.4 kilos


Welcome to the world little guy…

Update: Before I left the Congo, Suzanne called me back to the maternity to witness one more birth...
Here's a few more pictures...
(excuse the less than professional quality, Suzanne had never held a camera before...)

About 10 seconds old...

If I ever get tired of loving on orphans (like that could ever happen!), I could so work in an African maternity!

Just after I placed her new baby in her arms... Priceless!

Myself with some of the moms and their new babies...

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