The other day, I asked Maggie (the senior Nurse-midwife and resident partner-in-crime) why so many of the women chose to deliver at home instead of coming to the clinic. Her answer was particular and I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to think.
She explained that when it comes time for a woman to deliver, the husband insists she deliver at home. She has little choice. But it was the reasoning behind it that caught me off guard. She explained that here, a traditional midwives’ job aside from delivering the baby, is to illicit a ‘childbirth confessional’. Apparently, while the woman is in transition and especially as she gets ready to push, the midwife will yell at her. She will tell her that the labor is taking long because she slept with a man other than her husband. “Confess and you will deliver! Whose baby is this?!”
At first, I had to laugh at such a thought. It couldn’t be. Sure, promiscuity is the norm in this culture but really? Most woman I’ve seen in the pushing stage don’t have time to think, let alone make an intelligible sentence. So, I put it in the back of my mind to think about another day.
Then Bith came to the clinic to deliver.
She was a young mother expecting her fifth child and was evidently poor but oh so sweet and happy to be having her baby. She labored quietly and powerfully throughout the day and then barged into my prenatal visit sweating and ready to push. Not long after, she was squatting on the prenatal bed pushing with all her might.
She asked for her friend to come in and help with the pushing. Naturally! Her friend acted as a doula of sorts and immediately started massaging her back and encouraging her. “Chol! Push! Apathe Pei! Good work!” Everything was going well. Then all of the sudden the tone of her voice changed. It sounded like she was yelling at her.
I asked my mighty, mighty translator, Natali, to let me know what she was saying. He said that she was yelling at her to confess. Huh? “Whose baby is it? Who did you sleep with?” Yes. You guessed it. I was stuck in the middle of a ‘Childbirth Confessional’.
Naturally, Bith ignored her words and pushed with all her might. I, however, got all up in her business and told her to stop yelling such nonsense. I affirmed that the birth was not taking any time at all and that everything was very normal. This silenced her. She actually seemed happy to hear it.
No confession came but a beautiful baby girl was born minutes later - sweet and sleepy and calm.