Friday, November 26, 2010

A boy named Southern Land.

Last night an 18 year old girl came in to the clinic in labor. She is one of my prenatal girls and I was thrilled to see her. This is her first baby and from the way she was acting... I think I did a poor job preparing her for the pain of labor.

She rolled on the floor. She screamed like a toddler and looked as if she was about to hit anyone who dared tell her to calm down. She was pissed!

The woman who came with her was her midwife (and friend) who had tried to keep her at home but she wasn’t having any of it! To her credit she stayed with Achol and labored with her but she wasn’t happy about her being there. I think she’d run out of patience with her antics.

The thing was, she was only 2 centimeters dilated and her contractions were abysmally short (15-20 seconds at most!). I didn’t want to discourage Achol but in my experience, this is not a recipe for a fast birth.

I told her she should try to get some rest, go home and come back when her contractions were stronger. She said her house was too far to walk at night and it was getting dark. She wanted to stay.         No problem.

I admitted them but prepared for a long labor. Her midwife/friend was walking her around the clinic. But for each contraction, Achol would stop and scream or fall to the ground. I kept an eye on her but I didn’t interfere. They had a system. I didn’t want to step on any toes.

The fetal heart tones were solid and she wasn’t exhausted so I didn’t argue when she insisted on walking and walking and walking. (What midwife would?) But I was concerned she’d get too tired, especially if she didn’t progress like we hoped.

I left her to labor so I could join in the Thanksgiving meal some of the ladies prepared for us. (So delicious!) But while we were going around sharing what we were all thankful for this year, we could hear her screaming at the top of her lungs across the fence. It sounded a bit like someone was being beaten to death.

I couldn’t tell if it was more drama or something significant was happening. So as soon as I could leave, I went to check on her. James, our community health worker on shift was trying to corral her into the prenatal room to check heart tones. But each step she tried to push.

I got in her face and told her not to push. I explained that she needed to listen. She needed to only push when the time was right. At first she ignored me. But over time and as I worked with her, she was able to calm down and breathe through them.

When I checked her again, I was surprised (shocked even!) to see that she was 8 to 9 cm dilated. It was only 3 hours later. She progressed so quickly. The waters were still intact so I asked her if I could break them. When I did, I saw lots of meconium staining.
It’s about this time that Dr. Dave (short-term missionary from Florida) came in to help with the birth. He’s an ER doctor and wanted to be a part of a birth. He was a great help all the way through but didn’t want to deliver the baby.

It’s at this point things started to change. She clung to me and together we heed-and-hawed and breathed through each contraction together. I rubbed her belly. We danced and did hip sways. I rubbed her back and reassured her over and over. The rest of her friends were happy (I think) to let me take over. They didn’t even try to come into the room.

James was quick to translate all my encouragements and she calmed down and stopped screaming. I taught her how to push properly and what to do when the time came. She was amazing. Strong and child-like at the same time. I loved it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to ‘doula’ and ‘labor watch’ with a labor. Often, they come in fully and push their babies out in no time. Or they are complicated ones that need a different kind of care. This is the first ‘needy’ mom I’ve had in ages. It was nice.

In that short hour we labored together, she and I bonded beautifully. She trusted me and listened. She calmed down and pushed so well. It was empowering and wonderful. She was even able to breathe the head out while crowning and didn’t tear at all!

Truly I loved the birth. It gave me much to be Thankful for.

I’m thankful for the work I get to do. I’m thankful for simple births and babies that live. I’m thankful for this ministry here serving these beautiful people. I’m thankful I’m a part of it. I’m thankful for the strength God gives us each day to care for them and share Jesus. This is a beautiful land... full of promise. They are a beautiful people.

Post Note:
After the birth, I asked the father what he’d like to name his son. He said his name would be “Southern Land” because he is sure Southern Sudan will be its own country by January, when the referendum is passed. I pray that this hope comes true and that one day “Southern Land” grows to be a man of faith who lives to make this land a peaceful place to live.

Post-Post Note:
When I asked to take Achol’s picture. She looked confused and diverted her eyes. Her response didn’t make sense. She said, “I don’t know.” I asked her if she knew what a picture was and if she’d ever had one taken before and she said ‘no’. I showed her my camera, snapped off a few pictures and showed them to her. She was surprised... and confused. That couldn’t be her she was looking at could it? I couldn’t help but smile. She is such a little girl in so many ways. Yet, now she is a mother too.