Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Too old for this?

Last year, the first day we opened the clinic after the holidays we were slammed. They said that it was a mass chaos, so I prepared myself mentally for anything. But this year, with everyone at the polls we found ourselves blissfully quiet instead. It was really quite relaxing.

Preggos filtered in all morning and I spent lots of time caring for them. It was fun catching up with faces I hadn’t seen in weeks. I even got a visit from a baby I delivered in September. She was all sparkly-eyed and smiles. It was a good morning.

But at noon a labor came in to stir things up. Martha, my labor, appeared bone tired, making her look much older than her years. Had you told me she was 50, I would have believed it. She never came for any prenatal care, so I had to get her story on the go. She was 39 years old and expecting her 6th child. Labor started three days before but something was wrong.

Her husband carried a large wooden cross everywhere he went, much like a very short walking stick or an incredibly large good-luck-charm. He held it tight while answering my questions about her history. Yes, there had been a lot of blood. No, it has never taken this long before. The worry, love and concern in his eyes clouded his face and sobered his voice.

As I assessed her, I was excited to find her in good health, despite her exhaustion. Her baby was in a good position, contractions were effective and labor was progressing well. I had to reassure her husband that she’d deliver within the hour at least three times before he believed me.... and even then I’m not so sure he did.

So I prayed for them all, tied her belly (which was lax and possibly causing some of the delay) and got her in some good positions. Twenty minutes later she was asking to push. Four solid pushes after that... and he was born.

Once he was out, he instantly started peeing a fountain of urine for all the world to see. It made my translator laugh and clap for joy, saying “This is very good. Very good!” over and over again. I think he was more excited the baby was peeing than the fact he was even born!

The husband was overjoyed as well, and repeatedly thanked me. Personally, I don’t think I did anything but remind them that God is in control. But I guess that was enough to make his day. 

I, too, was encouraged though. I’m not sure if it was the big wooden cross, the peeing bambino or the fact that this strong Dinka woman would have a little boy to comfort her in her old age. Perhaps all three.

Before discharging them I asked to take pictures and pray. The father was happy to have me blessing his family and stood over us, glowing in satisfied pleasure. Beside him was a pregnant girl. She seemed wide eyed and innocent... and very young. I asked if she was a second wife (as having young wives for very old men is not uncommon), but they laughed and explained she was his daughter-in-law.

Only then did it hit me. Her oldest child was married and expecting a baby of his own! Ha! Their son and future grandson will grow up as best friends, no doubt. A happy time indeed.
Husband, Daughter-in-law, Martha and Bambino.