Friday, February 25, 2011

A gaggle of gigglers.


Achan is one of my precious prenatal ladies. Expecting her first, I was thrilled she came to the clinic in labor. Her contractions were confusing though-- short but frequent. Not a one of them lasted longer than 30 seconds and most were moderate at best. I thought she might be in early labor, but  since the contractions came every minute or so, that didn’t connect.

So, I did an internal exam.

Surprised as all get out, I found her already 9 cm dilated with an intact membrane. It wouldn’t be long. I told her that if she was able to walk around, she’d delivery faster -- perhaps even within the hour; she seemed happy to comply.

Twenty minutes into walking about, she started pushing spontaneously. It wasn’t long before she had to sit down with each contraction. She was so strong, so silent, and so serious.

Achan was doing well, but her baby wasn’t-- the heart tones were low. Every contraction, they dropped to the 80s and were slow to recover. I figured it was due to head compression, but I wasn’t ruling out cord trouble either. So, I got things ready for resuscitation-- just in case.

As she pushed, her mother yelled at her to confess who she slept with, but Achan paid no attention to her; she wouldn’t even look at her. Her mother insisted she confess or the baby wouldn’t be born, but Achan ignored her all the more. It was as if she knew it was just a game. I know her mother was doing it out of love, but I couldn’t bare to hear it.

(Let me stop and explain: Among the Dinka, it is commonly believed that women who cheat on their husbands have more difficult births. If a labor is extra long or hard, women are exhorted to confess their sins, so the baby will be born. I’m told it’s the midwife’s job to illicit this confession. It’s a cultural thing and this was not the first time I’ve seen it done.)

Fortunately, this confession blather didn’t last long, as she delivered soon after. Her boy popped out, screaming loud and clear with his cord trapped between his arms and chest. The trapped cord must have caused the low heart beat.

Relieved and exhausted, Achan started dozing off even before the placenta was delivered. Her mother tended to her boy with kisses and smiles and all talk of confessions were forgotten. It was time to celebrate.

As the rest of the family gathered close, Achan found her smile. Colorful dresses, beaming grins and continual laughter danced around the room. The older women kept grabbing my hands and lifting them to the heavens together with theirs, while rattling something off in Arabic. They were honoring me.

I repeated their words and they repeated mine -- then we’d giggle. It was fun. Oh so fun. We had no clue what the other was saying but it didn’t matter. It was a chance just to praise God and laugh. So, we did a lot of it. 
Look at those smiles! My precious gigglers!
It’s births like this that keeps me going. Achan showed me, once again, the faith these women have in their bodies. Her sisters and mothers showed me the joy a child brings to the family and were kind enough to include me in the celebration. I feel honored.

I’m so glad families are trusting me with their daughters, sisters and friends. So glad. Pray that even more come. Thanks.