Someone was at my door. Startled but awake, I rushed to answer it.
I was greeted by an even sleepier Margaret ready to brief me on a labor that had just arrived. My labor-watch shift was starting.
Apparently a not-too-active G2 had just arrived; I had time for coffee.
I dressed in the dark, blindly finding scrubs that matched then heated water for coffee. I figured even if she wasn’t active now, G2’s (Aka: Gravida 2 or woman expecting her second child) are unpredictable. I needed to be ready.
The blue light of dawn was just starting to roll across the sky, but the clinic was already buzzing.
“It’s gonna be a busy one,” I thought to myself as I pushed pass the patients sleeping on the clinic front porch. They too were rubbing sleep from their eyes.
Settling into the birth room, I got things arranged and started sipping my coffee. I was just about to go look for my patient when I heard urgent voices and a rustling at my door.
Turning I found a young girl in orange being hurried along by three others. They dropped her at my feet, then started talking over each other.
Moaning and pushing with determination and grit, I recognized her as the G1 (aka: first time mom) that had come each morning for the last two days convinced it was time. -- It wasn’t.
However now it really was! Not only was she in labor but she was close. --So close.
Long story short she delivered a few minutes later. A boy!
I had them cleaned up and resting by the time most of my prenatal ladies had arrived. But it had been well over an hour and I had yet to meet my G2. She was off somewhere in the wings.
I tracked her down near the mango tree.
Her contractions looked effective and thoroughly painful, but she was progressing slowly. So I got her settled and prayed for her, promising to check on her regularly throughout the morning.
Fortunately, there were only 13 prenatals to do (instead of the regular 30 +).
By 11:30 am I’d already seen the majority of them, but one late-comer was now saying she too was in labor. As I was assessing her outside, my G2 called frantically for help.
Running, I found her vomiting bile (a good sign of progress) and ready to push. She made big eyes at me indicating it was time. Whoohoo!
A few minutes and several high-pitched sound effects later, out popped baby boy number two!
His mouth opened wide for a breath... then never closed! Wailing and pouting in protest as I dried him off. I couldn’t help but laugh. His lips were huge and gloriously kissable.
I nick-named him Lips on the spot. (His is the mugshot at the top of this post!)
His birth was beautiful and celebrated by all her friends. Together we laughed at his comical mouth and I clicked off a few pictures of his kissable lips!
It was certainly a wonderful day!
Once the dust settled, I learned that the woman outside WAS in fact in labor and she was ‘mine if I wanted her’.
Smiling at the thought of another baby I told Margaret I’d take her off her hands; then I had lunch.
Once back at the clinic, I learned that my new labor was a G3 (aka: expecting her third baby) with a sad obstetrical history. Flipping through her chart I saw my hand writing and I instantly remembered her.
Her first baby died during a traumatic three-day birth. She insisted she PUSHED for 3 days! Her second birth was also difficult and left the child paralyzed on his left side. I’m not sure if his paralysis is from birth trauma or not but I suspected so.
“What if her pelvis is deformed?” I wondered.
I decided to evaluate her myself and called her in.
Sweating and grunting, she moved slowly but silently toward the prenatal bed. Instantly I knew we were in the final stretch and hurried to ready the room.
Within minutes she was desperately trying NOT to push but was obviously READY.
She opted for the kneeling position... and yep, you guessed it. A few minutes later out rolled a precious little boy!
He was a tight squeeze --his shoulders and hips snagged on the way out-- but in the end all went according to plan. --Thank You Jesus!
Three beautiful boys in 8 hours!
Once again I’m awed by the strength of these women! They make giving birth look as easy as 1 - 2 - 3!
Culture side note:
When one of the husband’s arrived to meet his son, he asked me if his wife “confessed”. Smirking to myself knowingly, I lied and told him that I asked his wife during the pushing stage if she had slept around.
--“She didn’t confess so the baby must be yours,” I lied. “Plus just look at that head of his,” I said pointing at the funnel-shaped
Reassured, he smiled but refused to believe that his boy’s misshaped noggin looked anything like his. Nevertheless we laughed.
Yes. Perhaps one day if the fancy suits me I’ll start drilling my labors with questions of faithfulness while pushing. Then and only then, will I be a real Sudanese midwife!
Later on my translator told me that TBAs (Traditional Birth Attendants) in the villages have a ‘code of silence’ when it comes to this childbirth confessional thing.
And apparently some husbands are on to them.
If the husband suspects the TBA is hiding anything from him, he can take her to court and make her swear by oath his wife's faithfulness!
Yep. I can see it now.
“I, Stephanie Williams, so solemnly swear that Mr. Dinka Dude’s wife did not have an affair. She gave birth to his child because during the pushing stages of birth, she did not confess to being unfaithful.”
Where do I sign up?