This morning I went to Kasana District Hospital, the government funded hospital in the village we live in with Emma, the volunteer midwife. Emma has been going once a week to help out and to deliver babies. It is quite an odd thing to just walk into a hospital and start working. I went to meet the chief doctor of the hospital to introduce myself and let him know I would love to be of service as much as possible while I am here.
Then I walked into the maternity ward and every bed was full. I made my way to the back rooms to find Emma, who had just delivered a baby boy. I felt a little bit like a fish out of water, not sure what to do, who to help, or where to go. Emma said there was another woman in labour outside the room so I went out and found a young woman around my age in full labour, kneeling on the cement floor. I went up to her and asked if I could help. She could not speak English so I just started rubbing her back and doing hip squeezes. She stood up to a squat position and rolled her hips in circles while I squeezed them together to try to alleviate some pain and take some pressure off her low back. Once the contraction finished, she turned around, put her arm around me, leaned on me, and started lightly rubbing my back and saying “thank you” in Luganda. We went back and forth from holding hands to rubbing her back and doing hip squeezes.
After about an hour—I wasn’t keeping track of time, the local midwife came and had her lie on the table to do a vaginal exam (VE). I stayed with mama to hold her hand and rub her back, and she kept putting my hand on her tummy. I think she liked the slight pressure. The midwife broke her waters and said to me, “In five minutes the baby will be here.” And she was right. Literally a couple minutes later, I could see the baby’s head emerge. The midwife assisted and guided the baby out. I was shocked at how rough the midwife was with the baby. She was yanking and pulling on the head and I was pretty nervous with how she was handling the baby. But two pushes later the baby boy was here. The midwife placed him on mama’s chest and he laid there, a little shell shocked, I’m sure, just looking up with his big brown eyes. It took him a little bit of time to cry out. Once he cried the midwife weighed him and covered him up. She came back to clean mama and I helped her get dressed. She was immediately moved to the main room with all the women. I carried baby for her to their bed—he was super alert and wiggling a ton. Mama and her friend seemed really happy for my help. Right after I laid baby boy down, I went to help another mama in labour.
She was only five centimetres dilated when I came to help. Emma said it would most likely go fast because she was a young 18-year-old mom getting ready to give birth to her third baby. She was in a lot of pain and at these hospitals they don’t have anything for the women, never mind pain medication. Emma and I stayed with her for support and we tried to manage her pain as much as we could. About an hour later, she felt the urge to push. Emma and I brought her into the delivery room and a few pushes later her baby girl was born. The baby was strong and vocal as soon as she was out. It was such an exciting and exhilarating thing that I was jumping on the inside. Mama didn’t seem too terribly interested in her baby and I couldn’t help but feel like baby was most likely unwanted because mama was so young and already had two children. We helped mama get dressed and I brought her and baby to their bed. Mama’s disinterest in baby was a very palpable feeling and tough to experience but unfortunately a reality that I am going to experience over and over, especially when I go to the local hospital. We left after that delivery—my first two babies in only three hours. I could feel the adrenaline running through my body……what an experience! I’m still letting the experience settle in so I can process it all. There are so many differences between delivering babies with Emma and with the local midwife, differences between births in Canada and in Uganda. It’s so much to take in.