Day 57 in Tanzania
After a long time of waiting and praying today was finally the day for me!
We received our working visas a week and a half ago and the hospital wanted us to come start work right away... so we did! But the fact that we are a large group of students (16) it would have been too much for all of us to go at once. So a group of us (including myself) stayed back on base and continued working in the clinic. And although it was a very quiet week I still enjoyed building relationships, caring for women and learning bits of Swahili. Now this week starts a whole new set of adventures, because I am working in the labor ward at a "large" hospital! Monday morning - I awoke at 6:30 and enjoyed some hang out time with God before heading to our daily breakfast of maandazis (fried dough). After having worship with the team I ran to my room to make sure I had everything ready. "Name tag? ...Check! Uniform? ...Check! Stethoscope? ...Check! Big blue gum drop boots to wear in the labor ward? ...Check!" Once everything was packed and ready we climbed into the dala dala (big van) that had just arrived for us. Then we were off to the hospital! And after nearly an hour of dirt roads, traffic jams and trying not to run over people in the street, we arrived! By now we are well use to the stares of people as a large group of monzoongoos (travelers), but now we don't just walk around here... we work here! It wasn't long before we found ourselves inside getting dressed in our uniforms and filling our pockets to the max with everything we would need on hand from gloves to baby hats. We had a little meeting, prayed and then got to work! Now being the first day there for some of us we were to manly observe and call for Marchien (one of our staff) in case a women was about to deliver. So we entered the old plain room full of beds that held laboring women, when all of a sudden... "MARCHIEN! Here comes a head!" As students we all would have loved to stand and watch the birth, but as soon as we looked back over our shoulders... "MARCHIEN! Quick I see another head is coming!"...... well 20 min and four births later, we now all had our arms full of newborn babies and a new line of moms just waiting for when their baby will be out next.
Trying to decide what mother you should run to and help was like trying to pick a child to adopt, but I guess our choices on who to "adopt" were most often made on who was about to "pop"! But even in the midst of constantly caring for these women it's impossible to forget the situation you are sitting in. A building with walls that have already gone yellow long ago and windows that have been spray painted so that people can not see inside. The row of plastic covered foam beds held by metal frames on each side of the certain divided room hold nightmares of germs underneath but the tops of them are only left empty long enough to hopefully have a quick wipe down before the next women jumps on. As you try to shoo the fly's away from the women you can't help but notice the cockroach that just ran across a trail of ants crawling up the window next to the mom's head as you try to fan her with her with her own pregnancy record paper. And although there are shaky fans hanging from the ceiling spinning around and around with all there might it hardly does justice for the pools of sweat we attempt to wipe away with our uniform sleeve so that it doesn't drip from our noses again only to add to what is already covering the mothers face.random bug I liked
When delivering a baby you can only hope the mother brought everything she was asked too. The hospital doesn't have very many supplies so it's up to the mom to bring it for them. A few of things she needs to have for us are, 1. a razor blade to cut the baby's cord, which may also be used for an episiotomy. 2. gloves 3. a clap for the umbilical cord 4. a big roll of cotton, it will be used to clean her (inside and out), hospital tools and even her bed once she gets off. 5. a lot of kangas. (large pieces of fabric) to catch and clean the baby along with catching all of the fluids/solids that come out along with the baby. Than 6. a plastic bag, to carry all of her kangas home in so that she can then wash and continue to use them. (as they are often what the women wear here). If a mother forgets any of these things we have to make due with anything we have (such as a rubber glove lining to tie the umbilical cord) or we try to see if any was left over from another mom.
On top of all this the mothers have never had any education on labor. They don't know when they should be pushing or how long it should last (unless they have had kids before) and contractions are seen as something bad. For some the only way they know how to deal with them, is to scream. In between jobs we often hold their hands and with the little Swahili we know we tell them not to push yet but rather to breath. At times they latch their arms around you with all their might in hopes you don't leave them alone in their pain for the other women who are reaching their arms out to us with big eyes crying out in Swahili "Nurse... Nurse! Come! It hurts!"
The few doctors and nurses who are there are already stretched to the max, and well worn out. To most of them the women are just part of a long convair belt of women and if they can't ignore them they will do whatever it takes to get them out asap. If a baby is stuck that simply means that the nurse should pull harder and cut more. if the baby is still not coming that simply means another nurse should get on the bed at the moms head and push her fist into the mothers belly. If the mother screams from the pain she is told to hush up. And so it goes.
Now this is a glimpse of how it is, and has been. What on earth are we going to do?Help the doctors deliver some babies to take the stress off them in the short time we are here and then leave them to deal with all of it again as soon as we leave? Or did I think I would save a bunch of women by preaching to them in between contractions and then that be that? I can't even speak the language! Well I was praying a few weeks back about what it looked like to share the gospel with these women and doctors, and how I was going to do that. God answered me with Galatians 4:14 - "But even though my condition tempted you to reject me, you did not despise me or turn away. No you took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Christ Jesus himself." That is the point... God sent me here to do! I am here to take action, to DO something! At times when I felt like I couldn't do what the doctors were doing, I realized I was doing everything they weren't doing! I was being there for the women, I was holding there hands, breathing with them, giving them water, and most of all constantly praying out loud over them declaring the love of God our father over them and their child. When their child is born we welcome them with open arms and declare God's love over them as well. -Once I was holding the hand of a mother in pain and praying over her as a doctor was suturing a tear, the doctor looked up at me with a sarcastic smile and said "You don't have to hold her hand, she can discipline herself to deal with the pain." I simply smiled and said "I know I don't have to." With that said I went back to praying and continued to hold her hand.
Some of the workers find it amusing that we like to build relationships with the women that are in and out so fast and that we come eager the next day to check on them, but behind there chuckles you can see they can't help but be influenced to consider to joys of doing the same. I mean to think of the fact that 100 years ago many white people looked down on them, and now we are here to serve and love them... I know it's all an answer to prayer.
So yes, that is how my Monday morning went. I can only imagine what Tuesday holds!
I initially started this blog while working overseas to keep my supporters updated, then I did it a time as a required assignment during my midwifery school, but now I write but because I want to. So now I share my current journeys, in hopes that others can learn from them, or at the least have a good laugh.