December 4th 1990 -Kissimmee, Florida
5:16am and all the lights in the house were on, "It's a girl!". The cry of a new baby filled the room as the older kids gathered around the tired mother to see their new sister, "What do we name her?" Said the mom to her husband as her mind was a blank slate after the hard work, but dad didn't have a name either, how about the oldest daughter, Kim, being nearly fifteen she would surly be able to think of something better then dolly as their two year old, Baby Di, might have called her. And the three boy's were more then likely too hyper or grossed out to be thinking about names. "Hmmm... Kaitlin... Kaitlin Elizabeth Shock." It flowed so smoothly off of Kim's tongue no other thoughts needed to be added. Kaitlin Elizabeth Shock it was.
Well I've been known to have good memory, but it doesn't go back that far. So I really don't know if that is exactly how it went, but I like to think it went something like that. I'm not sure if it crossed anyone's mind at the time to think about where that little baby girl would be in twenty years, but if it had crossed their mind I doubt it would have looked anything like it actually did.
December 4th 2010 - Tanzania, Africa
5:16am... Florida time. It was actually 1:16pm in Tanzania. And there Kaitlin stood, exactly twenty years from the minute she came out of her mothers womb, who would have ever guessed out of all the places in the world, she was standing in the small storage room of the Temeke hospital labor ward. She was dressed in a blue nurse uniform along with blue gum drop boots, she had her pockets filled with everything from gloves to ink pens, her stethoscope was around her neck and her name tag was clipped onto her top left pocket. "Kaitlin Shock" the name tag read next to a less flattering picture of her, but often times the doctors just called her "Shock". I guess her big sister Kim wasn't thinking about the fact that Kaitlin would be a hard name for people in Africa to pronounce, so her father's last name would have to do, besides, the doctors rather enjoyed saying it and Kaitlin couldn't help but giggle at their impressions of being electrocuted every time they said it.
By now Kaitlin had decided she had everything she needed and began to exit the storage room. Inside she was filled with excitement and outside she was covered in sweat, none of it came from being nervous, it was simply the heat of Africa rising all around her, it seemed to trap it's self more between the walls of the labor ward then it did anywhere else in the world, but there was no where else in the would Kaitlin would rather be at the time. Today was a very special day for Kaitlin, her twentieth birthday, but since she wasn't very fond of being the center of attention the most pleasing way to celebrate for her was to put all the attention on someone else more deserving of it, and who would deserve all the love and attention more then a brand new little life!
It was a Saturday, our day off from the hospital, so it was the last place anyone planned on going, and we can't ever go without a staff. Everyone had made their own plans for that day and we also had homework due. Long before the day approached I was a bit afraid that my hopes of delivering a baby on my birthday were going to be crushed, but God kept assuring me that he knew the desires of my heart and he wouldn't give them to me to than just take them away. So I was excited to find out one of my staff, Marchien, and another student, Emily, decided to help make my dream of delivering a baby on my birthday come true! Unfortunately, Emily stepped on a sea urchin at the beach just a bit before we left and so she was not able to go, but another student, Amy R, came in her place.
Finally there, I had my hands ready for work and heart ready to love. The two nurses on duty had no idea we were coming, but they were more than happy to have us. With eight women all on the edge of pushing their child out I was faced with a question... who's baby was going to be a special birthday baby? I would have loved for all of them to be my birthday babies, but our time was limited and I knew I only had the time to focus on one. I prayed that God would show me the right women, but I didn't feel like it was any of the women in the ward, so I just started checking how all of them were doing and who looked like they might be the closest to delivering.
Mariam was her name, she was a very small mom with light skin getting ready to have her first child, looking at her records I saw she was a PMTCT 1.... HIV positive. We don't look at the moms any different because of this, but we do have to be extra careful. I was holding her hand and breathing with her, just lingering with her a bit to see if she might be "the one", and that is when everything changed.
I heard the quick patter of flip-flops form heavy footsteps coming fast into the room, I looked up to see a women across from me throwing all of her bags onto the floor against the wall along with the spoon that was in her mouth as she kicked off her flip-flops and unwrapped the kangas from around her chest and waist quickly covering the bed with them, now undressed she stood facing me with her back to the bed, she placed the hands on the high bed behind her and in one motion jumped up and back scooting her way up the bed. As soon as she was on the bed the words were out of my mouth, "HEAD! MARCHIEN THERE IS A HEAD COMING!" -The sight of a women running in and jumping on a bed about to deliver is rather quite common, but as soon as I saw her I knew I was there to be with her.
Rehema was her name, she was 24 and about to have her first child as well. PMTCT 2- Negative, but by this time I already had three pairs of gloves on and Marchien standing across from me giving me ques on what to do next, I mean this was only my second delivery. We used a needle to pop her bulging bag of membranes, it was the first time I saw a clean (not full of meconium) bag of membranes since I've been here, and now the baby's head was coming fast, Amy was busy getting everything from clamps to cotton ready to use and a clean konga to catch the baby in. "Sucuma mama! Sucuma!" I said, meaning that the mom needs to push. Before I could say much more a beautiful little head slipped out, "Cord around the neck? Nope." And so came out the body of the most gorgeous little girl. APGAR score- 10 out of 10! We laid the little girl on mamas tummy and the biggest smile crossed her face as she lit up, "Asanta sana" (Thank you very much) she said. By now the baby was letting out the most wonderful sound of a strong healthy cry and her pink arms and legs were getting a good stretch. I clamped and cut her cord as Amy dried her off and took her away to get a good full check. Mama Rehema was still smiling.
The placenta came soon after, but mom did have a little tear. We cleaned her up, took her vitals and found a doctor who could stitch her up. I held her hand while she was being stitched up and she just smiled at me the whole time and kept saying "Asanta sana". - Once the mothers are done they get up, get dressed and go sit on another bed with other mothers and wait till their baby is done being checked and brought to them, then they wait a little while longer, get checked a few times more along with their baby and then they are taken to another room, where they wait some more, are checked some more and then if all is well they are sent home.- But I guess Mama Rehama never heard about doing this. As soon as she was done she got up and dressed and gathered all of her things as quickly as she could, she walked right up to Amy who was checking her baby, and with full enthusiasm picked up her little girl and marched right out of the labor ward heading for home. I looked at the others a bit clueless for a second before running out of the labor ward after the mother. "Mama, Mama, BAS! NJO!" (stop, come) Mama turned and looked at me with the most innocent face, it made me think of a puppy that thought it was finally free and didn't understand why it was being called back. None the less she came back and we took her to where she needed to be along with other mothers who had just delivered, and one of these mothers was Mariam.
Marchien and I started on the stack of paper work that followed and Amy finished checking the baby and returned her to her mother, that is when Marchien realized something was wrong, next to Rehema, Mariam was laying, unconscious. Her uterus had not clamped down and she was quickly loosing a lot of blood. As we called another nurse over I will never forget what Mama Rehema did, she moved her things to another bed by another mother and laid her band new baby girl down along side the another mothers baby, then she turned and picked up Mama Mariam's baby and held is close, she cradled it and loved it caring for it as if it were her new daughter, and she did so until the Mama Mariam was taken care of and well enough to have her baby back. Mama Rehema may have never been a mother before, but I could tell she long had the heart of one.
Once Mama Rehema had her perfect little girl back in her arms we were sadly getting our things ready to go, but we sat with her for a bit and talked in the little Swahili we knew, I really wanted to tell her that it was my birthday and I had been practicing long and hard to be able to say it... "Mama" I said "Lay-oh meme see-koo-koo koo......-la... no... za-....we... no.. oh... lee-wa!" I couldn't imagine having messed it up anymore then I did, but Mama looked up at me and said "oh, you birthday!" "NDIO! It's meme birthday!" I exclaimed. "Hongara!" Mama said. (congrats) We then asked the Mama if she had a name for her little girl. "Bado" (not yet) she then asked us if we had a name. I personally thought it would be selfish to tell her she should name it after me since it was my birthday, but the little girl looked like a Kaitlin to me. None the less before I could say anything Marchien was already telling the Mama that she thought Kaitlin would be a good name for it, and Amy shared that she had prayed and got the name Caris for her. Mama smiled big and looked down at her little girl as if to think about it those names fit her. She looked back up at us and said thank you with a big smile. We weren't sure if that meant she was going to name her either of those, but it didn't really matter. We then prayed for her and the other mothers there, they were all very thankful. And so we left.
Chances are I will never seen them again, Mama Rehema or baby Kaitlin Caris as we call her, like my friend Lindsay said, "Loving them is the easy part, leaving them is what makes our job hard."
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.