Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Laboring in Africa

This post is not about what you think.

It’s truly about laboring…as in woman in labor, having child.

My house worker called last Sunday to say she was having much pain and was in the hospital. Doug had biked 20 miles to church, and I didn’t expect him until 4pm, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to drag three kids into a maternity ward in Africa.

After waiting a few hours, I decided to go…kids and all.

For the first time ever, for me, I rode on a piki (motorcycle) with three children. So if you can picture this, Caleb in front, Karis behind him, then the driver (God bless that man), then Kylie straddled, then me, straddled in a dress because I couldn’t fit side-saddle.

We made it to the hospital, and I paid him well over the “going rate.”
Out in the yard of the hospital were many people, friends and families of patients. They come and stay at the hospital with their admitted loved ones. They bring them sheets, food, water, mosquito nets (only sometimes), and anything else the patient might need because the hospital provides nothing but the medical care, and THAT leaves something to be desired, as well.

So out in the yard, we found the husband who spoke English and the grandmother who didn’t. The husband told us the nurses were being quite forceful about people going in, so he said he would text when the baby came.

No problem.

We walked to a nearby “café,” and had chips (French fries) and bottled drinks to wait for the text.

After much time, I texted the woman in labor, Alice, to tell her I spoke with her husband and that we would go home, wait for the call, and come back when the baby was born.

Alice called me in what I’m sure was the middle of a contraction and she told me to come see her.

When I returned, there was no one to leave the kids with in the hospital yard, so the husband led me and all three kids into the hospital.

The rooms to my right and left, as we walked in, were beds filled with women who had already given birth and were sitting around topless waiting for the next feeding. Lovely.

We weaved our way back into “labor and delivery.”

It was a big open room with green curtains along the right and left walls. Horrible noises were coming from both sides. In the middle of the room were mats with people sitting on them. Again, these were family members sitting, waiting, and watching all their belongs and food that they had brought.

The grandmother who spoke no Engish, motioned for me to sit on the mat beside her and wait.

So here we are sitting in a cold, cement room with a Lugbara-speaking grandmother, a smiling new father-to-be and several other people waiting on different loved ones. No one is saying a word, and all you can hear are screams and groans.

I can only imagine what was going on in my childrens’ heads.

Out from one of the curtains came Alice. Sweaty, not smiling, and looking rough – most of you know what I’m talking about.

She wanted me to pray for her because “I am paining much,” she said.

I prayed a very direct and short prayer because I didn’t know when another contraction might hit.

It must have been right around the corner because when I said, “Amen,” she turned and headed back for the curtain.

I hurried the children back out into the yard, and after wishing the husband well, I stopped under a tree to de-brief the children.

I wondered if they had questions, concerns, etc.

That was a pretty quick conversation, and then we got on a piki, all four of us again (different guy), and headed home.

Shortly before 4, Alice herself called to say that she had a baby girl. I told her I would come as soon as Doug got home.

Doug arrived soon, and as I was heading out, all the kids said they wanted to come, too. I didn’t mind. Doug looked like he could use some rest after his 20 mile ride, so we walked to a friend’s house, got another adult, and we headed back to the hospital. This time we split up the kids with two adults on two pikis.

I know this story is long, so instead of giving all the other particulars (which are good, mind you), I’ll just cut to the chase.

We got to see Alice in her “private room.” She had paid extra NOT to stay in the big open room with all the women (picture youth camp sleeping conditions, but more flesh showing). My friend asked about the room rates, and Alice said it was 5000 shillings! People of America, that is about $2.50 for a PRIVATE room!

I only wanted to make you jealous for a minute, but don’t be!

The room had a twin bed, a small window not letting in any air, room on the floor for a mat for her grandmother to sleep on, and that is IT! It was smaller than prison cells you see on TV. There was 2 feet on either end of the twin bed, which had one of its long sides up against one wall, and only 4 feet of space between the bed and the other wall. It was basically a hot box, but I don’t blame her for paying for it. I would have taken that over “camp” conditions any day.

The nursing story will have to wait for another day, but I promise not to forget.

We are headed to Murchison Falls on a safari for 2 days, but I will write when we return.


Stevens Family said...

I must let you know it brings us joy to read of all your adventures (partly because we are not having said adventures). Please tell Doug I expect nothing less then a lion head on the wall post Safari - Love you guys

Laura said...

Wow. Sounds like your kids are adjusting well if they didn't walk away from that experience with a lot of questions! :)

Enjoy the safari! Tell Caleb to say hi to Rafiki, Simba and Nala for me.

welcome to our "hood" said...

kathryn, let it be said that you are BRAVE! the arua maternity ward with all 3--atta girl! and only using lugbara in the market!! good for you! i am cracking up about the eggs story...i asked your dad a VERY similar question one time...

love and miss y'all!

Megan said...

w.o.w. you are brave! I would have given anything to see the look on the kids faces! please post a pic of the baby if you ever get the chance ;)

Nurse Bevo said...

Again, I'm so jealous!!!! I want to be there so badly with ya'll! I'm sure the woman at my hospital would be floored to hear of the $2.50 rate for private! LOL- MIss you, friend and thanks for sharing so openly and entertainingly! I am constantly blessed by your testimonies! God is using ya'll in such amazing ways!