Oliva was awake all night. She wanted to go back to the clinic and just wait from there until she gave birth. Her contractions were still too far apart and not strong enough, but I knew she would not wait this one out at home. My friends arrived to go to the airport: I was sending them to pick up my friend – I felt like the worst friend ever. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. While Oliva was running around trying to get her stuff together, I tried to pull up my friend’s picture online to show the ones picking her up so they would at least know what she looked like but in the end with all the craziness, I forgot to show them! So in the car on the way to the health center, I am verbally describing what my friend looks like! I knew this was going to be a day and a half. I started praying then and there for God to work miracles that day in very many ways. Before we left the house, I had grabbed paper and crayons to make airport signs with so while bumping down the road in the backseat of the car with a very nervous and uncomfortable in-labor mother, I outlined “MARY BETH” with crayons, and then handed them to the passenger and asked him to color them in! I had “MARY” on one 8 ½ x11 piece of paper, and “BETH” on another – he holds up the finished colored-in signs: “BETH MARY”. Yep. Gonna be a day and a half.
My prayers increased.
I heard a familiar beep as we pulled up to the clinic. My phone’s battery as dying. “Not the time, Lord”, I thought. “Not the time!” The in-charge nurse (yes, she is in charge, but that is really what they call her – the “in-charge”) comes and takes Oliva into the back room for a checkup – with all 19 of the other nurses and midwives working that day. I have never see so much help for one delivery before in all my life. Granted this was my first birth-witnessing, but I have never even heard of so many midwives and nurses assisting before!
My phone was still dying, and I had no airtime. Roselyn was not at the clinic and I couldn’t even call her. I was so disappointed. She had been working with me and Oliva for the past months and God knew how desperately I wanted her to be there. I kept praying as the nurses checked Olivia. 8 cm dilated. But the contractions were still way too far apart. There was no way she could push until the contractions were closer together and stronger. She didn’t want to walk; she just wanted to stand in one place and move her feet and legs. So, I sat on the clinic bed and prayed as she moved. I kept asking her throughout the entire ordeal, “Do you want to sing? Want me to read scripture? Pray out loud?” A firm negative headshake was all that I received every time! I guess I can’t really say much since I’ve never been in labor, so I just sat and continued praying silently.
Oliva had not eaten anything in over 24 hours. I had forgotten that the day before had been so bad for her. She had vomited everything she attempted to eat and hadn’t been able to keep anything down at all. And liquids were now becoming almost impossible for her to keep down. The nurses told me she needed hot tea with lots of tea leaves and sugar. She was losing energy fast. They looked at me as if I was magically supposed to produce these things. I stared back at them. How and where was I supposed to get hot water, tea leaves, sugar, a spoon, a cup and thermos (flask) while staying at the clinic with Oliva? Not to mention, we are on the far side of town with absolutely no shops nearby.
But I went outside to find someone who could help me with getting the necessary “tea”. A boda man said that there was a little place down the road that sold food and tea in the mornings. I started walking. I stopped at a little “shop”/shack – and the lady in back said she sold food and had tea. She even had bananas so I grabbed one of those thinking it might help. It didn’t. nothing did…Oliva couldn’t keep a thing down – not even the so necessary tea.
We didn’t have enough gloves. They were going to run out. I got there expecting for us to have everything – we had tried to plan ahead for these things, but I guess I forgot to factor in 19+ midwives and nurses. Oops. The nurses said to send a boda for the gloves. I was not leaving Oliva, so this was great with me. I walked out, found a boda man, explained in detail exactly what I needed. Eight pairs of gloves. And a rolex. I needed lunch – something - anything. And that would be cheap and fast, even if terrible for my body. Oh, well. At this point, my only concern for my health was not passing out. And since everyone knows what a rolex is and he would be able to get it easily. Anything besides glucose biscuits at this point!
The nurses checked Oliva again after 4 hours. Pretty much the same. I had been praying that she would deliver sooner rather than later. The nurse came and told me to hold her hand, talk to her, etc – as she was beginning to get worried and upset. A very young doctor chose that very moment to poke his head in. He looked at me, saw no gloves on my hand and practically growled at me, “Where are your gloves? Do not touch her without gloves on!” Exasperated, I told him that we didn’t have any more and that we had sent someone - then the doctor left.
Boda man arrived with the gloves…and my “rolex”. I was very hungry after having a couple glucose biscuits (cookies) for breakfast, and was looking forward to something to at least keep me going through the afternoon. He handed me the white pharmacy bag, showed me the gloves, and pulled out a small white package. He explained that when he had told the pharmacist about the “rolex” – this is what she gave him. At that moment I realized that lunch was not happening. I stared at him, then at the package. I didn’t even open it – just thanked him kindly and paid him!
Oliva was getting more antsy and she didn’t want to be inside anymore, so she moved outside to pace – without shoes. The nurses didn’t like that one bit and kept insisting that Oliva wear my shoes, but she would have none of it. Oliva wanted to walk around the hospital compound barefoot ad that was final! Once we reached outside thought, she sent me straight back in for a sheet and then said she wanted to lay down. I ended up spreading the sheet out on the ground (hard, red dirt ground with sticks everywhere – I tried to move as many as I could but I still ended up being poked.). Oliva got down on all fours and rocked herself forward and backward for the next 30 minutes there on the ground in the middle of the health center compound. I really don’t mind sticks and ground at all and am very used to such circumstances – but watching this very pregnant woman in labor on all fours down on sticks and rocking back and forth was rather comical. I kept praying and encouraging.
The nurses told us to go back inside. At 8cm dilated, she needed to be close to the delivery room they said. So back inside, Oliva began getting more uncomfortable but her contractions were still about 10 minutes apart. It didn’t make much sense to me. but I was sitting in the delivery room while Oliva paced, when the door opened and a familiar face peeked around the corner. Roselyn. Finally. I grabbed her and hugged her tight. She was already laughing at me – something she does quite often. She checked on Oliva’s situation, then asked how I was doing. We laughed, both knowing what the other was thinking: she proceeded to tell the other 8 or so nurses in the room that I needed to be watched as well…I am fond of fainting! She then gave the entire run-down of the episode at the clinic when I fainted on her after watching her dress a hand wound. I had already thought about this and had been praying that I would make it through the delivery – I never expected to faint with Roselyn that time, but faint I did. Out cold. The last thing I wanted was to be like the “fainting father” in the delivery room! But after the entire story being shared, and many laughs at my expense, Roselyn turned and asked, “Did you eat lunch?”. I smiled as I thought about my rolex lunch which ended up not happening thanks to communication problems. Much to my protesting, she grabbed my hand and marched me out of the room. I ate with the staff members at the hospital in the “lunch room”, bless Roselyn’s heart. But I kept wondering how Oliva was doing the entire time so finally I finished and we went back up. This was going to be my first birth witnessing ever – and I did not want to miss it.
The nurses were getting ready to check her again. Her contractions were the same: 10 minutes apart. She was in extreme discomfort, but there was no way she could push the baby with her contractions coming that far apart. Oliva was also getting dehydrated and losing energy quickly as she had not eaten or kept anything down in over 24 hours. An IV line was hooked up and labor inducing meds were added. The contractions were still too far apart…and definitely not strong enough. I could barely see or feel them.
Still waiting. Oliva was lying on the bed still struggling. She kept saying, “Help me, help me” which broke my heart. The nurses, midwives and I were helping as much as she could, but she knew what she had done – what some of the problems were that she had not told anyone. The abortions, the superstitious herbal medicines, etc. And she was scared. I held her hand, prayed, and kept speaking reassuring words to her even as my tears threatened to fall. I so badly wanted this baby to be born alive, healthy – perfect. I so desperately wanted Oliva to live through this childbirth – to be able to deliver naturally and not have to endure a c-section. I continued praying.
I look up and the doctor’s head was in the window at the end of the bed. The same one who had barked at me about the gloves. He was standing outside and had come to check on the progress – through the window. Next thing I know, he is walking through the delivery room door while putting on his gloves, and moving to Oliva’s side. He looks her in the eye and says, “I have delivered too many still-born babies and I am not going to deliver one today.” I gratefully slipped back out of the way as he quickly assessed the situation: Oliva was weak. Too weak. Even with the fluids she did not seem to have the energy to push. The very top of the baby’s head was visible, but that was it. With Oliva being a PG, the doctor was much more concerned about this birth. He jumped up on the delivery table, and told Oliva that he was going to help her push the baby out. He began applying pressure on the top of the fundus (abdomen part), and manually forcing contractions and expulsion of the baby. Using all the strength that he had, he kept pushing and pushing and pushing…
The baby was born. Hallelujah!
Baby Mhina Mikayla – a “Delightful gift from God” - entered the world on July 19th, 2011.
“Thank you, Jesus”, I breathe. A miracle. An absolute miracle right before my eyes. I watched in awe as the doctor picked up the baby and laid her on Oliva’s chest for a few minutes. The baby was still not breathing, so he swung her in the air a few times. He then placed Baby Mikayla on the scales to be weighed and thoroughly checked out. He looked at me and said, “She’s fine. They’ll both be fine. She’s breathing now.”
Other midwives were busy taking care of Oliva – she needed stitches.
I am helping the doctor with Mikayla when I hear, “Where are the suture materials?” The in-charge nurse leans over my shoulder and asks again, “Where are the suture materials? I saw them earlier.”
“What suture materials?”, I asked. “We don’t have any.” My mind is reeling. I well know by now that if you don’t have then you don’t have…and no one else is going to provide. Oliva needs to be stitched now.
“Lord, what are we going to do?”, I pray.
The in-charge nurse still standing over my shoulder asks, “Where did they go?? I saw them earlier – you have them.”
“I have them??”, I ask again.
“In that little white bag - you sent the boda man for them.”, she replied.
“The boda man?”, I thought. “I sent the boda man for them??!”
She quickly finds it. On the floor. The little white pharmacy bag. I watch dumbfounded as she reaches in…and pulls out the white packet of whatever the boda man bought instead of my rolex lunch: suture materials. I want to laugh, but instead tears form. I can do nothing but whisper, “Thank you Jesus” and stand in awe.
I then remembered Oliva’s cousin…still seated waiting outside. I rush out to tell him that the baby is here and he smiles. Already heard the cries and commotion. He offers to bring juice and water for Oliva and I breathe a relieved, “Thank you.” Back inside, the room is still buzzing with the organized chaos, as I just walk silently back over to Baby Mikayla still lying soundlessly on the scales. I send my mother a text back home – we had been texting throughout the day as I knew she and so many others back in America were faithfully praying. I then text Oliva’s sister, “She’s here! Oliva fine, Mikayla fine.” That sister showed up about 30 minutes later. So relieved, so grateful, so excited. She walked in the delivery room where Oliva and the baby still were, but quickly walked back out when she could not handle the atmosphere! Seeing her sister blessed Oliva’s heart though. The expression on her face showed the sincere happiness in her heart that her cousin and sister had come.
The birth recap – 23 people in that one 12ft. x 8ft. room. I just laughed. We all had to scoot around each other. So much for having no help during delivery. and i am so thankful for each one! 22 women – and 1 man. Roselyn was amazing. The nurses such a blessing. My God was so good. We stayed the night - it was freezing. I had to quickly boda back home to get needed supplies for me to stay the night (sheet, sleeping bag, contacts case and solution) and then rush back. Oliva tried to sleep under the sleeping bag; I tried to sleep under the sheet. In these clinics when they say everyone leaves at 5, they mean everyone leaves at 5. One nurse actually stayed until 6pm, but at 6pm we were by ourselves. I didn’t make the mistake of sending the boda man for rolex again – I went myself. This meant that I had to leave Oliva alone in the hospital, so I said it would take me 10 minutes max…I believe I made it in 8. I bought some juice and rolex for the mother (what else was open at 9pm – they don’t have midnight FAST food like in America and at times like this I miss it dearly.) Oliva and I spent the night holding Mikayla, figuring out breastfeeding, trying to sleep without a mosquito net, and maneuvering Oliva to the restroom without pulling the stitches. The next morning, I walked down to the same little “shop/restaurant” I was now well acquainted with and bought more glucose biscuits and tea for breakfast. Some sweet friends offered to come pick us up from the hospital in their van so I would not have to put this new mother and infant on the back of a motorcycle! PTL!
Acting like the typical American family member there for the birth, I had actually gotten two of the nurses to film and take pictures during the entire delivery. Oliva was able to watch her baby’s birth for herself later on that week – she couldn’t believe how amazing, how God had delivered her baby safe and sound. She sat there mesmerized and breathed, “God is good. Thank God.” As we watched it, I thought again about how special this birth was to me – I felt like it was a part of me. So much had happened with this baby…with this mother. God had brought them into my life for so many reasons – and my heart is overflowing with gratitude for the privilege of being a part of their lives.
My first birth witnessing. I loved it. Every minute – even the crazy chaotic ones. The miracle of birth completely captured me. After spending months studying midwifery, I was able to actually witness this amazing event in person. God worked out so many details to have me in that special room that day. My first birth-witnessing…I never dreamed it would be like that. I never dreamed I would get to be there in a Ugandan clinic with a first-time mother: one whom God had brought into my home and allowed me to love and be loved by. My first birth-witnessing: the life of Mhina Mikayla “Gift from God”. Her entire birthing experience was truly a gift from God straight to my heart. I have found a passion. A love for midwifery. I stand amazed at the privileges I am given each day: the privilege to love on this precious mother and now newborn child and live out the love of Jesus to them; the privilege of experiencing the miracle of birth and this new life coming into the world.
Roselyn and Mikayla the next morning