“Delivered my first baby :) Sauda gave birth in the van on the side of the road. Baby Liberty. 3.3kg. Mother and baby (and midwife!) are fine :)” - This was the text message sent to my mother just minutes after the delivery.
This morning, lying in bed, planning out the day. The children had just woken up, Josiah had come to sleep with me in bed early, early this morning, and I knew it was a long day ahead. Betty and I had started talking about all we had to do…We had village clinic scheduled – we were supposed to leave at 9am and it was to be an all day thing…than we had to be back by three to interview nurses/midwives to work for me and begin helping with our maternity home/clinics, teaching, etc. all of our midwifery and nursing work :) and it was 4th of July…we had wanted to take the kids to the pool, make cupcakes, etc…it was going to be a busy day. Eva (maternity home housemom) came into the room very early – she is supposed to arrive at 8am, but she was here by 7:15am. Walked into my bedroom and greeted me, good morning, I think you should take Sauda to the clinic…she is in labor and I think she’s going to deliver today. I asked how far along she was…well…I told her to walk here with me so that you could tae her from here, but she couldn’t stand. Oh, goodness, this was it. I was out of bed, …the kids were up, needing to be bathed…my friend Jessie has been here visiting from the states for a few weeks and had already begun bathing the kids and helping around the house, so I yelled to Jessie, “Sauda’s in labor! Hurry!” I grabbed clothes, began gathering the baby supplies, extra gloves, plastic sheet, blankets, etc – extra things I had at the house – when it hit me. I remembered…4th of July. This was the 4th of July! We were going to have a 4th of July baby! Clothes! Baby! Names! I yelled across the house to Jessie and Betty, “It’s going to be a 4th of July baby!” (We had been planning on what we were going to do for the 4th of July in Uganda…watermelon, pool, cute red/white/and blue clothes for the kids, r/w/b cupcakes, patriotic music playing all day, etc…but it didn’t look like plans were going to go as they were supposed to.)
I said, “We have GOT to have r/w/b clothes- find some!” As I was still gathering supplies, it hit me…name. the baby’s name. I had talked with Sauda about a name, but she really didn’t have one that she particularly liked, so she wanted me to name it. Again, I yelled down the hallway to Jessie, “If it’s a girl – Liberty! No question! No debate!” She answered, “Yes! Perfect!” Then about 5 seconds later, she responded with, “And if it’s a boy – Sam!” I just doubled over laughing. “Perfect”, I thought as we ran out of the house.
Jumping into my 8-passenger van, I threw it into reverse out of the driveway. We rumbled along the pothole-filled dirt road between the cornfields heading to the girls house – our Maternity Home – where Sauda was waiting in labor. As soon as I turned onto the girls road, I found another one of our Maternity Home girls, Rebekah (who just gave birth a month ago and had an episiotomy), speed walking towards our house. With a worried look on her face, she came up beside the van as I rolled down the window, “Sauda’s about to push! She’s about to push!” I pushed the gas peddle down harder thinking, “If she’s crowning, I’m going to have to deliver the baby right in the house….have mercy, what am I going to do?! I can’t deliver a baby.” Upon reaching the house, I whipped the van into the compound. While ripping open a pair of gloves, I barely remembered to put the gearshift into park before turning the engine off. Telling Jessie to get me the plastic sheet, I jumped out of the van and headed into the house.
Sauda was lying on the floor in her bedroom wincing in pain. Of course, because of the totally nervous state I was in, I hadn’t managed to put the gloves on yet, but I just needed to know if she was crowning. I looked at Sauda’s face…lots of pain. Heavy breathing. “Ok, Amy, see if you can see the baby’s head.” I checked her. No head. Still closed. “Ok, try to make it to the health center.” We prepared to carry her to the car, but Sauda wanted to try walking herself. The thought raced through my mind, “Oh no, if she stands up, it changes the position of the baby and she might just squat and deliver here!” We stood her up and I placed my arm around her and we began moving. One step…contraction. Pain. “Good grief, no.” I said to myself. Passed that one. We kept walking. 3 more steps. Pain. Stopping. “Come on, make it to the health center.” I silently told her as I placed my hand up under her in case the baby started coming out as we continued walking towards the van.
Reaching the van, I threw the plastic sheet over the middle bench and helped her climb up. She immediately lied down on the seats and began breathing even harder. “Don’t push!” So with Jessie sitting on the floor of the van next to Sauda, Betty riding shotgun, and a 16 year old teenager in labor, I sped out of the driveway and began bumping once again down the pothole-ridden dirt roads of Uganda towards the health center. 20 minutes away. “We can make it.” I said to everyone in the van. “We can make it.” I had seen deliveries. I have witnessed 2 within the last month. I have watched suturing and other operations too, but knew there was no way I was ready for that. “No, we just have got to make it to the health center.” As we hit the main road, a herd of cattle was just crossing the road. “Seriously!?!” I laid on my horn and swerved around them, refusing to take my foot off the gas peddle, but still trying to avoid killing a cow! We all burst out laughing - even that nervous laugh - although Sauda was still trying to brace herself against the bumps and swerves as I drove on towards town.
Sauda was lying on her side on across the seats. I looked at Jessie, “Tell me when she starts lifting her legs up.” Still talking myself through this, all I could think was, “If she starts lifting her legs up then that means she can’t keep them closed tightly together anymore…that means the baby is probably going to come fast.” I make the turn onto the bridge towards town. The only way to town is across this bridge…and I look…traffic. “Oh, goodness, have mercy!” I turn my head around to check the situation in the backseat right as Jessie is turning to me saying, “She’s lifting up her leg!”
I start on the bridge, just praying that the people in front of me will miraculously speed up. Looking straight ahead, willing Sauda to hang on until we reached the health center, “Jessie. Tell me when you see the head.” I didn’t know what else to do. If she started crowning, I knew it wouldn’t be long at all and we just might not make it to the health center. Thoughts started racing through my mind. “Lord. This is a teenage girl. She’s small. The worst combination. One of the major healthcare issues in Uganda is that teenage mothers and babies die during childbirth – which is why I am doing what I am doing. Babies die. Maternal and infant mortality rates are so high…this is why I live each day of my life here…this is why I do what I do. Maternity Home, community maternal and child education, awareness, midwifery clinics, safe birthing practices, health, hygiene, and nutrition classes, and the list goes on…But, Lord, I just can’t deliver a baby by myself!”
We reach the middle point of the bridge. I hear Jessie nervously laugh, “Amy, I can see the head!” Horn blaring, gas peddle to the floor, praying our van holds up and makes it, I swerve into the right lane (the incorrect lane for me to be driving in, as we drive on the left side of the road in Uganda – NOT like I’m used to in Watkinsville, Georgia!) and begin barreling down the bridge. Bicycles, motorcycles, taxi vans – all begin moving out of the way as I go careening towards the end of the bridge where the policeman were waiting! Policeman and army patrol always stand post at each end of the bridge and wave over and check all big 18-wheeler trucks for goods and items they are carrying, and they also stop reckless, crazy drivers who are breaking every speed limit on the bridge :)
Two policemen moved out in front of me, frantically waving their hands for me to stop and pull over as I speed towards them. Still blaring my horn, I swerve to avoid hitting them as betty yells out the window, “She’s giving birth!!!” I don’t know whether the men thought the crazy mzungu was giving birth while driving towards town or what, but we sped past all three patrols as if we were on fire. As soon as we passed the third patrol, I hear from behind me in a somewhat nervous, questioning, laughing voice, “The whole head is out!” Can you tell that Jessie is usually in a happy, laughing, make-every-situation-fun mood?! Like - all the time?!
“What?!”, I yelled, as I pulled the car off the road and threw it into park, this time completely forgetting to turn the engine off beforehand. I opened the door into the oncoming traffic and bolted around the van. As I hop out of the van, I look down and notice my skirt…of course I had dressed in my red and white top and completely white skirt, trying to be somewhat patriotic on this 4th of July day. “Seriously, Amy?!”
Jessie was still nervously laughing, not knowing what else to really do, as Betty jumped out of the front seat to hail a motorcycle taxi to go for help. When I reached the side of the van, opening the sliding door, there it was…the entire head. “Lord, have mercy!”, I prayed. I looked at Jessie; she seemed to be cool about it and I guess she had some confidence in me, as she moved up further towards Sauda’s head, all the while holding her hand. I didn’t have gloves on, didn’t really know what I was doing, adrenaline was pumping - I didn’t really have time to think - couldn’t let myself think – at that point. So, almost subconsciously, I placed my hands on the baby’s slippery head, looked at Sauda and said, “Push!” As I guided the baby out, no razor in hand, no string, no blanket ready, no supplies, absolutely nothing ready for this birth en route to the health center, I could only whisper a prayer… “Thank you, Jesus”. I pushed Sauda’s dress up and laid the baby on her stomach there in my van on the side of a road in Uganda, Africa. I was so excited that I really didn’t know what to do next. I know that if I had been afforded the time, emotion, and energy to cry, I most definitely would have, but such luxuries could not be afforded at the time. I looked at Jessie and we both just laughed.
Then it hit me. “Boy or girl?!” I reached up and checked the baby… “Baby Liberty! It’s a girl!” I informed a perfectly fine mother and beaming Jessie. Baby Liberty. Our 4th of July baby. Happy Independence Day to America!
I looked around to find Betty, then remembered she had gone to the nearest health center for help! So, after insuring that mother and baby were perfectly fine, I hopped back into the drivers seat and took us to the clinic. Jessie and I just laughed the whole way there. Sauda, our normally laughing, happy, always joking teenager was so annoyed that we couldn’t help but just laugh at her! She was so annoyed at the pain, and discomfort of it all…this 16 year old did not like giving birth, let me just tell you! After the whole ordeal, Betty explained in very clear terms that we expect complete abstinence until she is married and can handle this again! :)
We reached the health center, as betty ran up nervously to the van, with the questioning look on her face that only said, “What happened?!” I smiled and joyfully exclaimed, “Baby Liberty!!”
The midwives from the health center that had been ready to come to our aid, all crowded around the van, opened the sliding door, and climbed up into the van. Then the questions just started pouring forth. “How did she deliver? Where were you all? She delivered in the van? Is it a boy or girl? Did she tear?” Then the big one… “Who delivered her?” Then Jessie and Betty grinned and pointed, “She did.” As I just sat there smiling and watching as the trained professionals took over and checked for any problems or complications. We took Sauda and baby inside for furthering monitoring, weighing, etc, then Jessie, Betty and I came back out to sit in the van and get some air.
Upon reaching the van, I sent a text message to my mom. “Delivered my first baby :) Sauda gave birth in the van on the side of the road. Baby Liberty. 3.3kg. Mother and baby (and midwife!) are fine :)” The text woke her up as it was 2am her time, and she called just minutes later, completely stunned and “out of words”, but so, so proud. My Dad called me a few hours later (after waking up!) and the first words I heard over the line were, “Good Morning, Doc! Congratulations! You might ask the guards on the bridge to give you a special pass or something.” :) My heart of course swelled with pride and complete gratitude at God’s provision and blessings. My family knew how much this would mean to me. Special. So, so special.
When Jessie hopped into the van, she exclaimed, “If it had been a boy, we should have named him ‘Carson’!! Get it, ‘Car’ ‘Son’?!” :) Laughter just erupted. Then, Jessie leaned down, took off her Rainbow flip-flops, laughed and said, “Look!” Red blood stained the sides and part of the tops of her once tanish-brown shoes :)
Praise the Lord. All I could do was smile, and thank the Lord. He is good.
I wanted to go ahead and post this for so many that wanted to know about the story. But I hope to add more thoughts and a little more background soon. So many thoughts. So much praise to a God who has provided, given, blessed, and loves life. All glory and honor goes to Him alone. We are so thankful. Thank you to each and every one of you who has ever listened to a story about Kupendwa, supported, prayed, given, come…or might even just be reading this for the first time and just now hearing about Kupendwa and what God is doing here. It is truly exciting. Lives are being saved. Lives are being changed. Mothers and babies are being loved, and given help, hope, and a future.
Once again, I got to be the stand-in mom, the stand-in husband, the sister, the family…and this time the midwife :) What a privilege. And nothing but an honor. My friend back in the States said she wished she could send me a trophy or something….and I just laughed. No…the smile and hug that I received from a beaming, healthy 16 year old mother holding who was holding her 4 hour old newborn in her arms was enough. More, oh so much more, than enough.
...By the way, Jessie also said she is not leaving next week until 5 complete birthing kits are in my van :)
Newborn Baby Liberty :) Minutes old.
Mommy Sauda and baby just minutes after birth. (teenage mother is still annoyed at this point!)
Midwife, Amy, with Baby Liberty
Mommy and baby...these are the God-moments
Smiling...finally :) After Mommy Amy began tickling and making jokes :)
The "Delivery Room"
Baby Liberty, Jessie, and Amy...in the "delivery room"
Our Baby Liberty