Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Backstory...

As I hold the week-old baby Liberty in my arms, I gaze into the precious baby face that still smells “newborn”. You know it – that special smell that only newborn skin has…that smell that I just don’t smell anywhere else but when I’m nestled up close to a newborn infant with my nose close to a tiny precious face.

I love that smell. deeply cherish that smell. I still even hold another already two-month-old baby up to my face and breathe in deeply. Just to breathe in that scent that brings memories of awe, miracles, wonder, and life.

But with Liberty, the thoughts are that much more intense. The scenes and memories flood my mind. The emotions, the feelings, and even the adrenaline that couldn’t be processed at the time, comes out now…weeks later.


She barely made a sound. Literally. I didn’t even know what to think. Was something wrong? Was she not going to make it?

“Is this how it’s supposed to be?!”, my mind shouted as my hands reached out to support the tiny head as I waited for the rest of the body. “This quiet? This seamless? This peace in the midst of utter chaos?”
She gritted down with all of her might and did exactly as I told her to. And all I had said was, “Push.” She did. And did well. There in the bench seat of my van, she pushed with all of her sixteen year old might. And produced a beautiful, slippery, tiny baby girl.

Only by His grace did the baby not slip out of my hands. Only by His grace was the umbilical cord not wrapped around the baby’s neck. Only by His grace was the mother not HIV positive, because in the chaotic moments leading up to this birth, I did not remember to put on gloves. Only by His grace did this sixteen year old not tear. Only by His grace did she not need a cesarean section…or perhaps it was because of His divine plan that we were in my van parked on the side of the road and she wasn’t required to undergo one.

The baby was slippery and wet and I don’t even think that I had time to realize that the umbilical cord was still attached…and that the placenta still had to be delivered. I had always been freaked out by the umbilical cord and placenta. What would I do with it? Is the cord long enough? It was almost as if instinct took over and all I did was react. Honestly, that’s how I remember everything, as well as describe it all. Instinct. Do what you have to do. I had prayed beforehand. I had prayed lots beforehand, and while driving to the Maternity Home, and while seeing Sauda lying on the floor in pain, and while jumping out of van and running into oncoming traffic trying to get to the mother and baby. I wish I could say that I was praying and calling out to Jesus during the birth, but the first time I spoke a prayer was when I whispered, “Thank you”. As the tears threatened to fall, I gritted my teeth and held it together as knew I did not have the luxury of tears then.

But I do now. I have the luxury sitting here rocking this precious newborn sleeping on my chest. My first delivery. In God’s van. Pulled off the side of the road. On a very busy highway.

Thinking back over the moments, I can only remember. And wish I could have been there to watch myself and honestly laugh, cry, rejoice, squeal, and worship in utter and shear delight as another precious child for whom Jesus died entered this world. This broken, ugly, beautiful, hard, needy, precious world that our God created for His glory and pleasure and the same world that He sent His one and only Son to save. I wish I could have just been one of those angels watching as Liberty inhaled her first breath. I could almost sense them. There with us. As I look back at that blessed moment, I can almost see them crowding around that van on the side of that Ugandan road. Pushing each other in fun trying to get a better look at that precious little newborn head. Or at the exhausted teenager lying on that van bench seat.

Liberty entered this world through her teenage mother. The same teenage mother that could have given birth in the same way as so many other teenage mothers have before her. On a dirt floor. In a mud hut somewhere deep in a village. Alone. No help. No medical care. And bleeding wouldn’t stop. The baby wasn’t breathing. and as many times as I have heard the stories, I can guess all too well the ending.
It’s the end.

But thankfully, for this teenage mother, this birth was not the end. For this newborn baby, this birth was not her end. But only the beginning. And the continuation of what I believe to be God’s divine plan for their special lives.

The scene of this new teenage mother lying in my van in her own blood is just beautiful to me. And I can only imagine the beauty that the Father was enjoying in those moments. Honestly, birth is just beautiful to me. Teenage mothers are beautiful to me. They touch a very deep place within my heart, as I want to imagine that they touch some special place in the heart of God as He remembers a very special teenage delivery some two thousand years ago, too.

Ugandan newborns are also just beautiful to me. Only moments old…they are  breathtaking. Their skin is still very light, but dark enough not to look transparent. I have heard some say that newborn babies look so ugly during the moments after birth because they have funny shaped cone heads, look transparent, sickly pale, and are so scrawny…but I happen to think the opposite. And the more I have the privilege of watching this miracle called birth take place, the more I stand in awe of my God, my Creator, The Giver of Life. I have only had the privilege of seeing the birth of Ugandan babies – I have never had the privilege of another. So perhaps the beauty just shines through even more because of it all still being so “new” to me. The still newness of it, as I call it. I have only witnessed in person this miracle called birth three times so far. Or perhaps the beauty shines through even more because of the privilege of being an intimate part of these births.

Or perhaps it is because of the back story. The deep heart involvement, the emotions, the sentiment. The miracles. The beauty. The ugly. The difficult. The tears. The reason why this baby I hold in my arms today ended up breathing her first breath of life on earth from the bench seat of my van….

February 2012

Sitting in my living room, I watched her limp through my front door. The pastor had graciously brought her to my home, but he hadn’t warned me on the phone that she was hurt. I watched as this four month pregnant sixteen year old tried to make herself comfortable on my couch. Her face looked so young, so wounded – from injury to her heart, not her body. Yet her body was also in pain and I watched that same face wince each time she moved her leg. My heart wanted to leap out of my chest and wrap itself around her tiny frame. Her skin was yellow-ish from malnutrition.; her hair matted on top of her head. I knew only very few bits and pieces of her back story…of the reason why she was sitting here in my home in the first place. But what I knew was enough to break my heart for hers.

I asked what had happened to her leg. She then proceeded to show me the massive burn that ran up the entire backside length of her thigh. Black skin tissue, complete with open sores and oozing water was what greeted me from this burn. I cringed as I turned away to go gather medical supplies to dress the wound.

The pastor stayed for a little while, but the weather outside was getting dark and threatening rain, so he hurried his departure and thanked me, for the hundredth time, for taking this needy, hurting teenager into my home. I, of course, for the hundredth time said, “You’re welcome”, as my insides told me that if any of this teenage girls’ past was true, this was the absolute least that I could do.
I remember now back to those moments putting medicine and bandages on the wound, and then watching her limp back to the bedroom. The tears threaten again, as I remember the day when the whole story finally came spilling forth out of her.

She was only four years old when her mother grabbed her in the middle of the night and ran away. From the beatings, from the abuse, from the drunkenness…from her husband. Sauda’s mother just couldn’t take it any longer. Her husband would come home in the middle of the night sometimes and beat her until she couldn’t walk and could hardly breathe. She couldn’t take the treatment any longer, so she grabbed Sauda and ran.

They ran to an uncle’s house to seek shelter and care, but the desperate poverty, lack of food, starvation, ruins of a house, and no future led Sauda’s mother into more desperation. One day, Sauda’s aunt showed up at the door and said that she was taking Sauda to send her to school and keep her safe. Since Saud’as mother had nothing better to offer, she sent her daughter with her aunt. Sauda ended up living as a servant girl, more or less a slave, for her aunt for many months. When Sauda would ask her aunt about school fees, the response would be that after the next harvest, when they had money, they would send her to school.

The harvest came and went without any sign of sending Sauda to school. Sauda continued doing all of the housework, cooking, cleaning, gardening, and fetching water for the aunt’s family. Sauda would cry day and night without any hope. She so badly wanted to go to school and not be stuck living as a slave for her aunt’s family, but she saw no way out.

I watched as the tears streamed down her face at just having to relive the memories and emotions. The thoughts and hopelessness. The tears began running down my cheek as well as tried in vain to imagine the young girl there all alone. Helpless. Fatherless. Motherless. Needing someone to love her. But the only reason that anyone seemed to want her was for servant work. A slave. A housemaid. That was what she believed and grew up knowing in her precious child’s mind: that she was worth nothing more than the chores she could do. My heart broke into even more pieces as I continued to listen.

One day, as Sauda was sitting behind her aunt’s house washing, her aunt walked up with an older man and introduced him as Sauda’s new husband. She didn’t know what to think or what to do. She was too terrified and shocked to comprehend marrying this man. She couldn’t possibly get married – she was too young, she told herself. So, that night, she stole some money from her aunt for transport to go back to her mother and see if she could help save her from this marriage.

Upon arriving at her mother’s house, Sauda found that her mother had remarried and was in very bad health. Her mother had apparently contracted HIV from her new husband and was barely making it herself. She didn’t see any way that she could help support Sauda and let her live with her. Sauda’s mother sent her away back to her father’s house to look for help.

When Sauda reached her father’s house, he took her in and said that he could pay for school for one term, but couldn’t promise any help beyond that. Finally, Sauda was able to go to school. She was so overjoyed when telling me about finally attending school, but it was twinged with so much sadness, that I could not even rejoice and celebrate. She is such a fun-loving girl; one who loves to play and joke and laugh and tease all day long, and having to watch this sixteen year old who usually cracks me up fighting tears the entire recounting of her recent past was almost taking too much of a toll on me.
She thought all was going to be ok. She was happy being in school, and so excited about having a future. After one term in school, though, he began drinking and quickly became an alcoholic. He could hardly think straight anymore and began mistreating her. One day he came home, called her names, said he never wanted to see her face again, and kicked her out of the house.

Once again, she had nowhere to go. Once again, she was fatherless. And motherless. So, she decided her only option was to look for money for transportation to travel and try to find help elsewhere. There was an 18 year old boy that Sauda knew, so she went to ask him for money. He explained that he didn’t have any at the moment, so Sauda knew her only other option was to find another neighbor village lady who would take care of her until she got transport to go elsewhere. The next week, Sauda went back to this boy asking yet again for money, and he said he had some. He told her to come with him to his house to get it. Upon arriving at his house, Sauda found many other guys there. They grabbed her, locked her in the house and raped her.

After the guys let her out of the house, Sauda ran bleeding with a torn skirt and tears streaming down her face back to the neighbor lady’s house. She was too ashamed to talk about the incident with anyone, so she didn’t for a couple months until she realized that she had missed her periods. The lady then took Sauda to a nearby clinic for a pregnancy test. When the test came back positive, Sauda was stunned. She didn’t know what to think, what to do and all that came into her mind was fear. She was terrified of what was going to happen to her and the baby. And when she returned home with the neighbor lady, the lady told her that she could no longer keep Sauda because she was pregnant and could not afford to help her.

Sauda went back to see if her mother could offer any help, but her mother was so angry and disappointed in the pregnancy that she juts told Sauda, “You are no longer my daughter. Go to your father; I do not want you anymore.” When Sauda went to the father’s, the same thing happened. She didn’t know what to do. Where to go, who would help, what to do.

I knew the story after that. She ran to the pastor, the pastor called me, brought her to my home…now she was sitting on my couch. But that didn't help stop the tears that i couldn't seem to get under control. Where would she have gone? What would she have done? How can her mother say that to her? How could her father treat her that way? But I had to lay aside the questions and thoughts and agonizing pain in my own heart and mind aside to deal with the immediate needs in front of me...a hurting, desperately needy teenage little girl. 

The backstory.


So, back in this moment of rocking a sleeping newborn baby Liberty on my chest, again, all I seem capable of is crying out “Thank you”. “Thank you” to the Giver of Life. To the Savior who saves. To the Redeemer who redeems all that has been lost, stolen, broken, and seemingly ruined.

I love this newborn “Liberty” who signifies so much more than just American independence associated with her birthday. Her name represents a liberty that goes far above and beyond a country’s independence. This liberty represents a liberty…a freedom that goes deep within a heart and soul of a teenage girl. This newborn’s life and birth signifies a liberty that can only be found in Jesus Christ…that liberty that this teenage mother has found. This teenage mother who limped into my house carrying so much pain, heartache, and brokenness that I didn’t even know how to begin to help her heal and understand real love, has found her “liberty” through not only her precious baby girl…but within a heart that now belongs to one Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

God Bless America!

 sometimes tickling with Mommy is the best part of pictures :) 

And a very special Happy 4th from my little Donna :)

God Bless America!

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July…on the 5th :)
As our day yesterday was quite crazy, we “postponed” our 4th of July celebration until the 5th. My dear friend, Jessie, who has been visiting us for a while had been sorting and organizing the children’s clothes a couple weeks prior to the 4th and had come across outfits that seemed to be fitting for the day :) So, she had actually picked out the children’s 4th of July clothes a couple weeks prior to the actual day – and today we finally got to show them off! I think they stayed nice for around 30 seconds before someone grabbed a watermelon. But we tried!

As always, family pictures are quite interesting! The kids were very cooperative until the cupcakes (which actually do say “Happy 4th of July” on them even though they are hard to read!) came out, and then it was just time to figure out how to sneak some icing without Mommy seeing it :) Joy was the first one to get the icing though…she conveniently stuck her foot in the cupcake while laughing.
While in town shopping, Jessie made a comment about 4th of July food, and we started filling Betty in on traditional 4th of July foods and events. It came up that I have never made hamburgers while living in Uganda – we all decided that it was high time we tried :) After packing the van with watermelons, minced meat (ground beef), bread rolls, coke, and potatoes, we headed back to the house to celebrate the 4th in style! Betty was officially put in charge of making chips (French fries), as she is the best ever at such. Jessie volunteered to pat out the hamburger patties, while I baked our traditional 4th of July cupcakes.

I cranked up the patriotic tunes so that they could blare through the house as we cooked and worked. There’s always a few that just must be played. Elvis sang loudly his, “Glory, glory, hallelujah!”; “God Bless the U.S.A.” took my mind back to my homeland as I stood in my Ugandan kitchen; and there’s just something about “God Bless America” that almost feels worshipful to me.

The kids enjoyed swinging outside, and playing in the yard as Mommy attempted to grill the hamburgers. And I say ‘attempt’ for a reason! Again, I had never made hamburgers in Uganda (we just eat Ugandan food almost constantly), but I seriously wanted to try to grill them. Only problem…no grill. But we have lots of charcoal!! So, I lit our charcoal stove. Now…what to put the hamburgers on to grill them. I then remembered our oven racks…one of them is the metal kind that has slats – so I grabbed that one and put it on top of the charcoal stove! I really thought that the hamburgers would burn and not cook through the middle because the rack was so close to the fire, so I started with one hamburger – oh, me of little faith! It turned out perfectly. Oh, my goodness….perfectly! I then put four on for the next round…more perfection :) The Lord blessed, yes, even my pitiful hamburger attempt.
Jessie even toasted the hamburger buns in the frying pan! Betty’s chips were as wonderful as always, and the Coke just capped off the American 4th of July celebration!

We had taken pictures before all of the cooking as we knew it was going to get messy quickly :)
The sentimental side of me comes forth in a major way sometimes…and the 4th of July is one of those times. As those songs played through my home here in Uganda, my heart longed to be at my home in those States. With the other part of my family whom I love. I missed my dad preparing the ice cream churn while walking through the house doing his amazing Elvis Presley impersonation. Yeah, the tears flowed a few times throughout the day. I missed the fireworks. I missed my family. I missed the pool, and homemade ice cream, and playing card games and Yahtzee while waiting for the fireworks to start. I missed the 4th of July family picture. I missed home. All the red, white, and blue. I am in Uganda and God has given me such a deep love for the people of this country. And I am so thankful that I am here. It is a dream come true…a miracle beyond what I can explain right now, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. But I am still an American. Always will be. America is my homeland. It is the place where God chose to birth me into this world, have me raised up, and stand as a proud citizen. America was founded and established on Biblical principles. And God has truly blessed America. 

And so. We celebrate. In American fashion to the best of our ability. America’s independence. America’s Liberty. And we celebrate how much God truly has blessed America.

our wonderful 4th of July watermelon

oh, how they love watermelon

sharing with Mommy :)

the grilled hamburgers that God just blessed

Betty and I cooking :)

finished product!

“Cause there ain’t no doubt, I love this land! God bless the U.S.A.”

May God bless you.

And may God bless America.

Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July - "Liberty".

“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