Monthly Archives: August 2013

Anyaka Lang

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The daughter of Auma Eveline of Parwaca was born on 3 August 2013 at 7:35 PM. Anyaka lang! Beautiful girl. I was the one to catch her as she was born from her mother, who was sitting on a birthstool. Thank you, Lord.

We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks to you for your name is near. 

~ Psalm 75:6

No Mirrors

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2 August 2013

After a few days of being here in rural, northern Uganda, both my fellow student midwife, Sarah, and I noticed that there were no mirrors around. Neither of us had looked in a mirror for days. This is of course in striking contrast to America, where there is a mirror in every bathroom in the house — and there are often more scattered throughout the house in the hallways, dining-rooms, living-rooms, and near the doors we enter and exit.

The omnipresence of mirrors holds in virtually every home we go into, but it’s also true of most restaurants, doctors’ offices, workplaces, malls, movie theatres … The list goes on and on.

But what would it be like to grow up in a traditional culture where you rarely saw yourself? Where your only reflection of yourself was in the eyes of other people?

It seems to me that the absence of mirrors helps eliminate an obsessive concern with one’s self and one’s appearance. It focuses our eyes on the people around us – and on the land we are living in – and on the creatures living in it. It’s hard to worry about a bad hair day, for instance, if you’ve never once seen your own hair that day.

How many thoughts go through our minds on a typical day in America about how we look? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to be able to drop those thoughts off the radar and concentrate on something else?

There are very few cameras here, either. There’s no pervasive permanent photographic record, in print or online, of what most people look like now or looked like when they were younger. For the most part, people don’t worry about that.

I’m not against mirrors or cameras. I’m thankful for them, actually, and enjoy working with both artistically and creatively. But being removed from my habitual cultural context, I can see things differently here, even though (and maybe especially because) I so rarely see myself.

One thing I do know:
that though I was blind, now I see.

~ John 9:25

Good morning, chicken!

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The chickens at the Mother Health International birth center compound are truly free-range. In fact, I think they are the “free-rangiest” chickens I’ve ever known. I’ve seen them in trees, on top of the kitchen-hut thatched roof … one hen was laying an egg in a midwife’s bed this morning! (on 17 August 2013) The hen pictured here was drinking from our hand-washing basin one morning sometime back in July …

 

It’s Raining Babies!

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31 July 2013

Looking out of the door of my hut here in Acholiland, northern Uganda, I can see a tree spreading its branches out underneath a cloudy sky. It’s the rainy season here. The ground it wet, everything is green and growing, and the cheeping chicks are trailing around after mother hens as roosters cry out, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” (Gotta love those onomatopoetic bird-words. J) The rain not only poured down on the tin roof of the birth center here on the Mother Health International campus last night, but also there were so many mothers and babies coming in that I found myself saying, “It’s raining babies!”

I personally attended four of the births yesterday. Early in the morning, I charted as my midwife-teacher, Kate, resolved a shoulder dystocia in two and a half minutes. Shoulder dystocia is when a baby’s head is born but the shoulders get stuck in the pelvis. This is dangerous because a baby must be fully born to make the transition to breathing and life outside of the womb well. Thankfully, shoulder dystocia is rare. Usually, it can be resolved if the laboring mother flips onto her hands and knees to give birth. If that doesn’t work (and it didn’t yesterday morning), the midwife can help put one of one of the mother’s legs into a runner’s lunge to widen the pelvis. If that doesn’t work (and it didn’t yesterday), the midwife must use her hands to slip the baby’s posterior shoulder out so that the anterior shoulder can get, to put it simply, un-stuck. This did work yesterday, and the baby was born beautifully.

I watched a midwife save a life yesterday.

For anyone interested, yesterday morning’s baby was born from an OP (occiput posterior) position, face up or (as we sometimes say) “sunny-side” up. A shoulder dystocia with a baby in this position is very, very rare! (Thank God.) Midwives might be interested to know that there was no tearing or neonatal resuscitation. I’m so thankful that the baby and mama, a mother of eight, are both recovering well and will go home to be with their family in Okidi parish soon.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth.
You are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you. 

~ Psalm 71: 5-6

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the baby

Ilsa

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IMG_2455As we were arriving, Ilsa Beaumont, a midwife from Belgium who has been serving here for five months, was leaving. We had a meeting with many of the local, traditional Ugandan midwives who honored her as part of our meeting – singing to her and dancing around her! One of them stuffed a balled-up cloth under her shirt and pretended to be in labor, presenting her “baby-belly” to Ilsa to catch. It was so funny and wonderful! Ilsa laughed and cried and finally caught on, taking the cloth from under her fellow midwife’s shirt as everyone shouted and applauded.

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Before Ilsa left, I went to a birth with her, and it was blessed. That was the first time that I saw a midwife use saw grass to cut the cord. Thank you, Ilsa, for your service to so many mothers and babies!

Ot Nywal Me Kuc

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Ot Nywal Me Kuc (House of Birth and Peace, pronounced oat new-wal mee kooch) is a sustainable, solar-powered birth house located in Atiak, Uganda, 20 miles south of the border to south Sudan. The closest hospital is 50 miles away—more than two hours by truck on unpaved roads with plenty of pot-holes in them and a tendency to flood when it rains, turning the road into a river in some places and into mud in others. The clinic has the only ambulance in the region, and it is essential to getting laboring mothers from their homes to the birth center.

Ot Nywal Me Kuc is a government approved health center served by traditional Ugandan midwives (sometimes called “traditional birth attendants” or TBAs) and an international team of certified professional midwives, certified nurse midwives, and student midwives. We are blessed to have a staff driver, cook, and laundress to help us keep up with the needs of everyday life while being available to serve families 24/7. Our staff translators are an essential part of our team, making it possible for international midwives to communicate across the language barrier as we are still in the process of learning Acholi. Most of the mothers who come here are internally displaced, refugee and recently resettled women and families.

Three to five women give birth daily at the center, and close to 50 come weekly for antenatal care. Outcomes here are significantly better than the national average. The clinic’s goals to reduce maternal and infant mortality are met through comprehensive, individualized care that is run by the people, for the people.

The birth clinic in Atiak is truly the first of its kind. Holistic and restorative reproductive care is essential to a future of peace in Uganda.”

~ adapted from the Site Orientation Handbook, Uganda, Mother Health International