This gallery contains 3 photos.
Julia means “the young or youthful one”
This gallery contains 3 photos.
Julia means “the young or youthful one”
The first week in Davao City has gone by in a blur of night shifts, day shifts and swing shifts, catching sleep here and there, attending births and taking breaks when possible. Every morning when I wake, every night when I sleep, and many times throughout the day, I am praying. I am asking others to pray, too.
I have two special prayer requests for babies. I’ve seen several normal, healthy births and babies, but I also attended a birth this week, and during the newborn exam, I saw the baby boy had a congenital malformation of the lower lip. This might not be serious, but it might be related to other issues the baby had: a small placenta with extra lobe, transient cyanosis of the upper face, an oddly shaped ear. We referred the family to a pediatrician. Please pray for the baby’s healing and healthy growth.
Another baby, a girl, had a difficult time transitioning from the womb to the world. Born floppy, she did not breathe right away, and after giving her air (PPV) and blowby oxygen, we had to transport her to the hospital. Please pray that she makes a full recovery and that she will soon be reunited with her mother and father.
Jesus said, “I came that they might have life,
and have it more abundantly!”
It’s been busy around here, and I’ve been learning as much as I can as fast I can. “Ko kapoi!” as midwives have been known to say around here in Bisaya/Visayan. I’m tired. But I’m also glad about what I am learning.
What am I learning? Thanks for asking! 😉 I’m learning to communicate basic thoughts, feelings and questions and answers in a new language, Visayan. I’m learning the value of the Filipino peso in the local economy. I’m learning about others around me as I get to know my team at the birth center, which consists of dozens and dozens of people: intern midwives, first year students, second year students, supervising midwives, both Filipina and international, the staff clerks and guards, and, of course, many mothers, fathers and babies as well as other family members they come for birth, baby checks, and prenatal and postpartum appointments.
I’m also practicing my skills as a midwife.
The birth center itself is different from any other place where I’ve served as a midwife before. I’ve primarily worked as a midwife in home birth settings in America and in a rural birth center in Acholiland in northern Uganda. (I’ve also gained a good range of experience in American hospitals and a few birth centers as a doula.) The difference between a birth center in the city in a developing nation and a birth center in a rural area is pretty substantial.
Here, in Davao City, we’re busy! There are a lot more people, in a lot smaller radius, so more babies are being born, and we need more staff to help serve them. With more births, there are more prenatal and postpartum appointments. Getting to know families personally when there are so many to serve is more challenging.
In the urban context, there’s better, faster transportation, but it’s also noisier and more polluted. Many more conveniences abound: easy internet access, foreign (American) foods, running water, electricity (including electric fans to cool us off in the humidity), and so on. Yet this is still a profoundly impoverished area where access to the convenience of wealth is unavailable to many. The health status of the mothers who come to birth at the center is often poor.
I find myself missing the great open spaces of Uganda, wild and beautiful, because I’ve never really been a city girl. But I know that God has brought me here, and everyday, I see something beautiful – usually, someone! 🙂
These past few days have been joyful.
On Sunday, I went to church with my sister midwife, Melissa, for an evening service. The church is within walking distance of the Treehouse on Vinzon Street. Its name? Joyful Assembly of God Church. I love that name! The songs we sang were so full of love for the Lord. (Feel free to listen to an example of the church’s worship from last Thanksgiving.) I’m so glad to find a church family already. The sermon focused on the prayer of Jabez and made a single, important point: God grants the requests of those who faithfully pray to him. I was reminded to keep on praying and to ask others to keep on praying for me, too!
Afterward, we visited friends, Phoebe and Davy, who had a “durian party” to welcome new midwives. Durian is a stinky, but very healthy fruit native to this specific area, the south-east of Mindinao, the Philippine Islands. Think: white peach, with garlic flavor, and a very squishy texture, two or three of which are inside a spiky green rind the size of a coconut that you split open to scoop out the fruit. It was both messy and fun eating it.
Later, beginning at 9:30 / 10 PM, I served on the night shift at the birth clinic, where we welcomed two babies within a few hours of each other: lalake (a boy) and babae (a girl). (For those interested in this sort of thing, both were born with double loops of nuchal cord – the first baby with a smaller, third loop near his cheek – but both transitioned well by one and five minutes with APGARS of 8 & 9.) Beautiful babies!
I am so thankful to be here.
A few days ago, I visited the local government-funded hospital in Davao with midwives from here. Sometimes there is a need to transfer women from our birth center to the hospital, if serious complications arise, so it is important to know the location and layout of the hospital. While there, we visited the entrances and part of the wards of obstetric emergency admissions, NICU, labor and delivery, normal postpartum, and the ill newborn center.
As I walked through, I prayed inwardly for the women and babies that I saw, for their needs and their recovery. In postpartum, which was one huge room crowded with many beds, side by side, I noticed one woman who was recovering from cesarean. The newborn baby who lay on the bed near her had a cleft palate.
My brother Andrew, a saxophone player, is especially passionate about providing cleft palate surgeries to children around the world. I thought of him, and the Smile Train ministry, as I prayed silently for this little baby. I wondered if the baby I saw would get to have this healing surgery—and how soon. I wondered how this baby would live or breastfeed.
As we were leaving, I asked a midwife, who was with me, how much it costs to have a cleft palate surgery here. She didn’t know. But she encouraged me by saying that our birth center had partnered with doctors who come here periodically to do surgeries to repair cleft palate – free of charge to families with few resources.
Later, another midwife told me that some Filipino families believe that cleft palate is caused when the baby is sucking on his thumb in utero and his mother, riding public transportation, is jostled and bounced roughly along the city streets. This kind of misinformation reminded me briefly of Uganda. There I once saw poster I saw announced that epilepsy is not caused by witchcraft – an announcement that had to be made to counteract a prevalent, but incorrect, belief. There is plenty of misinformation about health and disease in the States, too, for that matter. But although the exact causes of cleft palate are unknown, the condition appears to be caused by genetic factors, environmental teratogens or perhaps certain medications taken during pregnancy.
Please pray with me for this little baby with cleft palate. Even though I may never see this newborn or the mother again, God sees them. He can bring to them whatever they need.