Monday, October 15, 2012

Culture of motherhood: birthing babies

Last night at 2:30 am, our cell phone rang. It was one of our farm guys, Boniface. His only words were, "I have a maternity case" which is code for, "My wife is about to birth our 8th child. Come get us." Boniface's family lives about 5 kilometers from the clinic and we told him we'd get his wife to the clinic when it was time. So when the call came, Jeremy leapt out of bed and zoomed off and I lay in bed awake, too excited for news of a baby to fall back to sleep. Bronwyn didn't have that problem.
An hour later, Jeremy pulled back in, gave a deep sigh and relayed the story to me. They had gotten to the clinic and found that all three of the nurses were gone. Their families had answered the door and said sorry, they are not around.

                      Really?            Really?
I don't know where the entire clinic staff had taken off to and not returned by 2:30 am, but plan B went into effect. Jeremy went back to the locked maternity ward and found Boniface's wife squatting, doing her thing, and offered to help everyone back into the land rover so they could get to the hospital. The friend helping Boniface's wife said, "no time, the baby is almost here." Plan C then went into effect to hunt down the clinic's janitor to at least get the maternity ward door open so that this precious child would not have to be birthed on a concrete side walk. I guess they got that door open just in time because Jeremy said it was only about 2 minutes before he heard crying.

A darling baby boy has joined us on earth. 

The safe motherhood group in Fimpulu made a rule that any mother who delivers at home will be fined K30,000, or $6. I told Jeremy that I think the clinic staff should pay the birthing mothers K30,000 if they show up and find no one there to catch their child. I would have been all kinds of annoyed if it were me, but when we went to pick up the Boniface family from the clinic this morning, they didn't seem to be annoyed in the least. This woman walked out to the Landi, said she was feeling fine and went home to continue life as usual. I find this quite typical of the women in the village: Babies come out and life goes on. I've asked many woman, "so how was it?" And they just look at me like, "how was it? I don't know what you are talking about." Mothers aren't used to explaining their birth in terms of quality of care, level of pain or hours of pushing. They don't hold on to details, write out their story or compare it to others. Birth for them is a part of life. They just do it. For these women, birth is  what sets them apart. They've told me that the reason why their husbands aren't allowed in the delivery room is that they don't want them to feel ashamed by how beastly strong their wives are. I don't fully understand all of the nuances, but I sure did tell Bana Kalobwe this morning that she is the greatest thing out there and that she should make someone else draw her water and cook her nshima and that I would be singing her praises for being a good mama and doing what needed to be done despite crummy circumstances. 
So here's to all the women who give LIFE to the next generation, unattended, unpampered and with no mylar balloons in their room after the fact. You are strong in ways you don't even realize. Thank you. 

Bana Kalobwe on the left... Bronwyn thinking, why is it so small?


  1. Thank you for sharing, Bethany! Keep on encouraging and speaking life to the amazing women.