Face-to-face with a mother in labour

by Amref Health Africa

The strength of a woman is not only seen by the decisions she makes or the authority she portrays in top management, but also in this one place, the delivery room…dum dum duuuumm!!! Brace yourself!

I got an opportunity to work closely with the Amref Virtual Training School team that was going to various government hospitals around Kenya, where they would assess their students on their progress in midwifery training, and I was able to witness the students at work.

You will not believe anything I say if you have never seen it for yourself. The delivery room is a place where new life comes into the world – a happy place. But things can also go very wrong there.

AVTS assesor, Emma Muraguri (white apron) and a supervisor (yellow) look on as Caudence Kemunto (Midwifery student) attends to her patient Linda Moraa

I personally saw a baby that passed away immediately after a terrifying birth; the mother went through too many complications and all I heard was some very technical jargon from the doctors as they announced the baby’s death.

The horror on the mother’s face was too much for me to bear and I had to walk away, but it got me thinking. The mother had carried this child for nine long months only to deliver what she could not keep.

What brought these complications? Did she take too long to visit the clinic? Were the complications avoidable? What now? Will she be able to have another child?

All these questions rushed through my mind as I looked at the mother seated on her bed, her eyes lost in bewilderment, staring blankly at the ceiling as if seeking answers from all the way up yonder. My heart went out to her.

We have all watched it in the movies: the labour room looks like a warm cozy place with smiling nurses and a woman screaming and then five minutes later the baby is out. I totally disagree. It’s loud, gritty, anguishing, draining, teeth-clenching, nail-biting, blood-curdling, literally!!

Nothing in the world prepares you for the drama of labour. After witnessing it this whole week, I feel that I know the drill, but I’m still apprehensive about it. I give it up to the midwives who take on this career. I personally would faint if I was to take a step into the delivery room, and once I gain consciousness, I would faint again.

I felt some level of anxiety once I stepped into the delivery room in one of the hospitals we visited in Kajiado District. The room is dark with slight rays of light beaming through the cracked ventilators during the day. A large clock ticks loudly on the wall, as if the suspense isn’t enough to strangle you, trays laden with surgical equipment, a washroom at the far end and a row of stretchers waiting for patients.

You can hardly breath, horror engulfs you and even though something good is going to come out of it, no one is sure about what might happen in that room. Some women bleed out, others go into a coma and never wake up. Some babies die. It’s like standing in a minefield unsure of where to step.

Labour pain knows no time, or even race. I am no expert in this, but I have an idea of what it is like. I imagine it is like knocking your little toe on the edge of a table, sliding on a wet bathroom floor and knocking your head on the edge of a sink, having a root canal with no anesthesia, having a splitting headache that starts from the eyes all across your head (those who wear spectacles will agree with me); all this multiplied by a thousand.

It takes courage and patience to be able to deal with a woman in labour – the screams, the violent outbursts, the curses, the threats –and yet be able to administer the right treatment, posture, attitude, timing, and at the end of it all, help the mother deliver a healthy baby.

On the bright side pain is inevitable, though not in equal proportions because not all women have terrible experiences during birth. Some actually go through slight pains, and push out the baby. It’s a wonderful experience once the baby is out. It is one of those moments you can never forget. The first cry a baby makes once it enters this world, a melodious whisper tingling in your ears, a cry of joy, a symphony of new life. The relief on the mother’s face once she holds the little bundle of joy is priceless.

Through the ongoing Stand Up for African Mothers campaign, the training of 15,000 midwives across Africa by 2015 is a commendable initiative by Amref Health Africa that will go a long way in saving the lives of our mothers and their babies.

Through this training more expectant mothers have been able to gain more courage and trust in the hospitals and the midwives for delivery as opposed to using traditional birth attendants at home. Many lives have been and are still being saved, maternal complications are being dealt with and we may be well on the way to reducing the deaths of mothers and children.

I salute all midwives for helping our mothers, and thank the Amref Virtual Training School for training midwives so that they can save our mothers and future generations. Let’s join hands today and Stand Up for African Mothers; they indeed are the pride of our future.

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