It’s hard to believe it’s already been a month since I stepped on a plane to Nigeria. But I would say time is going by at just the right pace!
Yesterday I caught a baby for the second time and it was a much more positive experience than the first. When I came in the morning to the obstetrics ward, there was a first-time mother, 27 years old, who was 3 cm dilated. She shares my Benin name, Itohan, which means “mercies of God” and which some hospital staff here gave me. She seemed really nervous, kind of frightened of the contractions, and unsure of what was happening. I knew she needed someone to explain what was happening and to feel like she had help available when she needed it. I tried to encourage her to eat and move around as she felt comfortable because once she was back in the labor ward she wouldn’t really be able to do either.
I was excited to see someone go through labor from the beginning stages since women rarely come in before they are 4-5 cm. I was also excited to be able to be there for her from the beginning.
Now that I am more familiar with how they do things on the labor ward, I felt this time around I was better able to do things to care for Itohan and also to help her understand what was going on. I stayed with her almost the entire time and tried to help her keep a rhythm with her breathing while she had contractions, rubbing her back with every contraction. She was even falling asleep between contractions in the later stages! (Which means she felt pretty safe and relaxed – and pretty tired!)
It’s really exciting to see all the things that I am reading about what women need in labor ring true in my experiences. What I have seen so far is that women want to know that what they’re experiencing is normal and that they are doing well in coping with their labor. They want someone close by, close enough to hold their hand, and to feel they are not alone. I’ve found that once I come close to a woman in labor, especially late labor, she does not want to let go of me! A lot of them ask to be held and some of them even rub my shoulders or back while I rub theirs!
When it came time for me to leave yesterday before Itohan’s baby had been delivered, I just couldn’t leave her. And the midwives were all telling me I should catch her baby since I had been “trying” for her so long. (Trying here means you are working really hard and it’s how most of the mothers I help thank me here – “You tried for me, you really tried for me.”) So I was able to stay and catch her baby, with lots of direction from the midwife, and take care of the sweet baby girl after she was born! I told Itohan several times that she had done so well and celebrated her baby with her. It was such a blessing to get to be there for so much of the process and help a first-time mother go through it and, hopefully, help her feel confident in herself and excited for the birth of her baby.
Women are amazing! And the God who sees them through the amazing miracle of birth is so unbelievably amazing!