Sorry it has been a bit since I posted. It feels like life is moving right along here and I hardly feel like I’ve been here for almost 7 weeks!
I am starting to feel less like an outside observer on the labor ward and more like I have a place and a job. I caught another baby this past Thursday and I felt a lot more trust from the labor ward staff. I think they were actually really excited and proud to see me catch another baby!
I have been trying to be more proactive in helping the midwives on the labor ward because, unless they are really stressed, they will do everything themselves without asking me for help. So now that I am understanding the process of care on the labor ward, it’s easier to step in and ask if I can help with specific things. Thursday looked like a busy day from the start as we had three laboring patients, one of whom was probably going for a c-section, and another patient already scheduled for a c-section. On morning shift, the labor ward matron is always on duty and then there is one other nurse who is doing most of the work. With c-sections, the nurse has to attend the delivery to see to take care of the baby afterwards, so with one (possibly two) c-sections that morning, I knew we were going to be plenty busy and that the nurse was going to need help watching the patients on the ward.
So I asked if I could do all the monitoring and charting for two of the labor ward patients and the nurse showed me what to check and how to chart it. I was excited to be busy! I checked the fetal heart rates, contractions, and blood pressures hourly and got more practice than I’ve ever had before at checking cervical dilation. It was such a great feeling to feel like I could do everything for the women that they needed. And it was nice to have more confidence and trust from the labor ward staff. I also empathized with the staff as I understood more of how when you’re caring for more than one patient it’s difficult to always be therapeutic. I wasn’t able to stay with every woman when I wanted and I had to check things even when the woman just wanted to be still and not be bothered. But I tried to explain as much of what I was doing as I could and wait until a woman was in between contractions before asking her to change position or let me check something.
I tried to stay mostly with a woman named Victoria who was having her third baby and was the patient farthest along in her labor. It’s funny to me how even when women have been through labor before, it’s sometimes no less overwhelming or unbearable for them. By the time Victoria was almost fully dilated and ready to push she was saying how she didn’t think she could bear her labor anymore and was ready to give up (not that she really could). I kept trying to encourage her, remind her that she had already done this twice before, and that she was almost done. She delivered a beautiful baby boy who cried right away and I got to catch him! I was able to do more than I ever have to take care of a woman and her baby and I really enjoyed it!
I definitely have an everyday routine here in Benin. I wake up early to have tea (I traded it for my usual 2 or 3 cups of coffee) and some quiet time with the Lord in the mornings. Then I eat something delicious for breakfast made by Auntie Tracy or Auntie Augustina (the two nanny/cook/housekeepers in the house) with Matthew, Laurie, and/or Feb who are usually headed to the university. Then I meet the driver, Umokaro, and police, Uncle Bassey or Isaac, and drive to the hospital. I love seeing all these familiar faces in the morning – I will definitely miss them when I leave.
I have been going in for the morning shift from 8 AM to 2 PM everyday. There are devotions in the main hall at the hospital for all the morning staff. Although I don’t usually know the worship songs, I enjoy watching everyone dance and listening to the voices. The worship is always acappella and everyone, staff and clinic patients, seems to really enjoy it. Then there’s a short message, which I can sometimes mostly understand and other times not really follow at all. Some accents are really hard for me to understand, especially when the speaker is really passionate and shouting the whole time. At the end of devotions, I usually greet the Chief Matron and then walk to the labor ward.
I like walking around the hospital because so many people greet me and ask how I am enjoying my time here. Since I’m obviously from out of town, a lot of people at the hospital have stopped to meet me so I feel like I know a lot of people there. Here people are usually very warm when greeting others, and people often squeeze my hand or my shoulders when saying hello.
After my shift is over then the driver and police pick me up again and take me back to the compound. Lunch is on the table when I get back and during lunch someone else is usually coming back to the house after school or work. There’s usually one, two, or ten visitors to the house during the evenings! So after work, I read, go online, meet the visitors, or just hang out with my “family” here (what I do the majority of the time). Feb and Laurie have an extensive movie collection so I’ve also watched a lot of movies since being here. There’s also a ¼ mile sidewalk around the compound so I try to make use of that and get some exercise.
That’s about it for my day-to-day happenings!
I still have not talked to the medical director (who’s currently out of town) about using a patient satisfaction survey at the hospital. Church of God Ministries is having a convention here in Benin City so the compound will be full of visitors this week and I expect things to be really busy!