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the mommyhood memos: four healthy mamas and four healthy babies... and many not so lucky

Monday, October 25, 2010

four healthy mamas and four healthy babies... and many not so lucky

Last year three of my friends and I all planned to have our babies naturally with the assistance of a midwife through our local birthing center. All four of us ended up needing to be transferred to the hospital and having medical interventions for four difference sets of reasons.

As difficult as it was in each case, we emerged with four healthy mothers and four healthy babies.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if we did not have access to the amazing health care that is available to us in Australia.

What if we had labored—just a two-hour plane trip away—in the neighboring nation of Papua New Guinea?

Would we still have four healthy mamas with us today?

And would those four healthy mamas still have four healthy babies?

Imagine this scenario:

“The floors are crowded with women waiting to have their babies, or cradling the ones they have just delivered, because there are not enough beds. In the delivery room, flimsy curtains afford no privacy or dignity. The toilet is a bucket by the bed. The vinyl mattresses where they labour are worn through, soiled foam bursting through the cracks." (Source: A mother's life, by Jo Chandler, The Age, September 7, 2009.)

{Mothers in PNG sit on the floor after delivery due to a lack of hospital beds. Photo credit: Jason South}

That is part of the reason why my husband and I have been volunteering with an organization called YWAM for the last 10 years... Because knowing that 1 in 7 women in rural PNG die in childbirth is just not acceptable… Because the resources are out there and just need some redistribution... Because we believe that willing people (both skilled and unskilled) can make a difference—very practically—in other peoples lives.

As we work to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates in Papua New Guinea (as a part of the Millennium Development Goals), we reach out into neighboring nations to bring primary health care, dentistry, optometry, and mother and child health care.

Here is a personal story (first published here) from one of our volunteers—RN/Midwife Jenny Sutherlandin August of this year:

Yesterday we were halfway through our morning clinic when word came that a woman in a neighbouring village had given birth to one twin, but the second was not coming.  A small team of us arrived there with some difficulty, as we climbed up slippery logs and made our way into an incredibly poverty-stricken shack, where this labouring woman was on a bamboo floor, upon which we had to choose our steps wisely or fall through.

She had not a thing under her and her newborn baby girl was semi-wrapped in a dirty looking cloth nappy. The umbilical cord tied was tied with bamboo, but the baby was looking well. The woman had been pushing since the morning before, with Twin 1 born at 1am. When we arrived the unclamped cord was hanging out.  Due to finding it difficult to find a fetal heartbeat on the unborn twin and given the mother's deteriorated condition, we decided to transport her to a local clinic, not certain whether either of them would live through this.

We carried the woman on a stretcher through calf-deep mud and onto the Zodiac (which is used to carry patients to and from the YWAM Medical Ship).  The voyage took 4 hours and despite the difficulties, this woman never whimpered once.  Frightened and exhausted, she had seemingly no interest in the baby she had birthed and had not fed her yet.  We encouraged her to feed the baby girl on the journey though, and to our delight she had a great feed and slept the rest of the trip, sheltered by some donated birthing kit bunny rugs, a cloth nappy and the strong arms of one of our manly engineers whose heart was taken for this baby girl!

We arrived at the clinic and were amazed to hear the healthy heart beat of the unborn baby. After bringing on labour again, with one push, out came a healthy baby girl! The labouring mum finally smiled - her life saved and two sweet baby girls safe in her arms.

Dear friends, have you ever stopped to think about the fact that we are blessed with incredible health care facilities and trained professionals, unlike so many women throughout developing nations? Is your birth story one that may have turned out differently if it weren’t for the resources available to you? When's the last time you stopped and gave thanks that you and your baby are simply alive?

counting my blessings,

P.S. If you’d like to know more about our work and how you can get involved in making a difference to the people of Papua New Guinea and beyond, please check out YWAM Medical Ships or email me.

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adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2010 
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At October 25, 2010 at 3:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this post! I almost stopped reading it halfway through because I couldn't bear to read about a woman loosing her twins. I am so happy all three survived.

Both of my deliveries required medical intervention for very different reasons. Had I given birth in a country such as Papau New Guinea, I would have died during my first delivery. I think about this almost every day.

Thank you so much for reminding me of how lucky I am and motivating all of us of the importance of giving to communities who need our help.

At October 25, 2010 at 8:48 PM , Blogger cooperl788 said...

How fortunate for this woman that in her case, there were resources available to help her and her babies! In the US, it can be easy to forget that people in other countries are struggling to have basic needs met. Thank you for this reminder today - I love this post!

At October 26, 2010 at 2:56 AM , Blogger flyrish said...

What an incredible story! I think what you're doing is so admirable. How rewarding it must be for you, too.

I do think about women in 3rd world countries delivering babies. I may have been lucky enough to make it when birthing Q in PNG, but I have many friends who may not have been so lucky. It is a great reminder to be grateful for what we have here.

At October 26, 2010 at 4:27 AM , Anonymous Ofthesea said...

I wanna help!! What can I do from sunny Costa Rica??

At October 26, 2010 at 5:56 AM , Blogger Mellisa Rock said...

What a wonderous thing you are going by volunteering your time. My dd was 2 weeks over due and refused to drop down. I finally relented to having a c-section and thank goodness that I need the cord was wound around her neck so tight that she couldn't drop. I couldn't imagine not having a hospital to turn too. I want to help too...what can I do from my home state of OK?

At October 26, 2010 at 12:58 PM , Blogger Tonya said...

We are so lucky to have modern medicine on our side in this country. Good for you for volunteering and sharing this with all of us.

At October 26, 2010 at 4:04 PM , Anonymous Lisa said...

This post actually read home to me because I gave birth to twins last year at 36 weeks due to pre-eclampsia. It was scary and I myself spend the night in ICU but I had a wonderful team of doctors. Secondly years ago I went to PNG and hiked the Kokoda trail. I spent a week trekking through the mud through these kind of villages so I know first hand what it is all about. I think I might check out the link to volunteer.

At October 26, 2010 at 4:52 PM , Anonymous dawn said...

Stopping by from SITS...

Living in the US and being a pediatric nurse here, I see people taking for granted things like healthy pregnancies, healthy babies and smooth deliveries.
The miracle of life is never something to be set aside as simple or trivial because no matter where you live or how well you take care of yourself you just can't predict what could go wrong when the time comes.
Been there Done that with my own children and I thank God every day for delivering them safely, against the odds.


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