Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Tale of Three Mothers (make that Four)

I have a close missionary friend, whom I'll call Amina, who works with women in prenatal care about 2 hours through the bush from me.  We're so similar that it's uncanny.  We're the same age and we both grew up in Africa as children of missionaries.  We both were in the States for our Senior year of High School and we were both cheerleaders…in fact our schools played each other in basketball and we cheered across the court from each other and didn't even know each other.  We went to nursing school and then we both became midwives as well.  And then we met here in Niger over 10 years ago and we work in the same part of Niger.  We often get together to visit, pray and discuss our work.  We consult with each other when we have a puzzling case, and we try to be there for each other when the work seems overwhelming.  I'm sharing some of our stories in this blog post.

Mom #1 - Too many children
Several posts back, I wrote about the mom who came to our clinic and was in despair because she was pregnant again.  She had misunderstood how to take her birth control pills.  She had many children at home and the youngest was only 9 mos. old.  In spite of her efforts to end the pregnancy early on, she failed and then became resigned to her situation.  She would come nearly every month for her prenatal check-up, and each time she came, I had a chance to get to know her abit better.  We soon became joking friends, and at the end of her 8th month, I told her, "Now when you have that baby, you bring it to me" and she assured me that she would come and show me her baby. 
Two weeks later, I left the clinic and was heading through the bush paths home, when I saw 2 women on bikes get off to the side so that I could pass.  I recognized my friend, so I stopped the car and jumped out.  Her belly was down, so I asked, "Where's my baby?" with anticipation, and she replied, "It isn't".  I was shocked.  I asked her when she had delivered.  What had happened?  She couldn't give me enough details for me to completely understand what had taken place.  She said, "My stomach was in great pain so that I went out of my head and they finally took me to the clinic in Makalondi.  I don't remember very much except the pain. There when I delivered, the baby wasn't."  That's all she could tell me…and with disappointment in her voice.  I told her how very sorry I was and we arranged to visit the next week at clinic.  I drove home with so many conflicting thoughts and emotions!
She came the next week and brought me a bowl full of dried okra as a gift.  We talked about her children and birth control…and then she thanked me and left with her toddler on her back.  She says she'll come back when she's ready to start the pill again…

Mom #2 - Too Little, Too Late
Amina received a call at 1 a.m. while asleep in Niamey.  It was friends from her village calling to tell her that their expectant family member, and Amina's friend, was in labor and hemorrhaging.  They wanted to know if she could come and get them (it's a 3 hr. drive, half of it on bush paths).  Amina had taken cold medication and was so groggy, she knew she wasn't safe to drive, so she persuaded the family to put her in a donkey cart and call the ambulance in the next town to come and meet them on the "road".  They did that, and soon she was at the hospital in the next town.  She was seen by a nurse, but lay there for four hours bleeding before it was decided that she should be sent on to the Maternity hospital in the City.  At 7 a.m. the family called Amina to say she had arrived and was admitted, so Amina rushed to the hospital and found her.  It was obvious to her that the mom was in shock, so she asked the staff to please order blood and told them that she was in shock.  They replied that she was just tired from her labor and was soon going to deliver.  Amina insisted that after bleeding all night, she was in shock.  No one paid attention.  So Amina sat with her friend, who would turn to her from time to time and say, "Amina, I think I am dying." Or "I'm afraid. I think I will die soon".  It was excruciating for Amina to be unable to help.  Finally, in spite of her very weak state, Amina delivered twins.  But shortly after, she began to gasp, and the nurse said, "Oh, she's in shock" and they ordered blood.  But before the blood could even run in, the mom, Amina's friend, slipped out of this world.  Too little done for her far too late.  Unbearable Grief!

Amina checks a mom while toddler snuggles

Mom #3 - No Room in the Ward
Amina knew this expectant mom was in trouble.  She was so weak by the time she arrived at Amina's compound that she couldn't walk or even sit up by herself.  So Amina had the family members put the mom in her truck and they all left for hospital in the next big town.  On arrival there, they put the woman in the ward, and finally at Amina's insistence, they drew her blood, but they didn't bother to do an exam or take a blood pressure or any other vital signs.  When the blood test showed that her hemoglobin was extremely low (3), Amina decided to take her on in to the City to the Maternity hospital there.  Being severely anemic, it was obvious that she needed blood transfusions right away. 
On arriving, she was admitted, but no exam was done and the minutes passed into hours.  Amina kept asking for the staff if they would order blood for her and to read her papers.  Finally she managed to talk to one nurse and showed her the low hemoglobin result.  The nurse agreed that yes, she needed blood, so Amina asked her to please give her the papers to begin to get it done. 
Meanwhile they didn't have enough bed space, so they put the pregnant mom out on a bed in the hallway to share with 2 other women.  It was that way all down the hall.  The women didn't have enough room to lie lengthwise, so they lie curled up widthwise! 
Amina went and collected the blood and when she got back, they gave the mom a unit and then put her back in her bed.  She'll need several more units before she'll regain strength, but meanwhile they've put another mom in the bed with the 3 moms! 

Mom #4 - Healthy with Preemies
Last week we held a Bible School module on the book of Romans.  It's still harvest time, so we never know how many students will show up.  One of our students, Jeligu came, and left his wife at home with the task of harvesting the sesame seeds.  She was 7 months pregnant.  He came in every morning at 8:30 to Makalondi for the class, which ended around 1:30.  Wednesday when he returned home, his little boy said, "Daddy, you need to take mommy into the clinic in Makalondi because she is very ill".  When he saw her he found out that she was in labor and was having a difficult time.  So he put her on his motorcycle and they bounced out of the bush and into Makalondi.  All that night she was in labor and at 4 a.m., they came and called two of our women students to come and help the midwife.  Finally at 7 that morning, she delivered twin baby girls, both who were only 7 months but breathing on their own and fairly strong. 
At class that morning, we noticed that Jeligu, Zainabou and Nuadiba were very late arriving.  Jeligu showed up first and gave us the good news and received many congratulations.  About 20 min. later, in walked the two women students, each with a tiny baby girl all bundled up in their arms and following them was the mom.  Mom had just been awake all night delivering twins and then a few hours later, she walks into the class looking somewhat tired, but amazingly strong!  We had a celebration of exclaiming over the precious babies and thanking God for the health of Mom and babies and then they left.  Mom was getting on the back of a motorcycle with two babies in hand and going home by way of the bumpy bush paths again.  Oh, the admiration I have for the African women!  Words can't express what strength and resilience they live out every day!  
That's Mom in the middle

In closing these stories, Amina and I experience the gambit of emotions in trying to care for the women we admire and love.  We sometimes despair at the reality of the situation for so many here.  And then the next week we will rejoice with the health delivery of a new baby and a safe mom… and we ask God for more strength and hope to continue to fight for these women…our neighbors and friends.  They don't give up…we certainly can't either.  God is faithful and we choose to trust Him to enable us to help them.