Today started early, up at 5:30 to get to the pool before work. When I arrived there were two inductions underway. I continued with part two of yesterday’s project in which they turned the big cabinet in the midwive’s lounge over to my organizational savvy. It was a veritable field of gold—I found a lot of donated supplies hidden away. There is a fear here about using these things, that someone will borrow them. But leaving 6 new stethoscopes in their boxes in the cupboard for two years is not a much more effective use for them. I refreshed the equipment and supplies in the delivery and exam rooms, filled a cabinet with donated baby clothes in the room where we bathe and examine the babies, and ran a bunch of toys and larger clothes down the pediatric wing where they were promptly given away for use. I stacked up all of the pictures that have been taken of visiting midwives and students that were sent here as gifts and made them easier to browse through. I compiled all of the stats books by order of which kind of stats are gathered within and gave a book on how to perform vasectomies to a urologist doctor who asked me why we didn’t want it. I stared at him for a moment and then he burst into laughter…
I actually want to take a break in the orderliness I was imposing to talk about laughing here. The laughter here stretches across the street and down entire blocks. I know some of my neighbors by their laughs—long cackles and high pitched “hooeeeyys”, the stuttered giggles of small children and those huge open-mouthed-head-thrown-back deep laughs some of the men have. Laughter here is unmodulated, joy thrown forth from bodies that are aligned in ways that would make ballerinas in America green with envy. The chest is thrown forward in a physical sharing of happiness. It is not tempered or adjusted or toned-down in fear of being seen as flaunting or whatever it is that keeps us Americans from going the distance when it comes to joy. There is clapping and hopping and quite often, shoulder shimmies. Teenagers tend towards knee slapping and grandmothers do the same. There is a culture of acceptance when it comes to joy. No one tries to take it away or diminish it. No one accuses the joyful party of being too joyful. Here, joy is shared and bold and independent.
Which is how I got to talking about laughter…this doctor, so enjoying his joke. I laughed and laughed with him until we were all laughed out. I finished the distribution of supplies and complete organization of the cupboard and went to observe the med students doing their newborn exams. They seem to have been taught by the resident here who does not seem to know why he is doing what he is doing and has thusly modified some of the elements of the exam and now they don’t make any sense. I observed and helped answer their questions and then talked about some of the items. Tomorrow we are going to go through a complete exam together so they can see an American Style exam, where I will talk through each item–what we are looking for and what the absence or over abundance of can mean.
I spent a few hours doing assessments on babies and scoring them, part of my certification requirements for the second certificate I am getting through the Brazelton Institute. It is so stunning to do this assessment and talk through it with the parents and watch their eyes light up as they see the unique behaviors of their babies. It feels in many ways like I am providing a deeper introduction to their child and that I get to be a witness to the discovering of baby as a unique and individual person that these mothers make. One of the grandmothers wanted to sit in on the assessment with the mom—this was the grandmother of the new mother and she was elderly and half blind and mostly toothless and had one of those dispositions that makes me want to sit next to her all day long. She exudes grandmotherliness. I’m pretty sure that is not a word but you will all know what I mean. As I worked through each item on the assessment the grandmother got so excited and starting say “whoop!whoop!” and slapping her knees every time the baby responded to me or I elicited a reflex from him. The baby, as they tend to do with this assessment, became more and more engaged and interested the further we proceeded. He stared at me constantly waiting to see what was next and performed like a champ for his great grandmother. It feels magical in the moment, to see how capable and what depth there is to their personalities, even when they are only hours old. The grandmother dissolved into fits of joy. She was thrilled with his clear miracle-like abilities and proceeded to walk around the ward and tell all of the other grandmothers what her baby was doing. Oh, the baby’s name? Owen : )
I spent the day doing these assessments between births and got a good number in. There was another set of sticky shoulders on a beautiful tall baby girl, 4th girl to a mom who wanted a boy but promptly fell in love with this little one. The local midwife had called me in to catch this baby and the mother had an absolute panic attack. She was terrified of me. I asked the local midwife to do it as I have no desire to be terrifying to a mother with a baby on the way out. The midwife told her, “you no be fright, hemi one midwife from America” (don’t be afraid, she is an American midwife) and then she started to leave. I said, “wait! come back here, she is afraid and that is not good for her or baby”. I talked gently to the mother and the other midwife stayed, and it was all good. I took care of her and baby during her postpartum hours and I definitely grew on her as she got to know me better. As for continuity of care from the start, there just wasn’t time. She walked in pushing—something the women from her island are known to do. They have super fast labors, don’t tend to need any suturing and get up and walk about shortly after the birth like nothing ever happened. Now I know to try to get these women when they come in!!
I walked flip-flop time down Chicken Road on my way home. I played my way through two dozen kids, giving high fives and watching different displays of childhood. Like little peacocks they are eager to show me what they have done with their day and their creations and inventions are a pleasure to behold. I did remove a sharp metal edge off of a little plastic pipe some of the boys were using as a trumpet, but other than that, it was all good.