It is just inevitable that when a group of like minded individuals get together, the war stories come out. (I know of what I speak, for I am the former wife of a F-15 pilot, and the now-wife of an SCA fighter.) This is especially true if there is a stoop involved, and some heavy warm air, maybe not quite enough work to fill the time, and some food to be shared. And so it was today at Shanti.
Annet began. “Jane, have you ever had the woman with the pre-eclampsia? She who had a fit? It happened to me, when I was alone here with Martha. It was night time, and the woman had not come to the clinic for two months. She only came when it was time for delivery. And she had great big pitting edema, and her blood pressure was so high. And I was so scared, and I told the mother of the mother that this was very dangerous, and that we had to go to hospital right away.”
“So I called Ben (the driver) but I could not get him on the phone, and she was starting to get worse. As I was thinking about what to do, her eyes rolled into her head, and she had a fit. She was shaking and not breathing well, and we were all alone at Shanti in the middle of the night. So I ran down the hill to the end of the road where there lives a boda man (Boda-bodas are motorcycle taxis and the drivers are known for insane traffic moves), and I banged on his door over and over again. Finally, he came to the door and I was screaming, ‘ I am a midwife, and this mother is going to die!’
So he came to Shanti and Martha and I were trying to balance this woman who was so out of it and without strength on the back of the boda. There is not really room for three people on the back of the boda, so Martha was standing up to make more room, and I was hanging on to the woman, and all I could think of was what if she had another fit on the way to hospital. And then it started to rain.
It rained all the way to hospital, when we finally got there. And she was already pushing on the boda, but she was actually only 6cm, so she had to wait. After a time, she did push out her baby, and she was ok. But I was so scared, and I did not know if I wanted to be a midwife anymore. I had to think about it a lot, but I decided that nobody else could have done better than me in that situation, so I might as well stay.”
So here’s a secret, and it is what I told Annet: Every midwife in the world has felt that fear. Everyone from the senior-est PhD Certified Nurse Midwife at Yale down to the youngest traditional birth attendant in a mud hut in Sudan. If they haven’t they are either lying, or a bad midwife. The fear is good. It keeps you and your clients grounded in the moment, and its in single moments when lives are lost or saved.
Midwifery is a lifestyle full of contradictions. You must do the schooling and learn the facts, but also be open to your intuition. You speak of honoring families, while neglecting your own.
But most importantly, like Annete, you have to humble yourself to the mother’s inner knowledge and respect her experience , yet be arrogant enough to act fast and hard when you have to. Its knowing that when a person’s life depends on you, nobody else can do it better. So you might as well stay.