Thursday was humid and sweaty. I felt like I was moving through Jello and time was going soooo sloooow. One of the midwives asked me, “Will today ever end?” I don’t know what was going on unless they all felt the effects of the humidity as well or this is just one of those common workplace occurrences where everyone has slow-days.
We had several moms in early labor and lots of paper work to catch-up on. We attacked the paper work, the tidying that never ends, making empty beds, mopping up…on and on. I did a bunch of newborn exams and spent a lot of time hanging out with the twin’s family. The dad was there to help get mom and the girls home and we chatted about their older son’s reaction to the babies and seeing mom and dad holding them. Parenting is a universal challenge—we talked about Touchpoints (thank you Dr. Brazelton) and I shared some stories from when the kids were little. Dad owns a tour company and they invited me to come and see “their little island” which reminded me of MamaMia : )
Of course everyone decided to have their baby at the same time—we had four mamas going within ten minutes of each other and they threw me into one to work with a student. I had assessed this mother throughout the day and she would only let me touch her, telling the student and the other senior midwife who came in that she would have none of their fingers in her body. Ok. I actually wanted to support this student through it as she needs the hands-on. At this point, strangely, I am feeling like I have done a lot of births and don’t need to do more. (time to come home?!) But I understood her position and respected it. To make a very long story short she had a super tight fit and pushed for an hour and half, which is like 4 hours of pushing at home—it is unheard of. She was bleeding ahead of the baby and complaining of acute pain. We kept tabs on the mother in the bed across from her and they were having parallel experiences. We prepared for both of them to have some serious bleeds and just asked the doctors to come hang out. All the other babies were born first—3 girls. This mother was insisting that she wanted a boy. I slipped in once, “ok, it might be a girl too” and then held my peace—she would have to make hers or not make hers when the baby was born and I just decided I am wrong to interfere with her hopes and push reality on her when she is clearly a)not ready for that idea and b)in possession of 50% chance of getting what she wants. The other mother had a high tear that required suturing by a physician and after baby was born so did this mom. Baby was indeed a boy (!) and she asked me to go out and tell dad. I went to tell him—he was a young 20 years old. I asked him to come and see the babe but he wanted to know first what it was. I told him it was a boy and he told me he actually knew that already so it was no surprise to him—he had had a very strong dream and had no doubts. He made the transition from playing it cool to being uber excited quite rapidly and jumped up and snapped my finger—a trick the locals do which he later gave me detailed instructions in so I can show Jeffrey. He wooted and hollered and danced around and clapped me on the back and kept saying, “alright! alright!”
Friday I filled out and folded dozens of “blue cards” which are health records that parents use keep to track immunizations, well-child visits and any notes a provider would like to make mention of. I also filled out and folded dozens of birth certificates. So the next many many babies born in this hospital will have my signature on their birth certificate. Which is kind of funny, considering I am not even a citizen here. I am doing a lot of newborn exams as I have to pass my exam in the fall and have to match my scoring to the examiner’s scoring in order to be certified.
The weekend was all atwitter with building booths around the perimeter of the park for a week of celebration. The booths are made by stripping the bark off of branches and then notching them at the ends so they fit together. A whole frame is made in this way. Ceilings and walls are made of woven leaves. Each booth is about 10×5 or 10×7, depending on the use and they all share a wall with the one next to them. Everyone was busy preparing, either with the weaving or the framing and then the moving. That’s right, the moving. Families move into these booths and use the front to sell goods—mostly food–and the rear to sleep in. It is like a week-long Seafair from the old days when peons like us could pitch tents and actually enjoy themselves without spending a fortune. All Sunday afternoon people were hauling pots, pans, sleeping mats and household goods down to the park. Many of the houses are empty. Chicken road is well represented with a few booths that are triple-wides in a row. So now it is easy to visit my friends, I just go to their corner of the park and hang out.
Sunday at 3:00 began the festivities of Children’s Day with a parade led by the Big Chiefs from several islands, the minister of finance of Vanuatu, and several other dignitaries. Behind them came the band and then the children and then the stragglers. This parade does not work like our parades where everyone starts at the start and ends at the end. This one started with the Chiefs and the band and a few children and they parade around the neighborhood and people wait on the street to see them and then join in at the end of the line so that by the end of the parade, when the procession marched onto the field there was a hodge-podge of people of all ages tagging along. The prize has to go to my father-in-law’s counterpart here who ran around the corner from his house, got a big hat and stuck a Vanuatu flag in it and then waited for his grandkids to come down the street. They clearly thought they had lost him and laughed and laughed at his prank. He swooped up one of them and joined in the parade. I happened to have been on the corner he ran to and he told me his joke while he got his hat situated. Grandpa’s are da bomb. I have been listening to so many stories lately and a lot of them are about grandfathers. I will share one in a later post.
The parade entered the field and the Big Chiefs were called to do an opening ceremony, which is actually a ceremony once reserved for the start of wars between villages, and the singing sounded much more war-like than happy-Children’s-Day-like. They went to the middle of the field and exchanged Kava. There were several chiefs present and they started to dance in a circle. After a moment a group of grandmothers (I kid you not, some of them are great-grandmothers) ran to the center of the field and started dancing around the chiefs, much to the delight of the onlookers. The chief from Pentecost saw them and stepped out of the chief’s circle and danced with the grandmothers instead. This was extremely popular and there were loud cat-calls from the audience, who stood around the perimeter of the field.
Then came the speeches. I had been warned. But I’ll just say that I listened to about 6 of them over an hour and a half and then headed back to my room to call home and say happy birthday to Jeffrey and drink water. I could hear them talking for another 2 hours so it was a good decision. I had the chance to skype with Jane and I’m not sure what exactly happened but there was an extremely high rate of laughter and accusations leveled at each other regarding something to do with acting like 12-year olds. Looking back, I’m not sure if 12 isn’t too mature. Either way, just one more thing making me feel ready to come home. I talked a long time with the kids and Benjy as well which was so great–also, making me feel ready to come home. I am really happy to have these feelings. I was kind of worried when I got here about how I would manage to get on a plane and leave. Ever.
The partying went into the wee hours of the morning and this morning was the only morning since I have been here that the neighborhood was not awake with the sun. I walked to the pool and it was still pretty quiet with the exception of a few toddlers who rose at the usual hour and teenagers who hadn’t gone to bed yet. This will continue on for a week—even now there is a huge game of soccer going on the field and a live band playing music. And it’s only 10:00am.
I am winding down my work hours as I want to see some more sights here before returning home and am frankly wanting fresh air. All of the weeks in the hospital and the fumes from the cleaning agent still make my eyes water and set my gagger off. I have caught a lot of babies. I have delivered quite a few. I feel confident about suturing, dystocias, breeches, twins, internal exams, and mothers with friable tissue. But not so confident that I will ever approach birth without knowing that regardless of what I know, the mother knows more and the baby knows more and as a team they know best about how to birth and be born.
And not so confident that I would ever assume I could midwife better, just because I midwife differently than my colleagues, mentors, or peers. This place has knocked the judgment out of me. I hope that I can go on to support those in my profession with an open heart and genuine curiosity about who they are and how they arrive at decision points.
And certainly not so confident that I will ever stop learning or wanting to know more about why things unfold in the way that they do. I am so lucky that the people I work with are information seekers and that they not only put up with my endless energy for getting to the bottom of things but they one-up me or encourage me or sit patiently with me as we talk these things out again and again so that we can all be better for the families we serve.