On Sunday, I am walking down the stairs to make tea. There is a soft breeze and the moms in the postpartum room are talking amongst themselves as they nurse their babies. It had been a busy night and I was set to enjoy some sweet quiet before the day got started.
But here, all this can change quickly as the world around us moves in the opposite direction we were going.
Jason motions to me and then brings in first one, then two, then three new moms. I walk to get charts and names and to start assessing each mother in turn. It is a familiar routine of listening to heartbeats, bringing glasses of water, making families feel welcome. My still bare feet move on the cool, orange tile. Slowly the other midwives rise and tumble downstairs; sleepy and wondering what commotion brings them from their beds.
Each birth room door has its own special creek or groan when you open it. I hear them in my sleep and count the comings and goings even when I am not the midwife.
I remember pushing the door open and thinking we have to fix this door.
I had already said hello to this Mother and brought her water and smiled at her sister who sat on the bed by her side.
But when I open the door, the mother was not on the bed. She is standing with her sister behind her. I am confused bu then I see her baby lying on the floor. There is no sign of life and he is very premature. There is blood everywhere. Time stands still as we stare at the baby for what seems like forever; unable to move even though I see that we are moving.
At times like these sometimes a person far away will come and stand beside us and whisper in our ear. "You know what to do. Pick up the baby and hold him." And I do. I wrap him in white sheet. My hands are beneath the mother. I am moving.
...and then the placenta followed and then the mother began to seize with eclampsia.
I put the baby down in a corner of the room. We moved through the steps of caring for the mother until the seizure had calmed and the IV was running. Watching as the blood pressure came down as she opened her eyes and spoke. Hands moved and opened sterile packages, drew up syringes and took vitals. We spoke without words.
We invited her husband in to hold her head in his lap,reassuring him that she was doing well.
Bu then I remembered the mother is doing better but the baby. His eyes followed my eyes to the bundle on the floor. I went over and saw a string of ants climbing on the baby and inside I was crazy hysterical. I was screaming, "You can not have this baby." but the helping voice reminded me that it was time to wash and dress the baby and to be calm. So I did not scream at the ants but brushed them away and washed the baby.
I went and got a new blanket that my sister had just sent. I picked one with stars I wrapped that little baby boy up as sweet as I could and gave him to the dad and I could tell they were appreciative of the helping voice who calmed me down and told me what to do.
Santo drove the father and baby to the grandfathers and they buried him at that time. Later Santo told me it was raining then but I had not known.
I helped clean up as is our way as midwives. I did not one single ant in the whole place. In a way it was like it never happened except we were all so tired from being so scarde and acting like it was nothing at all. It was still early in the day so we drove to a fishing village and looked at fossils and let the warm water splash the clothes that we had not changed since morning. I did this because everyone was so scared that they wanted to blame someone/ anyone. I thought it best no to think like that and that a few of us might get some fresh air.
There were so many things I could not control or change. It all happened so fast. But I was glad that we had cared for the baby with so much love and dignity. The person who came and helped me out that morning was Pat Schweibert. She lives in Portland and for years taught many of us to care for babies who die in childbirth. When people were afraid, she taught us to look into those tiny faces and cherish our grief.
Thank you Pat, for your words over many, many years that came back to me with quiet reassurance when I needed them most. There are so many things that I could not control that Sunday morning but with your reassurance I could pick up a baby and place him in a father's arms- a real little person with his own star covered blanket.
Eclampsia is a leading cause of maternal and infant death in the world. In this disease, a mother develops high blood pressure to such a degree that she experiences siezurres and kidney failure. It has been called the silent killer and the disease of poverty as it is associated with malnutriton.
That the mother made it to us on time is a miracle and I thank God that we had the right medicine and were able to work so well together to administer them and care for her. She did not have prenatal care which might have picked it up but it can also come on quickly. Many women around the world do not have transportation to get help should they need it. We were fortunate to have a car and gas to drive her to the hospital. We were fortunate to have a hsopital in driving distance to go to. Everyday people devote their lives to researching the cause of eclampsia.