Supposedly, I have numerous husbands roaming around Sierra Leone, as well as lots of little Emilys. This is for the simple reason that when a baby is born in the OB ward and I have anything to do with it, all the women will start calling the baby my "man" (husband) if it's a boy, or my "namesake" if it's a girl. Of course chances are high (I'd say REAL high) that I'm not going to marry any of these babies and that once they get to the village nobody really names their baby "Emily"....that weird white person name.
About nine months ago my neighbor found out that she was pregnant. I work with her husband and I really like him. We've had some of those good conversations that make me think "ahhhh.....now THAT's why I moved here!" When I was talking to his wife about my dilemma in bringing Kadiatu to come live with me, I told her one of my biggest fears. I was afraid because I couldn't teach her to be a good African woman because I don't know how to be a good African woman. She said "Just send her to me! I'll teach her to cook, I'll teach her to wash clothes....I'll help you!" So they're good people.
So when we found out she was pregnant I quickly did the dates and realized that the doctors would NOT be here when it came time for her to deliver. Darnit. I'm not sure......I may have mentioned it here before, but OB IS NOT MY THING!!!
As the time started getting closer, I started getting more and more nervous. What if I was down there by myself when it came time for her to deliver???? My nervousness is pretty pronounced when I'm trying to deliver a strangers baby...but when it's my neighbor??? It goes up exponentially!! Before every shift I'd stop by and say "Hey!! Has your belly started hurting yet? No? Alrighty!" :) My biggest fear was that I'd be down there by myself and something bad would happen! I'd been following this "case" since the first question was asked..."is she or isn't she???" I couldn't bear the thought that I might mess that up what she'd been "cooking" for 9 months!
A couple weeks ago I got all excited because we thought the time might have arrived (and I wasn't working!!) but....false alarm. Yesterday was my last day of work before I go to Freetown tomorrow......and fly home on Monday!!! We were all joking that I'd been waiting and waiting and waiting, but the baby wasn't going to come until I left. Last night the husband called me and the first question I asked was "does she want to give birth tonight!?!??!" Negative. Bummer.
This morning I was up early as usual and about 5:30 heard some noises coming from their house. An hour later I noticed that she'd come outside and as I watched her (yes, I have stalker tendencies) I noticed that when she started making her little noises, she would also grip the metal pole beside her. Could this be? The day before I'm supposed to leave? When I'm not working so wouldn't be the only one down there? A little bit later she and her husband came to the door and said that she hadn't slept all night because her belly had been hurting so much.
I had to go down to chapel this morning even though I wasn't working to say goodbye to everyone and give them their early Christmas presents....a pen. I know, not very interesting but seriously people are always asking me for my pen! Seemed appropriate. I told them I would meet them in the OB ward when I was done.
When she arrived there was another woman in the labor ward who was getting ready to go for an emergency c-section. I took her to another little room and checked the baby's heart rate...fine. I did the vaginal exam and she was 5-6 cm. Awesome!!! She's going to have this baby today!! I couldn't believe how awesome it was that after literally waiting for weeks, I was going to get to meet him/her before I left!! I told her I needed to go up to the house for a little bit but would come back down. I figured I had a good 2 hours before things got too exciting and since I hadn't started packing or cleaning yet, I'd work on that for awhile.
Fast forward several hours, past the oxytocin drip, past the rupturing of membranes, past the normal crying that would occur when trying to push something very large out of somewhere very small etc to being fully dilated and ready to push. Wait. Let me hit pause to tell you that my favorite thing she said through those hours of waiting was when she asked the nurse if all women experienced this kind of pain while giving birth? When the nurse said "yes," she said "Why do these women have so many children?!?!??!!?" Precious! :) Also...good question!
The delivery was not an easy one. I called the doctor when she was ready to push. Did I forget to mention that in addition to me not having to be the only one down there, we also have a great Sierra Leonean doctor here right now who was eager to help us? I had told the doc that I was concerned about the baby having some decelerations (heart rate going down) so as soon as she was fully dilated we wanted to get the baby out. We ended up having to use the vacuum and do an episiotomy to get the baby out. It had some shoulder dystocia so we really had to work to get that baby out. Because of the difficulty of the delivery, the doc told me to prepare to resuscitate. NOT what I wanted to have to do!
After quite the struggle, the baby came out. It's heart was beating strong, but it wasn't breathing. We bagged it for awhile, the doc gave a medicine through the vein in the umbilicus and finally it started breathing on it's own. It didn't have that strong, angry cry that we love to hear, but it was trying!
Now for the gender. Oh the gender. Part of the excitement of delivery here is revealing the gender. I often get in trouble because I'm always so excited to tell the mother and father the sex of the baby that I don't ask them for the kola (money) that is traditionally paid to the midwife before telling them the sex. Since I'd feel weird asking for that anyway, if I don't really forget, I just pretend that I did. :)
A few months ago my friend had an ultrasound that said the baby was most likely a girl. Later she had another one that also said it looked like a girl. When I told one of my friends that my neighbor was going to have a girl he said, "Well, I will still pray for a boy." So it became a thing. Emily and the "machine" versus my friend. When the baby was born and I got to say it was a GIRL....I won. :)
The most precious thing about this is that a couple months ago my neighbor started telling people that if it really was a girl, they were going to name it Emily. Now, as I mentioned above, people tell me that quite frequently but I never really put much stock in it so when they would tell me that, I would just nod and smile. As the time kept getting closer and closer though, both the husband and the wife kept talking about it. Last week I was talking with the husband and he said that if it was a girl, Emily, but if it was a boy the were going to have some problems because so many men were vying for the baby to be named after them. When this little one was born today, people started saying, "Yeah!! Baby Emily has come!"
So here she is. My first official "namesake." Baby Emily.
Reasons I'm thankful for today?
1) This baby was born JUST in time. Literally the day before I'm leaving.
2) I wasn't working so I could just help and try to encourage...without all the stress of being "in charge."
3) We had a doctor there who is very knowledgeable
4) We have a vacuum and scissors to do episiotomies
5) After breathing for her for awhile, she started breathing all on her own and shows no sign of any kind of anoxic brain injury from the rough delivery
6) I got to see the looks of delight on this daddy and tired mama as they posed for their first family photo :) Thanks Jesus!!!