Friday, December 23, 2016

Pregnant in Sierra Leone

I've been wanting to write about this for awhile, but to be honest, by the time the kids are tucked in and the clock strikes 9....I. Am. Done.  My brain refuses to function and the energy required to move my thumb to scroll down my Facebook feed is all I can seem to muster.  But right now, thanks to pregnancy induced insomnia, I have a quiet house, and a brain that won't turn off.  So I will grace the world with my thoughts on being pregnant in Sierra Leone. :)  

I found out that I was pregnant a few days before we came back to Sierra Leone. SURPRISE!!!!  Unfortunately a few weeks after arriving in Sierra Leone I started having the same signs of miscarriage that I had with my last pregnancy.  Stink. Now what do I do?  This is where I saw part of the blessing of my previous miscarriage because I knew what the doctor had done in the States so I decided to do my best to replicate it here.  

The first thing I needed to do was to get some labs done.  There’s a specific lab (HCG) that they will check once, then check again in 48 hours to make sure it’s doubling.  This indicates that the pregnancy is growing.  But where in the world could I get this done here?  I asked around and found one lab in Freetown that said they could do it.  When we got the first result, it was very low for the number of weeks pregnant I was.  It didn’t look good.  When we went back to get the second set done, it had increased, but only a tiny bit, also not a good sign.  I was six weeks pregnant but the labs indicated that I should only be 2-3 weeks…..and baby didn’t seem to be growing the way he should.  By this point, thanks to my limited medical knowledge and Dr. Google, I had my diagnosis’ down to either a blighted ovum (where there is a sac, but no baby inside) or an ectopic pregnancy.  An ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus (usually in the fallopian tube).  And they kill women. 

I’d been having some right-sided abdominal pain, which is one of the signs of an ectopic, so I decided that I needed to get an ultrasound to rule that out.  This is where it got a little tricky.  I needed to find a place that 1. Had an ultrasound machine.  2. The machine wasn’t broken. 3. Had someone on duty that knew how to read an ultrasound.  A difficult trifecta.

We’d had some luck with a hospital about 2 ½ hours away, so Peter and I decided we’d give it a shot.  When we arrived, we went and bought our little registration card and got in line.  When my turn came to go talk to the triage nurse, they pointed to a chair about 15 feet away from the triage nurse.  The table where she was sitting was surrounded by other people (mostly men) all looking at me, waiting to find out why I was there.  HIPPA is not really a thing here. J 

I took a deep breath and started. “Ok….so I’m 7 weeks pregnant today and have been bleeding-“ She interrupts me.  “Ok, come closer to the table.”  Well that was good. The people around the table didn’t move, but at least I didn’t have to shout across the room now.  I explained my symptoms, showed her my lab results  and told here that I wanted to get an ultrasound.  She sent me to the pregnant lady section of the hospital.  After telling my story to several other people and waiting for a couple hours, it was our turn for the ultrasound.

I explained my concerns to the “doctor.”  He put the ultrasound probe on my stomach to look around.  To his credit, he was VERY patient.  He found the little sac, which was a relief because it meant it wasn’t in my tube (ectopic).  But as hard as he looked, he couldn’t find a heartbeat.  Finally he told me that I needed to come back in two weeks and they would try again.  I was only seven weeks and knew that the likelihood of seeing a heartbeat from an abdominal scan would be slim.  I hemmed and hawed a little bit and then asked if he could please try it the other way….the much more personal way.  He looked kind of startled but agreed.  I looked at the screen and immediately saw the little flicker of the heartbeat.  I .  Was. Shocked.  I had been SURE this was going to be another miscarriage! It felt SO much like my other one, and that, combined with my discouraging labs, made me blink twice when I saw that beautiful little flicker.  And all for the low cost of a $6 ultrasound!

The lack of medical care here has definitely been a challenge at times.  The lack of medical care…..and the lack of food.  Two biggest challenges. J  I recently found a new maternity clinic that opened up in Freetown so we went to check it out.  When the doctor started interviewing me, he asked about my pre-pregnancy weight and my current weight.  When I told him, he told me that I hadn’t gained enough weight and he wanted to see me gain some more before my next appointment.  I told him he was the first person to ever tell me that I needed to gain weight….and that I loved him.  I explained that I’d lost quite a bit at the beginning because I was so nauseated and unfortunately every food I wanted to eat was thousands of miles away. 

At one point I heard a rumor that Liberia had a McDonalds and BEGGED Peter to drive on over and pick some up for me.  He refused!  Might as well have since they would have been cold by the time they got back to Sierra Leone and everyone knows that MickyD’s fries are best when they are piping hot!

Because Ben came so early, I’ve been a little more nervous about this pregnancy than I was with Ben.  When I was pregnant with Ben, I had to go to the hospital at 22 weeks in order for them to stop my contractions.  So when I made it to 22 weeks with no contractions I was super excited!  Then they started at 23. L  They seemed like your typical Braxton hicks contractions. They would start when I was on my feet for long periods of time and would go away when I lay down.

Probably perfectly normal. But in the back of my mind was the constant worry of “what happens if they don’t stop like they didn’t with Ben?”  I have a plan. I had someone bring in the same medicines that they gave me in the hospital to stop my contractions with Ben.  I’ve known what I would do since I found out I was pregnant.  But when push came to shove, it was a little scarier when it looked like it might actually come to that. 

So many of you prayed for me and I am SO thankful!  After about a week and a half of having lots of contractions anytime I was up too much, the past week or so I’ve had almost none!! Such a blessing to not have to worry about that right now!  Thank you so much for praying!

Although there are some challenges with living here while pregnant, there are also some benefits! Like the fact that you have friends with their own portable ultrasound machines who come to your house to find out the gender of your baby.  And……It’s a GIRL!!  I was shocked! I was SO sure it was another boy that we already had a boy name picked out and no idea about a girl’s name! 

I’ll be coming home in a month or so with the kiddos and Peter will follow a few weeks later.  Thank you so much for those who have been praying for me and this little girl.  I’m so thankful that no matter what happens, we are safe in the palm of God’s hand. 


  1. A girl, congratulations!!!! I think of you and your pre-Peter work with laboring women. Now you are one of them (again!). :) So happy for you and Peter!

  2. Bravery suits you! Congratulations on expecting g a girl! I also am pleased that you keep your calm and can respond to your changing situation. Awesome to have friends who come completely equipped! Love and Blessings. Merry Christmas.