Monthly Archives: April 2009

Catching babies in West Africa

From a LEAPYEAR student who has been working alongside midwives in Ghana, West Africa in the final days of her internship.

I am writing you with only one week left in Ghana. It has been such an incredible adventure, I feel truly changed and moved by the experiences I have had and the lessons I have learned along the way. Although things started out a little rocky with my relationship to Ghana, I think we have come to a pretty good compromise, and I feel true affection and respect for this country that I have spent the last ten weeks exploring. There are many aspects of Ghana that I still don’t fully understand or agree with, but there are some truly striking and special aspects that have deeply touched me and brought me to realize how beautiful and vibrant the people and culture are.

Last Friday the tenth I was able to catch two babies in the labor ward of the hospital I have been working in. It was a hectic afternoon at the hospital, with all the beds in the delivery and labor rooms full (nine beds in total), and only one fully qualified midwife and one in training. I was shadowing the senior midwife for the afternoon whose name is Christine and who has been practicing for over fifteen years. She is a tall, strong, and graceful woman of over fifty who wears a lace head cap, small eye glasses, and pale blue scrubs. She has taken me under her wing for the past week or so and invited me to get more involved in some of the births by shadowing her… As soon as she came into the hospital, there were already a couple of women ready to move to second stage. She brought a young woman named Rose into the delivery room and told me to glove up and put a plastic apron over my white scrubs. And then I was catching the fuzzy head of a baby girl and Christine was talking me through the motions of delivering the body, and starting up the beautiful slippery bundle I held in my hands. When she let out a strong cry, I couldn’t believe the miracle I had just witnessed. I have seen over twenty births since coming to Ghana, and yet being the one to catch this young soul was the most incredible sensation. Baby Rose was born a healthy 3.1kg and her mother recovered from the delivery quickly .

I caught another baby only forty minutes later. A big baby boy with a head full of curly hair. I didn’t even have time to be coached through this birth, because I walked into the labor room only in time to see one of the first stageĀ women named Comfort, with the head already protruding. I had already delivered the rest of his body before Christine came rushing in, beaming at me and laughing as I held his little body in my hands. I assisted with four other births that afternoon, and the whole experience was truly magical. I have been surrounded by birth and babies throughout my time in Ghana, but it was my deepest wish that I would be able to deliver a baby before I left. I have been riding the rush of joy I got from the experience and I feel so grateful to have been able to share such a sacred moment with those two women and their newborn babies.

With only one week left, I am realizing how much Ghana has permeated me. I have come to truly love this country, in spite of some of the resistance I felt in the first few weeks of living here. There are many practices in the hospital that have disturbed me and made me question my own beliefs and how I can influence those of others in a conscious and aware way. Being met with so much need and sometimes desperation in the patients of La General Hospital has made me examine what I want my role to be in the realm of medicine in the developing world. I recently read a beautiful book by Tracy Kidder called Mountains Beyond Mountains that was recommended and gifted to me a few weeks ago. It is about an Infectious Disease specialist Paul Farmer, who takes third world medicine on as his life’s passion and work. It is a truly inspiring and moving tale. I realize that one of the reasons that I came to Ghana and decided to work in a hospital around birth is because I wanted to see whether this is a part of my life that I want to pursue. The joy and accomplishment I have experienced in the process has revealed that working around medicine could be a deeply gratifying field of work for me, and that there is nothing more rewarding than working for those who truly need your services. I am still not completely sure how it will play out in my future, but midwifery and medicine are both passions that I hope to pursue and I am so grateful to this experience for illuminating the joy that I can gain from helping others.

All that said, I am so excited to be returning home soon. This has been a very full experience, and I have been so saturated in babies and birth that I am running the risk of trying to bring one home with me if I stay much longer. I am looking forward to continuing my education with a new angle on what I want out of my life and where I am headed.