This month I had triplets! Can you imagine the challenge and the joy to receive not one nor two but three babies into this world? Of course in the developed world this would most likely have been the result of assisted reproduction methods and most certainly be delivered by elective c/section. With an operating theatre full of medical staff, technology and equipment you would have missed out on the miracle of mother nature who reminds me time and again of her incredible capacity to get things right. A twin pregnancy had already been confirmed but we weren’t expecting number three! After the first little girl had been born weighing 1.7kg. with no problems and a healthy cry we listened and examined for number two. I commented that her abdomen seemed quite large and was therefore a little nervous of number two who was presenting as a breech( bum first) “ I suppose there could be three!” I exclaimed jokingly. We decided to have a look with our portable scanner. We were all surprised to find two heads and not one but most of all the mother! She would pass from being mum to 2 directly to mum to 5! Number two was soon out, a little more complicated and in need of some resuscitation, but a healthy 2.5kg. So where was the last one? With the two girls out little brother put his head down and was easily pushed out by his very strong and capable mum. At just 1.4kg I wondered how he would fare. Two hours later mum was up and in the shower to wash both herself and her dirty linen. I called for her ‘guardian’ (her mother) to come and help though I’m sure she would have managed quite well on her own! Through a translator I was able to make her understand that I would support her to raise these children under the condition that she spent some days in our ‘kangaroo care room’ until the littlest one was beginning to gain weight and become strong. She agreed. And so it was that both mother and grandmother spent 10 days carrying the little ones on their chests ensuring then warmth the close physical contact most needed for them to thrive. Eventually the women started becoming anxious and impatient to get home. I finally discharged them last Tuesday with the little boy now weighing 1.550kg. It was necessary to supplement her breast milk with some formula milk ( after all we women only have two breasts!) It is rather expensive and totally unaffordable for most of our women. I promised we would visit 2 days later and bring more milk. So we set off this afternoon to try and find them! Linda from MUM’S RECIPES,(one of my present sponsors) came too as she has been closely involved over the past months in following up the orphans and needy babies from our nursery. Doreen (Lucas’ nanny) was there as our reliable translator so that meant that Luki came too. As usual for first visits it proved to be much further away than we thought! After passing through the densely populated outskirts of the city, almost slum conditions, we ventured into the more rural area. Eventually we picked up a local guy who knew where they lived. I guess that there are not so many families around with three new babies! It’s not uncommon when asking for directions, especially in the more outlying districts, for some totally unknown local (or two) to jump in the car to show you the way! It took some getting used to on my part, especially the smells that often accompany them! We arrived at her mud hut. It was very obvious from the start that this was one of the poorest areas. Accompanied by what seemed like the whole village both adults and children we entered in side to greet Agness and her babies. I am pleased to say they were all looking remarkably good. Wrapped up in a huge number of brightly coloured local cloths they felt warm and snug. She was looking after the babies well. We watched how the tiny boy suckled strongly at her breast,( In Europe he would probably still be in and incubator) and I checked that she was mixing the milk powder correctly and with some level of hygiene. Whilst we were there a young girl who looked about 8 but was actually 11 years old entered the hut carrying a small baby on her back. We were informed that it was her baby brother, that she could not go to school as she had to look after the baby since their mother died of Cholera 2 months ago. And so it goes on. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look there is need . So much need. Real genuine need. Linda will organize a visit to the family to find out the whole situation and assess how we can help. We cannot turn our backs for Malawi is full of orphans, Malawi is full of poverty but we can do our best.
Having written so long and so detailed of my triplets I will just try and summarize other events....
Labour ward is still busy, happy, sad, frustrating, squashed, smelly, fun, challenging, depressing, dramatic and unacceptably dirty....but I love it!
The new unit at Bwaila is almost finished so we will very soon be handing it over to the District Health Authority.
The container of equipment has arrived from Norway. The furniture and other materials are ordered. Some is being made here in Malawi.
I will begin the training and team building of the new staff next week. I have been encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by midwifery colleagues recently.
There is only one more week of school for Lucas before the start of the long holidays. He will be in Spain for 5 weeks with his Dad in that time.
I will be coming to Europe at the end of July for a break before returning for to Bwaila for the opening of the new unit
Having ‘lost my way’ for a time last week, with profound feelings of confusion and hopelessness I am now more positive and balanced.
.....This is the first challenge, to keep ourselves up. To stand upright for a reason.