Birth and Gratitude

Our Big, Beautiful world and babies!! 

You guys… I saw a birth! I didn't know if it was going to happen while I was here because although many pregnant women come through they are only here for a few hours or a day or so. I have palpated bellies and listened to heart tones and given reassurance where I could. I have seen a few newly postpartum women and checked for infection and provided well baby check ups. I did a night shift in the family compound in Moria, an area designated for families. We had a busy shift and were steady all night. Not crazy busy but no one was sleeping. :) we had about 10 mins of quiet, just enough time to close our eyes. I opened mine quite quickly when the clinic door opened. I heard a woman making a very familiar sound, and watched her lean over and clutch her tightening belly. Needless to say I shot up and welcomed her. Then I said to the Doctors on shift, I think we will probably need to go. After watching the 2nd contraction my hypothesis was confirmed. haha!  I asked the mother, who is from Afghanistan, how many babies she has and Anissa (not her real name) said this is her second. She wasn't speaking english and I wasn't speaking farsi, but we were communicating. I said, I think your baby is coming and we should go to the hospital. She nodded and I knew we should hurry it along. Anissa was stoic and yet I could tell she was well on her way. The hospital is about 20 mins away. We called MSF(Doctors without Borders) and had their farsi translator speak with the father, Salam(not his real name) and Anissa to let them know we think we should head to hospital and ask if they had any questions. They were on board and we headed out in Dr. Clarissa’s car. Strangely Clarissa and I had already dubbed ourselves the dream team as she is an Urologist  and I am a midwife :) She was happy to drive, while I sat in the back seat in case I had to catch the baby on the way. Equipped with a few gloves, some towels, and a bulb syringe, which I rarely use but I grabbed it none the less. I thought we might have a car birth, and I know mama was holding baby in so we could make it to hospital. I am sure the car rental place is appreciative. We made it to the hospitaland we were told to sit in the hallway. Anissa was working hard and contractors were every 2 minutes. We waited for the doctor to come and check in but no one came and about 10 mins in, she looked at me, she really LOOKED at me. I said is the baby coming, she nodded. Clarissa grabbed a nurse and we walked down the hall to a room. Then her water broke and the baby came, she was holding tight onto our hands and the Greek staff wanted us out - we held on as long as we could. We saw the baby come and be held upside down and then put into a warmer. Anissa did amazing and Clarissa and I were shoed out of the room. 5 mins later we saw Anissa shuffling down the hall we cheered and greeted her with huge smiles and hugs! She was so happy. We tucked her into bed and went to find Salam who was with their 2 year old son and unable to come in to room with him. We made it work and gave Salam some time with Anissa, it took almost 2 hours to get mom and baby reunited, but they were. Both Anissa and Baby girl are HAPPY AND HEALTHY!! 

They took the ferry the next day to Athens. Many amazing volunteers came together to get this family some resources and their birth certificate, discharged,  to the ferry and a hotel once they arrived in Athens and some money. It was beautiful to be a part of the safety net we cast around this lovely family. When I came by to see them off, Anissa said she didn't want to leave with out saying goodbye and thank you. She told me she would pray for me everyday and that I was sent from God. You guys, all I did was hold her hand and show her kindness. That is all. Anyone would do the same and many did. While I was chatting with Anissa and a doctor that spoke some farsi, someone asked if I wanted a picture and I thought I better not. Then Anissa asked if she could take a photo with me and the baby because she didn't want to forget. She was happy to have our picture taken and since it was her idea, I am happy to have it! Thanks to Maria our lovely Greek doctor that helped with all the paperwork, and the many, many translators that stepped in and to the doctors, nurses and midwives that gave money and support. It was beautiful. As I walked the family out of camp where a ride to the ferry, we held hands and I could feel the gratitude, pride and hope this family felt I knew it was a win for humanity. Love wins.

xo, Nicole

Live from Lesbos.

Live from Lesbos!

Hi - Live from Greece! 

I have been struggling with where to start… I am quite convinced I am not going to say anything to change anyone’s mind about the politics of this crisis, nor do I have any solutions to offer. It is so much to grapple with and honestly I feel like I know less now than ever. I am here as a midwife and for that I am so grateful. 

 I love being a midwife because it is such a beautiful lens to stand behind. I’m here for the mothers and their babies, the families… it is the “happy” in this difficult situation. I am not saying it isn’t heart-wrenching, because it certainly is. Heart-wrenching. Can your heart be swollen? Because that is how mine feels. Both big and broken at the same time. Maybe humanity shows its best and worst in times of crisis.

I have had the pleasure of seeing many pregnant women. I wish I could explain to you how eager they are to hear their babies’ heartbeats. It is etched in my memory bank, the look of relief and joy. One mother was so pleased she kissed me. She said thank you so earnestly that it made me unsteady on my feet. I felt dizzy from her gratitude. I wanted to imagine she was going home to a warm bed and not to a tent, I wanted to pretend this would all be over for her and she wouldn't have her baby on the road.  

But she will have this baby on the road, she is 37 weeks along, this baby will come soon. It is a lot. Too much. I’d love to tell you about David. He grew up in Iran and moved to Afghanistan. He is 28, well educated and on his way to Germany to be with his sister. In Iran and Afghanistan he has spoken out against ISIS and the Taliban and has been captured and held several times. He left 2 weeks ago and just made it to Greece. He walked into the medical tent where I was working because he heard we might need help translating. We did need help, and his Farsi and Arabic translations made the shift much smoother. He was kind and gentle. 

David has endured far too much in his life. All of us, the doctors, nurses, and shift coordinators all sat in a circle and heard his story. Someone asked him what we could do to help, he replied “Do you know what dua is?” and our coordinator Sagel replied “Yes, it’s prayer.” Everyone had tears in their eyes, he simply wants a better, safer homeland for the next generation. Less war and more opportunity. Me too, David. 

I have had some lighthearted adventures as well. On my day off I went north to explore some other refugee camps and had a beautiful road trip. Lesvos is so gorgeous! I got pretty lost a few times and driving a stick on switchback mountain roads can grind on your gears.. Pun intended. ha!  

I spent the day volunteering with one of my favorite organizations here- Dirty Girls of Lesvos!  Wait for it… They do laundry! They take the dirty clothes and blankets and wash them, then restock the clothing centers on the island. That way they reuse and recycle as opposed to bringing more stuff onto the island. Most of the refugees are very wet and cold when they reach the shore and having clean, dry items ready is vital. And because I volunteered with them I am officially a Dirty Girl of Lesvos! 

I am happy to be in Sappho Square writing to you. I have a 8 year old pup at home named Sappho, named after the Greek poet that lived here on this very island during Antiquity. I love being in her homeland. I love Greece. I love the happy kids playing with balloons, oblivious to what is happening around them. My swollen heart hopes they all make it home soon. It’ll be a new home and I hope it is welcoming, safe and filled with love.

Thank you all so much for supporting me and this journey.

xo,

Nicole

Birth Connects Us All | Headed to Lesbos

I am in the airport leaving Paris and headed towards Lesbos, Greece. I have loved my days in Paris- this is the first time I am able to spend my birthday (which falls on New Years day) in Paris and it was a dream come true! I loved stumbling into beautiful cathedrals and checking out ancient art and being in the city of LOVE. But my heart has always been counting down the days I get to depart for the real reason for this journey.

 I can't wait to work as a midwife in the refugee camps and help COHI establish community partners on the ground in Lesbos. I have always thought being a midwife is the coolest job in the world. I mean it. It is sweetness! It can be hard and tiring and even scary sometimes but it makes so much sense to me! Birth connects us all, we have all been born. Birth happens even in refugee camps, even in war zones, even in boats fleeing a war torn country.

I have seen a lot of babies be born. I am lucky for that! In cozy yurts in northern California, dung huts in east Africa, cute cottages in Northern Michigan and rural hospitals in Haiti. Every single mother wants her baby safe, every single baby wants to be nestled in their mamas arms. I am grateful to COHI for knowing the time is now to bring in help to Lesbos. Women and children make up 80% of refugees worldwide. We are hearing that there are many pregnant, newly birthed and birthing women making their journey to safety. Let’s go ease their minds and give them the kind of care midwives are known for.

"Midwives are the warriors on the front line of healthcare, battling to ensure that women survive childbirth and that babies are born safely even in the most marginalized areas." - World Health Organization

I will check in soon! Thank you for all your support and love. I am grateful for the opportunity!

xo,

Nicole

Nicole blogs for Everymothercounts.org

http://blog.everymothercounts.org/tag/nicole-white-cpm/

Nicole Marie White is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and activist who spent some time recently teaching and delivering babies in Uganda. 

For more than a decade, Nicole has caught babies in a variety of settings, in various cities, and in several languages around the world. With experience in 1000 births, Nicole is committed to spreading the midwifery model of care to underserved communities globally and locally.  

Since Nicole spent some time recently teaching and delivering babies in Uganda, a country she knows that EMC is invested in too, she shared a blog with us about her experiences: 

Nicole White, CPM

I recently spent 3 months in Uganda volunteering with Mother Health International, where I practiced and taught the craft of midwifery. My students were from East Africa, the USA and around the globe. My teaching partners and fellow midwives were local, traditional midwives from Uganda and the surrounding area. The birth center where I practiced is 20 miles south of South Sudan. Many of the women served are refugees, internally displaced and/or recently resettled. This mission serves many women and babies as well as training more midwives.

Many of the births were straight-forward and many were tough. Working in a rural setting three hours away from a hospital changes the way you can practice. My partners and I had several babies that required help getting started in life after their births. For example, one baby had been a particularly tight fit.  He had a complication called a shoulder dystocia (his shoulders got stuck in mom’s birth canal).  It took changing mom’s position and some midwifery techniques to release his arm, but finally, he was born, floppy and not breathing. We started neonatal resuscitation, giving breaths with a bag and mask.  Finally his big brown eyes peeled open, and when he began to fight with me, I knew this little fellow was going to be ok. I told him with love and a bit of feistiness that he was to start breathing. He didn’t let go of my gaze and he came through. I was so happy to pass him up to his mother’s breast and once he gained momentum, he was golden. 

I learned so much from the traditional midwives and showed them a few of our western midwifery tricks too – what a gift to swap tricks of the trade with these seasoned veterans of birth.

A full solar eclipse occurred while I was staying in Uganda and we could see it from the compound. What a treat to watch the funky shadows dance across the birth center. People that live in the surrounding area were all gathered together and we cut circles in paper and put water in basins and watched the moon shadow the sun. Our rock star translator, Christine, a Ugandan midwifery student, had on big round circle earrings and it was magical to watch them shrink into crescent moon shapes in shadow against the wall of the birth center. We sang and danced and felt a deep sense of celebration. The smiles were big and beautiful. A new mama and her babe as well as a laboring mama were all part of the crew circling around.

The week of the eclipse brought a sweet surprise of twins! The mother walked to the birth center in labor from a neighboring district around 3 miles away. Anna, our awesome new midwife from Germany, did the initial assessment and thought we had twins in there! She was correct! In some parts of Uganda and east Africa, culturally you are not supposed to tell a mom there are twins even after the first baby comes.  So, we kept it quiet. Our traditional midwife, Karmela, had the mama supported in her arms and was very sweet! Karmela is known to be a tough midwife when she needs to be and she was so sweet with this mama. It was a joy to watch the twin mama take respite in the arms of Karmela. Everything was perfect so Sarah, a student midwife from Nashville, caught the first babe and baby two (who was head down) was caught by new midwife, Anna. Born on either side of midnight, the babies had different birthdays and were delivered by different midwives. It was a treat for Julia and I as the senior midwives to manage the sweet, low-key, straightforward birth! We joked that this one was one of the least complicated births in awhile. So sweet!

The mama did amazing and she nursed her babies perfectly right away. Every time I walked in to the birthing room over the next few days (which was often) mama was smiling and nursing. I spent the next night in the birth center and heard her nursing and cooing all the night. What a gift for those sweet babies! Dad was relaxed and happy when he visited too. They stayed with us at the center and were back to birth weight and gaining by day 5 postpartum. We did home visits to weigh the babies and the traditional midwife from her area checked in as well. I am grateful for the sweet, smooth beginning for these two lovely girls. Their powerful mother and community will help them thrive. Training more midwives is the best, cheapest, and simplest way to improve mortality rates for women and babies worldwide.

 

 

Taste of Haiti

As I look forward to my next adventure, I can’t help but look back at one of my greatest leaps to date. The beginning is a poem I wrote in Haiti and the rest are little tidbits of stories from my 2 months in Haiti.


The mystery doesn’t hide in Haiti, she cuddles up next to you giving you sweet dreams and nightmares. She holds me close, not out of extra love or extra malice, purely out of expectation.
She wants all of me. And when I drown, I surrender to her.
She can’t understand why I haven’t learned to fly yet. She says that is way easier than drowning.
I daydream here and get beautiful, wild visions, my dreams are of me being pulled closer to the truth. For birth, that which is sacred is always there. I can’t feed all the hungry children here, I can’t save all the moms. I don’t always know what to do, or how to do it. I drown, everyday! I hold my breath and drown.


I want to do more, love better, give everything. Like I said, I am not sure what I’m supposed to be doing, but I sure am in a hurry to do it.

Some Tidbits-
My ego is getting a bit of a bashing. The births in Haiti are not easy.
Returning to my center and surrendering to the grace of it. Not allowing myself to compete or battle. Just being a quiet observer (me, quiet??) to it. Humbling, midwifery always humbling. I know that is a gift. I also know the spirit of birth is never lost on me. The essence is part of who I am. I will be graceful. I also know life is full of love, so really there is no battle besides the one within myself. And I think I’m ready to put the sword down and surrender.

Mo money no problems….

So, I went to change money into Haitian dollars, I was with one of our slick translators. He pulls up to the side of the road to a guy with a brief case. It is FULL of money… thousands and thousands of American dollars. I ask, how does he stay protected?

My friend Emmanuel replies, that man has an ak47 strapped to his back.
Oh, that’ll do it!
No bank. No problem….

I went dancing Friday night, kompa and salsa all partner dancing. Everyone here seems to know how to dance. People trade partners and just dance, so fun! I live with 2 women that are Haitian midwives both beautiful and smart and it’s great to get to know them.

We have translators for all our shifts and we take the pink jeep out to remote villages and do prenatal care and give talks on emergency and when to go to hospital. The women dress up and are so proud to get their prenatal vitamins! Did a hospital shift yesterday. Um, twins and breech!!! Full on chest compressions with breech less than four pounds each but they seem sturdy. Wow! The mama was a tenth timer and came in because her feet were swollen. Blood pressure of 240 over 150. What?! All well, miraculously.

I have a kitty on my lap. Her name is Ina may. :) kitties can be food here so we kinda saved her. I am sure it’s not recommended to house stray cats! But I am in love, she is sweet and feisty. My favorite combo.

It’s really pretty here. I’m not sure what I was reading about. There has been some heavy shit, don’t get me wrong. Heavy!!! But the light shines through the darkness.

Almost doesn’t count

Everything was going along swimmingly, until I had a terrible asthma attack. Northern Uganda is dusty and the burning grass didn’t help either. I was scared. Not being able to breath is an awful feeling. I made it through promising myself if I have another attack, I’d leave. I tracked down a nebulizer machine from a pharmacist and did my best to curtail the symptoms. Of corse with no time to slow down- we had babies, babies, babies and a traditional midwife meeting where we did a workshop on third stage and I didn’t want to miss the dance party!

A few evenings later I woke up in the middle of the night fighting to catch my breath. Bummer. With no time to think about it, I was up and at the birth center waiting on a baby. We ended up having to transport the mama postpartum on a motorcycle to the health clinic. So, I hopped on the back holding her in and covered my mouth to lessen the dust and rode away. I ended up doing 4 motorcycle trips back and forth on the dusty rode that day.
This was Friday and I changed my plane ticket for Monday

I made my way through Uganda using public transportation over 10 hours on the road- buses, motorcycles (with my bags!) and taxis. Phew and I felt ok. I could breath and eat and I was relieved. Albeit sad to be leaving 3 weeks early. Of corse I didn’t know I was about to get even sicker- thankfully, I made it back to Michigan before I spent the next 3 weeks in bed with Malaria.

I keep thinking about a trip to Jamaica I took. I had walked to the bay and was perched on a wall about 4 feet high feeling scared to jump. No real reason but I was hesitating. Next thing I knew, a young teenage boy was running towards me and offered a hand. I denied him. Because I was embarrassed and wanting to concur the jump myself. He ran away and I didn’t think much of it because I was too worried thinking about myself and how silly I was being afraid to jump. I did it and went straight for the sea and dove in. The kids dad came up to me and told me I broke his sons heart- he said those words! I broke his heart! He said in his culture when someone offers help, you accept! I was taken a back and felt horrible. I was the coward twice that day- for being afraid of a little wall and being too proud to accept the sweet help of a teenage boy. I did walk up to him, and looked him in the eye and said “I am so sorry I didn’t take your hand, it was because I was embarrassed for being scared so instead I made you feel bad. I am really sorry and I hope it doesn’t stop you from offering help to the next person that needs it. ” I feel like the memory of him beaming towards me with his out reached hand and then devastated running back to his family will be with me forever.


God, I hope I never do that again! And I hope you don’t either. It’s really a gift to help each other. And be helped. If I learned anything from malaria it’s we need help sometimes. I need help, maybe a lot. I hope if someone asks for help, you do it! I hope I do it! I hope If someone calls and asks for a ride from the airport you go. Even if it’s inconvenient- I truly believe some of the most magic moments are when life takes us off corse and out of our comfort zone and even when life inconveniences us.

I’m in Traverse City for the next few months, recouping amongst the big trees and beautiful lake. I’m writing and walking in the woods. I’m going to home births and working with a sweet midwife. Uganda was so good to me, despite the malaria and I feel lucky to have landed back in one of the most beautiful spots in the country.

Thank you for sharing in this journey with me!
And I’m sure more stories will continue to emerge.

xo
Much love,
Nicole

Uganda Do It!

I took a road trip to Gulu, a city about 3 hours south of the compound. Anna, a midwife from Germany, and I sat in the back of a pick up for the dusty, bumpy, loud road trip.
We had big bags of flour and sim sim (sesame seeds) and 3 other passengers on the way there, and the way home was even crazier with big poles… See pics! Anna was extreme beading in the back of the truck. I could do nothing but stare at the landscape passing by and daydream.

Anna extreme beading on back of the truck

I so needed a break from the compound. I love baby catching! I really do, but I am a bit ADD for only being at a birth center. Back home, I catch a baby in the morning and have band practice that night. Or take my dog to the river and walk for miles. Or meet friends for cocktails. Or go to dance class, or… Here it’s babies, babies, babies. I’m so grateful for my full, diverse life back home.


We got pizza one night in Gulu. Pizza. And Beer.
Let that sink in.


After beans n rice for months I can’t tell you how good it was! And then I took a motorcycle ride during sunset back to the hotel. The sky was on fire. So magnificent. I was so happy on the back of that bike. Staring at the sky. What a lovely moment in my life. Simple, pure. Full from all the hard work and enjoying a break. Beer. Pizza. Sky. Adventure… Needed it.

The way home fell on Scott’s birthday. I had 3 hours to think of him and miss him. We were chasing a rainbow a majority of the way home and then the huge full moon rose from behind the mountains.  Nothing big. But somehow feeling part of everything made me just want to harness this life even more. The magic. The heartache. How they fold into each other. Could we have the magic without the heartache? Having lost my mom and Scott too soon make both the magic and the heartache bigger. I’d take them both back in a second and give up the magic. I would. But since I can’t, I will savor the moments I feel connected to everything and strive to love more, give it all away. For them. For me. For the magic and the heartache.

Critter corner:
Warning! If you are my dad or sister or the worrying type, don’t read-
Snake in the birth center!
One that if it bit you, you wouldn’t make it to the town center! 2 miles away! Whaaaaaa? Needless to say, I’m carrying my light everywhere I go!

Oh, and I know I contradicted myself in the blog- I said I don’t like telling other women’s stories then turned around and told the twin’s story. Well, it’s easier for me to tell someone else’s good story. And she said I could. But still I know, I contradicted myself. Life is a series of contradictions. Thankfully!!!

Stay tuned! I got an asthma attack and a traditional midwife meeting to fill you in on!

More soon! xo
Love,

Nicole

Uganda Do It! Eclipse Twins

A Full solar eclipse occurred in Uganda and we could see it from the compound. What a treat to watch the funky shadows dance across the  birth center. People that live in the surrounding area were all gathered together and we cut circles in paper and put water in basins and watched the moon shadow the sun. Our rock star translator Ugandan Midwife student Christine had on big round circle earrings and it was magical to watch them shrink into crescent moon shapes in shadow against the wall of the birth center.

We sang and danced and felt a deep sense of celebration. The smiles were big and beautiful. A new mama and her babe as well as a laboring mama were all part of the crew circling around.
The week of the eclipse brought a sweet surprise of twins!


The mother walked to the birth center in labor from a neighboring district around 3 miles away. Anna our awesome student/new midwife from Germany did the initial assessment and she thought we had twins in there! She was correct! Julia one of our senior midwives checked and mama was complete. In some parts of Uganda and east Africa, culturally, you are not supposed to tell a mom there are twins even after the first babe comes! So, we kept it quiet. Our traditional midwife Karmela had the mama supported in her arms and was very sweet! Karmela is known to be a tough midwife when she needs to be and she was so sweet with this mama. It was a joy to watch the twin mama take respite in the arms of Karmela. Everything was perfect so Sarah, a sweet senior student from Nashville, caught first babe and head down baby two was caught by Senior student/new midwife, Anna! And the babies had different birthdays! Each a different midwife and birthday. It was a treat for Julia and I, as the senior midwives, to manage the sweet, low key, straight forward birth! We joked that this one was one of the least complicated births in awhile. So sweet!


The mama did amazing! And she nursed her babies right away and perfectly. Every time I walked in to the birthing room over next few days (which was a lot) mama was smiling! And nursing!!! I spent the next night in the birth center and heard her nursing and cooing all the night. What a gift for those sweet babies! Dad was relaxed and happy when he visited too. They were back to birth weight and gaining by day 5 postpartum. We will be doing home visits to weigh the babes and have the traditional midwife from her area check in also. Grateful for the sweet, smooth beginning for these two lovely girls. Powerful mother and community will help them thrive.

Can you tell I am in love?
More soon!
Love,
Nicole

Uganda Do It! Update #3

Sometimes, I don’t have awesome days. Sometimes, I’m hungry. Sometimes, I’m sleep deprived. Sometimes, I’m Annoyed at how long everything takes here. FOREVER. Seriously.

Loooooooooooong. Everything!

And some days, my heart feels busted open from all the beauty and love and LIFE.
Sometimes, I’m blown open.


Last week I had such a day. I cried when I saw a beautiful woman walking in a green and yellow dress to the water well. She was singing and it was soul stirring lovely. Ridiculously gorgeous. The sun was shining just so. The light was bright, but welcoming. I stepped outside and closed my eyes, letting the sound of her sweet voice and the touch of the hot sun hit me. I Melted.
I cried when I saw a kid around 12, with tattered shorts and no shoes, playing a 20 oz bottle with a stick. Making music. His rhythm was loud, he didn’t miss an iPod. He was lost in his own song.
I cried when I remembered I’m exactly where I want to be. I chose to come here. I need to remind myself some days, when it feels hard or long or tiring or all of the above, that I’m here for but a blink and by choice.

It’s hard for me to share the intimate details of other people’s stories without it feeling exploitive somehow. One of the most cherished aspects of midwifery for me is that we are able to experience such a deep and intimate space. But it also makes me feel protective. I remember telling some crazy stories after Haiti and having people repeat or share and me wanting to protest or say but, but, but.. Don’t judge- there’s so much more than this one story – there’s so much more! That is why I hesitate to reveal another woman’s story: it’s just not mine to tell.
I will say I’m learning a lot about my craft. Having students has taught me so much! I have to be sure footed(handed?) all the time. And you know what? I like that midwife me better! Even if I’m not exactly sure, I move. I move without looking over my shoulder to see if I’m “right.” I’ve navigated small adolescent pelvises with broad shouldered babies. Thick meconium and floppy babies(too many)~ I’ve watched traditional midwifes catch babies and loved seeing how much we are all the same. Midwives, women- humanity! We are all so much more alike than different. I love us! People! We are part of the beauty of this place. We are part of the ugly too, but we hear about that so much. bad guys vs good guys, big business vs small business and even where I’m from, football games- Michigan vs Michigan State? Maybe we need an enemy? Something to fight against? I will say, I love us. People. I love watching a new mama take in her baby or a papa making the proud call to his own father, all of it! We are the beauty! We are the love.

Bug bite update: I’m quite sure the *spider venom scare was merely a cold coming on. Sigh. But as to not lose my street cred(or hut cred?), I did see a scorpion! And you know what’s so cool (ha!) about Michigan in January?  No bugs! Can’t wait.

More soon! xo
Love,
Nicole

Uganda do it! Update #2

There are fireflies here, which are a sweet reminder of Michigan summers. The thunder storms are still coming on a daily basis, and the midday sun is beginning to gain some strength; foreshadowing what is to come in the dry season. Hotness.

The full moon brought a few babies, and the cool part was when I walked back to my hut, I didn’t even need my light to see the snakes, I had the moonlight!


Oh, the babies! They have been teaching me a lot of lessons. There have been several resuscitations. One baby came out so floppy. No breathe. When his big brown eyes were starting to peel open, when he began to fight with me, I knew all was going to be ok with this little fellow. I told him with love and a bit of feistiness that he was to start breathing. He didn’t let go of my gaze every time his eyes fluttered open, and he came through. I was oh so happy to pass him up to his mother’s breast, and once he gained momentum, he was golden. I’m learning so much from the traditional midwives and showing a few of our western tricks to help too – what a lovely combination. What a gift to swap tricks of the trade with these seasoned veterans of birth.
It hasn’t been all work… We walked to the market. And hitched a ride home on an 18-wheeler!  The Chinese engineering company, here to build the road to Sudan and beyond, stopped and we piled in. Two American midwife students, a traditional midwife from the village, two Ugandan midwife/ translators, and I! Ha! The Chinese engineer didn’t speak much English, but he did ask me to come home with him. Not only did I get propositioned, but it was without a doubt the most comfortable ride I’ve had while in Uganda. Air condition! And leg room! Overall, a success!

Now for the bug bite update: one of the handy men swept my hut of all the spider webs because it was getting out of control. I woke up several nights with bites and scares… one night, I woke up with burning liquid sliding down my throat and I was convinced that it was either 1) spider venom that was going to kill me or 2) spider venom that was going to kill me! sigh. Turns out, I made it! Off to Acholi language class. I suppose I need to learn how to say more than Awoobi (boy).

More soon! xo
Love,
Nicole

UGANDA DO IT!

My hundred days at a birth center in East Africa.

The stars! I’ve never seen a sky so bright and full, and since it’s the rainy season there hasn’t been a night when lightening didn’t blanket the horizon. I swear my hut shakes with the thunder. I live in a straw hatched roof hut that has a dung floor. Yep, dung. I am happy to have my own little pink hut. There have been 8 babies since I arrived a week ago. 2 girls and 6 boys. Boys are called awoobis here! And ever since I learned the word for boy, nothing else has been born into my hands. I love awoobis! And girls too, but awoobis! The births have been intense, but I guess I was prepared for that…

The 8 hour car ride north from Kampala to the birth center took me through a national forest, which proved just as majestic as I hoped. Little white monkeys! And Baboons! And the NILE which was white watered and beautiful. It curved through villages and was so bumpy, rough and ragged. The terra cotta red earthed road takes you clear through Sudan and up to Egypt if you followed it.

There is a well on the compound. Which means that many people from surrounding villages come to gather drinking water. It is solar powered like the rest of the center. Watching people gather around the water cooler here is much different from back home! Ladies carry gallons and gallons on their head as do little girls as young as five!  My hut has no connection to the solar power so I have a lot of candle lit evenings with a book, until I get the knock to come greet a baby.

Before I go on getting all romantic, keep in mind I have to squat to use the bathroom and my body is riddled with spider and flea bites. Not to mention the killer mosquitos! I was also wandering around the compound at night in the dark and a Ugandan midwife told me to carry a light so I could see the snakes! Got it. Light! Also, the shower is cold and the food is rice and beans or beans and rice.
I haven’t eaten fruit since I arrived besides bananas and some delicious passion fruit juice in the AM. Ok, it’s not so bad.

My heart is beaming with gratitude. I am in Africa! I am catching babies!

More soon! xo
Love,
Nicole