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.