OkaZHI: Okanagan-Zambia Health Initiative

The Business of Being Born, Zambian Style

     There has been a crazy rollercoaster ride of emotions from a variety of experiences in our group during this first week of clinical here in Mongu, Zambia.  We would like to bring a smile to your face whilst you read about our week here.  Babies, babies, and more babies!  We spent our time in labor and delivery, watching over moms through their contractions and getting into the action helping midwives pop out babies.  When we say pop out babies, we literally mean pop out babies.  The maternity experience is so very different here it was almost hard for us to get our heads around it at first.  No one cries out.  A women could be having the worst possible labor contractions ever known to the world and she would not make a noise.  The women, even at the tender age of 14, are so stoic it is almost difficult to determine how much pain they are really in.  After awhile though, when you start to really watch them, you can tell.  Whether it was tense bodies, clenched teeth or concealing their faces, each women had her own way of showing pain, no matter how hard she tried to hide it.  There is absolutely no pain medication on the ward so women must labor through painful contractions on their own and without any family support.  The fathers are not allowed in the maternity ward and visitors of any kind are often frowned upon.  These women go through one of the most painful experiences of their lives in silence and alone but they seem to get through it just fine. 
     Surprisingly, we have seen very few complications and even during and after labor everything seems to happen so naturally.  Only midwives are present during a normal birth and there is very little Doctor support.  They run a very smooth ship!  The babies are pushed out much faster than we have seen in Canada and yet we did not see any vaginal tearing.  Moms get up and walk from the delivery room to their bed right after birth and breastfeeding just happens!  There is really no teaching required as their seems to be back home. 
     The babies don’t fuss either.  You may hear a cry or two when they first come into this world, but that is about it.  They settle in, content with being warm and next to mom.
     Our work on the ward brought a lot of happiness, as we got to watch and participate in the birth of new life.  When there is so much sadness and pain it is refreshing to witness the other side of that, to see the smiles on the new moms faces and to snuggle the tiny new lives.  Whether it be rubbing a mom’s back during painful contractions or holding her hand during delivery we were able to provide comfort and support during this special time.
———–Stephanie S. and Anna C.

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