There’s a saying that bad things come in three and the past 2 weeks have taken this saying to heart. Since the infant death I wrote about earlier this month the midwives at Earth Birth have lost another baby and had to resuscitate another – whether or not that child will make it has yet to be determined, but if he does he will almost certainly have suffered from brain damage.
The second death happened earlier this week. An 18-year-old girl, pregnant with her first child, suffered through more than 36 hours of painful labor. She was so tiny in stature that it took her five hours to deliver the child. I left at this point when it became clear that the heart tones of the baby were dangerously low. When I woke up the next morning Rachel informed me that the baby boy had never breathed on his own. She and Olivia spent over two hours trying to resuscitate the baby, but nothing worked. The baby was not going to breathe on his own. The mother, referred to affectionately as Little Mama, is grief stricken and staying at the clinic for a few more days to handle the grief with more support than she will get from her husband at home – who, by the way, has been nowhere to be seen throughout the entire ordeal. While I’m glad I was spared the sight of the resuscitation, I still felt very much liked I had been punched in the stomach when Rachel told me what had happened. I went to bed fully expecting that the baby’s heart tones would regulate once the difficult labor was over – which I have seen happen in previous births here. I went to bed expecting to go see Little Mama in the clinic the next day, breastfeeding a baby.
Yesterday was the third, and hopefully the last, bad birth experience here. Another first time mother had been in labor for hours. I finished up whatever I had been working on in the kitchen and went down to the clinic to check the progress. When I pulled back the curtain to the delivery room I hadn’t known that the baby had already been born and that, like Little Mama’s baby, could not breathe on his own. A small, silent baby boy lay on his mother’s chest while Olivia went through the resuscitation process. It took me a minute to fully process what was happening, but left as soon as I figured it out. Olivia came to check on me later and told me that the baby had started breathing on his own, but it was touch and go from here. He had been deprived of oxygen for so long during delivery that if he does make it there is a distinct probability that he will have brain damage. Rachel transported the mother and baby to the hospital in Gulu yesterday afternoon, but I haven’t gotten the sense that there is much hope for him.
In the midst of all of these difficulties and losses, there has been one birth that has kept me marginally sane out here. On Saturday, a mother gave birth to her 4th baby – a girl, born breech and six weeks early. She weighs just 2kg! She was born feet first and experienced a lot of difficulty breathing in her first few hours, but she’s made such unbelievable strides as a premature baby born in a difficult setting. She needs to stay at the clinic until she puts on more weight, but she seems to be in the clear. After the past couple weeks here, we need success stories like this.