Today is International Day of the Midwives. For those who don’t know, I am a Midwife.
Back in Nursing School
As a student, I hated Midwifery with a passion, and our Midwifery I and II lecturer did not help my case. Studying embryology was just too complicated for me and my first day experience in labor ward was the last nail on the coffin.
So I tricked my way through my midwifery sessions in nursing school. I only passed my assessment by God’s grace but the events of that day are still fresh in my mind. I used the same tricks to get through my four weeks placement during internship.
My First Job
I was assigned a preceptor, Ombati, who was meant to show me the ropes of working at the unit. We had a good run on the days he showed up to work, and it is safe to say that I learnt a lot from him.
But for the first few weeks I suffered from Impostor Syndrome. I was not good at this and I knew it. Mainly because I had not done enough practice when I was supposed to. Also KNH being the national referral, we would always have the complicated cases. Since I was here and I needed the wage, I embraced the situation and opened myself to learning.
Becoming a Midwife
The first few weeks were difficult because the ward adopts the Primary Nursing Model, which means that at the beginning of the shift, you would be allocated a number of mothers and they would be your responsibility through the shift, with the goal being to have a healthy baby and healthy mother in the end.
The first task was to ascertain that the fetal heart rate is present. Auscultating the Fetal Heart rate is an extreme sport. Four things can happen; you could hear the actual fetal heart beat, you could imagine that you heard it, your could hear the mothers’ beat or you could hear your own because your ear start to pulsate after some minutes of trying. Because of good teamwork, I managed to take care of my mothers as I horned this skill.
The next job would be to monitor labor when it starts and in case you suspect any complication, escalate to the doctors to prepare the mother for a C section. Otherwise if the labor progressed well, you would take the mother to the delivery room and deliver the baby.
Most days things went well. On some, they went bad. Really bad. You see, all pregnant women have a story. For some its their first pregnancy and they are frightened and anxious. Others got pregnant by accident. Others have been trying to conceive for years. Others have had a series of miscarriages. Others are rape victims. And for others its a normal thing, they know what to do and when to do it. And for all these women, the worst news is telling her that she had a Fresh Still Birth or Macerated Still Birth.
There were days when we lost mothers, the harbinger of death being Eclampsia. These for me were the toughest of all days. Telling a husband that they will go home and learn how to breastfeed. Or a father that their first born daughter who has just recently been married is no more. Your heart is shuttered to pieces.
Their children will grow up knowing they killed their mother. Some will be reminded of the fact, others will feel the guilt internally and fortunately for some, they may never know.
On one of such days, I found myself weeping in the toilet, because the pain had become personal. But you have to glue your heart back together for other mothers who are waiting for you, waiting to find some calm in your aura.
A Different Perception
I worked at KNH for only five months but I learnt to appreciate the work of midwives. Every healthcare worker always has that fear of handling “human life” because if something goes wrong you may loose a life. As a midwife you are worried about not just one but sometimes two, three or in extreme cases four lives.
Midwifery is the kind of work that follows you home. You wake up in the middle of night and think of some of your mothers and how their lives changed.
Sometimes you wish you could help them carry a fraction of their burden.
Sometimes a stranger randomly stops you in town and tells you you took good care of her when she delivered her daughter at KNH Labour Ward.