Rite of passage

Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

In 2009, my cousin’s family moved to our town. They had two little kids ages four and six and a third on the way. They were a lovely family. Mini, that’s my cousin’s wife, usually had her prenatal check up in the community health center. However, when she learned that I am a Registered Midwife and a Registered Nurse as well, she would come to our house for blood pressure checks. I would also assess the baby’s heart beat and let her listen to it to assure her that the baby was healthy. When her due date was near, I heard her saying to my mom that she planned to deliver at home with my help. Having heard that, I told her that home delivery was now discouraged due to high mortality rates of babies delivered at home and the risks it posed to birthing mothers. I advised her to go to the hospital when the time comes. She just smiled at me.

And then the time came…my cousin rushed to our house, one afternoon. It was just after lunch. I was watching a movie on HBO when he came to the living room, breathing hard and almost unable to get the words out. Her wife was about to give birth.

I sighed.

In hindsight, I knew this would happen but I was hoping she wouldn’t go through with the ridiculous plan. My youngest sister who recently acquired her Midwifery license was at the house at that time. I calmly stood up and said, “you’re coming with me. We’ll check her out and see what stage she’s on”. She followed me without a word, her eyes as huge as saucers. When we arrived at my cousin’s house, we found Mini on a makeshift pallet on the floor in active labor.  I didn’t have anything with me except for a pair of sterile gloves I found in my OB bag from way back in my college days. Aside from the gloves, the rest were out of date.

I did the physical exam and she was 7 cm dilated. And with it being her third child, delivery was imminent. She adamantly refused to go to the hospital so I resigned myself to helping her and make a run to the nearest pharmacy which was about 15 to 20 minutes away. I hoped to be back before she actually gave birth.However, in case the inevitable happened, my sister was there. Although, she had never delivered a baby on her own before, I had faith that as a newly minted midwife, everything was still fresh to her. I instructed her on what to do when the baby came and I was not back. I demonstrated to her how to catch and hold the baby’s head, how to follow its natural rotation and how to gently pull. She was calm and listened well so I knew it was safe to leave for the quick supply run.

I was on my way back about five minutes away when I received a phone call from her. She said “I’m holding the baby, remind me again how to cut the cord.” I asked what she was using to cut the cord. She said they found kelly forceps and surgical scissors in the OB bag and sterilized them through boiling. She couldn’t decide how close to the umbilicus to clamp the kelly. I told her to give enough length to work on the cord dressing.

When I arrived in the house, everybody was smiling widely at the wailing baby girl in my sister’s arms. Her hands were bloody because there were no gloves. The first thing she said to me was “I’m sure I have no cuts anywhere”. I just smiled at her because I was so proud of how she handled things. Her face was radiant with happiness. I understood the triumph she felt at being able to bring a new life into this world.

I helped her dress the baby’s cord. We delivered the placenta and made sure there were none retained inside. The baby was breastfed and for the next few days my sister and I did the postpartum visit. The mother and the baby were both well and healthy.

That day was my sister’s “early” rite of passage to the real world of Nursing and she did very well. She graduated and got her Nursing license in 2011, 2 years after that successful home delivery. My parents, who worked hard to send us to nursing school, were smiling from ear to ear. They were beaming with pride.

At present, my cousin has six kids. The younger ones were delivered in the accredited birthing facility built later in our community. Savannah Ysabella, that’s the name of the beautiful baby girl, is in elementary school. And my sister? She’s one hell of an ITU nurse now, fighting in her first pandemic.

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