The last few days have been the hardest moments for me in my life. My dog, & my everything, Maya passed away suddenly. There are no words to explain the pain it is causing. To help heal, I decided I wanted to give back by bringing a new life (delivering a baby) into this world.
“If you do a good job for other, you heal yourself at the same time, because a dose of joy is an exhilarating feeling”
I am in a place where I am surrounded by love. Where I spend each and everyday helping others. Where relationships are built on trust and are long lasting. Where people are generous beyond their means. A place where the smallest difference creates the largest impact. The place where I come alive.
I woke up this morning on a mission. I felt the urge to spend time with Kalimentina (midwife). I had a personal promise to myself to improve some of the basic comforts in the Birthing Inn before the holidays. Days ago, Kalimentina removed the mattresses in her birthing center while she was re-arranging one of the beds, and it was at that time, that I got a clear look. The bed frames that hundreds of women deliver on each month, were broken, loose fragmented slices of wood placed horizontally across the frame to hold the mattress up. She then told me that these beds being used in the birthing center were her children’s beds and that they are now sleeping on the floor so that the women that come to deliver don’t have to suffer. That in itself, would make someone rush to town, and spend any amount of money to help. And so I did…
The morning was spent with Kalimentina and one of my favorite boys, Ali . We picked her at her home, and found her ‘so smart,’ dressed in the local gomas (cultural dress for women). Her soft-spoken voice warmed me up as I find her kneeling on the floor greeting me. Kalimentina spends all her time helping others, waking up at all hours of the night to aid in the deliveries and comfort the women. In between this voluntary full time job, she has to farm, gather food, cook, and clean. There is never enough one can do to help this sweet caring woman.
We started in the pharmacy buying hundreds of needles, drugs, along with water purification tabs for the water collected in her tank, pain killers, gloves, gauze and cotton. I kept adding more to the pile making sure she has enough up until February when I return. We then go on the hunt for new beds, in the crazy industrial part of Jinja. Kalimentina advises me not to come out of the car, so we can avoid getting Mzungu prices (raised prices because we are white, and people think whites have money). Kalimentina spearheads the search, and she finally decides that metallic beds are the best choice. We end up buying 5 new bed frames, 2 mattresses, and 7 pillows. Meanwhile, all of these items were scattered on all sides of town. Negotiating everything from a bottle of water to transport to carry the materials back to the village.
Kalimentina, so ecstatic and excited, picks me up and swirls me around. She then asks me “why do you love me so much?” and so I asked her “why do you love your women and the community so much.” She stated, “It is because I feel the need to help where I can.” We both grinned at eachother and agreed. It was a beautiful moment. She confidently told me that god would take care of me forever.
Number 9 & Counting…
After a long, but amazing day in town with Kalimentina, I start rushing around to the three other meetings I was to organize and attend. As I entered the village of Namizi where S.O.U.L’s newest fish pond project is, I receive a call from Kalimentina.
“You come NOW” she quietly yelled on the phone. “A woman, A woman, NOW NOW.” My eyes became bright, and my heart was beating fast. I was a solid 20-25 minutes away yet, I knew I needed to go. I explain it to all the mothers and fathers of the fishpond group, and they start pulling me, sprinting fast to the car, and they all tell me “GO GO GO.”
Ali and I arrive at Kalimentina moments before this beautiful woman was ready to deliver. I arrive in and the energy is exhilarating. Kalimentina is running around, trying to boil water, comfort the women, while other women are pouring in. She throws me a pair of gloves, and before I can turn around, she is in gone. I take the women’s hand and rub her back, sitting with her through the her contractions.
Maribu, the new mom to be (for the 8th time) is only 30 years old. She arrived to the Birthing Center with only a plastic bag full of some sheets and a baby blanket on a motorcycle.
The adrenaline, the rush of emotions, and activities taking place at once are quite impossible to describe. Kalimentina left me to facilitate this birth independently, with only frequent checks as she peeks her head through the curtain. After delivering 8 other babies, I was surprised to see the pain and look of fear on her face. I knew this was going to be a tough delivery.
After 30 long minutes, and what felt like an emotional and physical rollercoaster, I delivered a beautiful baby girl! Being able to hold a newborn and witnessing new life is the most incredible feeling in the world.
I immediately tend to the baby, cleaning out the nose, and the mouth, and waiting to hear the first cry, signaling the lung and respiratory breathing was intact. Everything happened, as it should. I put the baby to the woman’s breast, took a deep breath and smiled.
As the women regained energy, she sat up and thanked me over and over. She spoke in the local language, and took my hand bowing her head below mine. I later found out that she knows me. Six months ago, I visited a deep village with a government official (30 km away), and met some women, speaking to them about safe birthing practices etc, and she happened to be one of them. She told me it was because of me and Annet, the government leader, that she came such a far distance to Kalimentina’s Birthing Inn to receive the comfort and care other women were talking about.
I took some amazing photos of her, and I plan on visiting her and her beautiful baby when I return in Febraury. An experience I will always marvel about.
“Being a man or women is a matter of birth. Being a man or woman who makes a difference is a matter of choice. –Byron Garrett