Childbirth in Kenya
month, I’m sad to say, I had a horrific experience in the maternity
wing of a government hospital with a friend. It was my first
experience in a Nairobi maternity wing, and while I’d thought I’d
seen it all, boy was I wrong!
My husband is friends with a young Kenyan girl who just finished
high school. He used to take her with him as part of his
ministry team to high schools and universities where they sing,
dance, preach, and evangelize. But several months ago, this
young lady kind of disappeared. When my husband bumped into
her recently she confessed that she was pregnant. Everyone had
shunned her, including her child’s father. My husband
immediately embraced her, and referred her to me, which must have
been surprising and refreshing to her. We felt it was so
important to honor her for making the decision not to abort the baby
– something she was pressured to do.
Her due date was very close by the time I sat down with her and met
her for the first time face to face. We talked all about her
pregnancy – the spiritual, emotional, and physical sides. When
I asked her how she was feeling about the birth and what she knew
about birth and what she was expecting, I wasn’t surprised when she
told me she knew absolutely nothing, had NO idea what to expect, and
was terrified. She very thankfully accepted my offer to be
with her and to support her through the labor and birth.
A few days later she called me early in the morning and told me her
bag of waters had broken and she was already checked into the
hospital where they were preparing to induce her. I was
disappointed that she hadn’t called me first because I would have
suggested that she not rush to the hospital like that, but her mom
had panicked when her water broke and everything was chaos.
When I reached the hospital I walked through the outdoor corridor
past room after room filled with women and babies crammed onto tiny
little beds. My friend happily came to greet me. Her mom
had dropped her off and gotten out of there as fast as possible.
Family members are practically chased out of there, and most of them
are glad for that because they’re quite terrified themselves.
I would soon discover why!
A woman laboring outside (she was later severely rebuked for this)
chatted a woman slowly walked by us, all by herself, blood flowing
down her legs. It brought back excruciating memories of things
I have personally been through and that led to me that very moment –
to being there to help this young girl bring forth her baby.
By that time they had attached the IV, but hadn’t begun the pitocin
drip yet. I was thankful for that and began to pray that she
would go into labor herself.
We continued to chat and my young friend pointed to woman standing
sadly near us. She told me that the woman had just delivered a baby
boy and he had died. The woman had told her that she had felt
him moving even as she arrived at the hospital and she didn’t
understand what had gone wrong. The nurses had told her it was
her fault he died, as they often do.
My friend wanted to rest a bit, so she took me to her bed, which she
was sharing with another woman who was 7 months pregnant with twins.
The woman had fallen down and started to spot and that’s how she
ended up in the hospital. All the other tiny single beds in
the room had three laboring women each. One of the women on
the bed next to us was hooked up to pitocin and was in transition.
Her water broke and soaked her panties so she removed them and left
them on the floor. The other laboring women told her to hurry
and pick them up or she’d get in big trouble from the nurses!
I felt so bad for her. I put on one of the gloves I had in my
bag and picked them up for her. She was so thankful.
The labor room - 3 women per bed
visitor came to see any of the laboring women they were verbally
abused and intimidated by the nurses. They weren’t allowed in
the room and instead, the laboring woman was told to go outside to
see them, talk to them, or to take the items that they may have
brought her. I was so horrified at the way these precious
women and their families were treated. I can’t for the life of
me understand why the nurses would so mistreat, disrespect, and
abuse women in such a precious, sensitive, and vulnerable moment.
The nurses were so rude and proud, but nothing compared to the
doctor I had the misfortune of encountering!
After I’d been there a couple hours and after one of the nurses came
and kicked me out of the room, a doctor came to ‘do his rounds’.
This hospital, a government hospital, has no doctors. The
doctors come daily, or weekly, from a much larger government
hospital do their rounds (or nothing at all) and leave. This
doctor did nothing at all, except yell at the nurses for allowing
family members and friends to be waiting outside. He saw me
standing near by and looked straight at me as he told them in
English, “I don’t care who they are, I want them out of here!”
Implying that he wasn’t at all intimidated by a white person.
As I walked away he laughed loudly and said, “See! Even the msungu
(white person) has to obey us!” After that, he left.
A short time later a woman was wheeled past me in a wheel chair.
My friend, who had joined me outside after the incident with the
doctor, told me that the woman had been fully dilated all night but
they had neglected her and now she was being taken for a C-section.
Just then we heard another woman screaming bloody murder a few doors
down in the delivery room. Then we could clearly hear her
mouth being covered as she screamed. I looked at my young
friend and smiled. I tried to reassure her, remind her the
things I had taught her, and asked her how she was feeling.
She said her back hurt so I rubbed it for her. She was so
surprised and touched by that.
About an hour later, the woman who had been screaming for what felt
like an eternity, came out and hobbled down to the post-delivery
room where she asked another woman if she could share the bed with
her. I noticed on the wall there was a poster promoting
malaria awareness, but there wasn’t a single mosquito net to be seen
in any of the rooms. A little while later I made the mistake
of going into the ‘bathroom’. I won’t dare try to describe the
horrors I found there, but I will say that the ‘toilets’ and
‘bathing area’ are undoubtedly sources of infection in many of the
mothers there. I’ve seen a LOT of horrible toilets in the
world, but this one, in a government maternity ward, blows them all
out of the water.
post-delivery room - 3 women and babies per bed
another woman was screaming. She was in the labor room,
screaming that her baby was coming. The nurses laughed at her
and told her to shut up, she was still ‘far’. She kept
screaming and screaming for help and when she lifted up her dress to
show them the baby was crowning, they sprang into action, laughing
and saying they thought she was joking.
I sat outside, working on my Charis school work until about 9 pm.
My friend still hadn’t been hooked up to pitocin and hadn’t had a
single contraction. At around that time, the day shift left
and the night shift nurses came – the same nurses who had been there
in the early morning hours the morning before when my friend had
first arrived. They were shocked to see that she hadn’t been
given pitocin and hadn’t had the baby. The day nurses had
completely neglected her, though I was pretty thankful for that!
At that point, I was finally forced to leave. Knowing what I
know now, I wish I would have fought harder to find a way to stay.
I went to see my friend and her gorgeous baby girl when they got
home from the hospital, and this is the horror story she told me….
Almost immediately after I left, they hooked her up to the pitocin.
Then, the nurses went to sleep! Yes, left and went to bed!
She told me that another woman came with her husband and the baby
was coming. She was screaming for help but no one came, so the
husband delivered the baby all by himself. Later the nurses
came back and my friend told them she felt like pushing, so they
told her to walk down to the birth room. She told me she was
in so much pain she had to crawl, holding her IV bag!!! When
she reached there, they told her she wasn’t ready and to go back!
She crawled back and the nurses went back to bed. Immediately
she had the urge to push and though she screamed, yet again, no
nurse came. The other laboring women did what they could to
help her, including her bedmate, the woman who was 7 months pregnant
with twins. When the nurses finally did come back, they found
my friend, laying there with her baby girl in her arms.
At around 2 am she sent me a text message that simply said, “And
Pendo (Love) is her name”. I’ve been in such agony over what
she went through, and can’t help but blame myself. But I have
to trust that God knew best and was in control, even if it didn’t
look that way to me. Maybe if I would have insisted on staying
they would have taken it out on her. Or if I would have been
there, the nurses would have been too afraid to have gone to sleep
and would have ‘assisted’ in the birth and it would have been worse.
I jokingly (kind of) told my friend that the good thing about her
having the baby alone was no one was there to give her the routine
episiotomy! And she didn’t even tear, so all the better!
Of course, in my dream scenario, I would have been able to stay with
her to help her through her VERY fast, induced labor and then I
could have caught the baby myself! It would’ve been much less
scary for her if it went that way I imagine. But it didn’t,
and that’s just something I have to accept, though it’s hard for me
to do. I find it interesting that I am WAY more horrified
about her experience than she is! I guess she just thinks it’s
a pretty typical experience, and I guess, tragically, it is.
Despite everything, my dear young friend is happy as she can be.
Her little girl Ariana Pendo (Highly Favored of God & Love) is
absolutely perfect. My friend is an amazing mother and takes
everything in stride. She sends me messages all the time to
tell me how happy she is, how perfect little Pendo is, and how they
are both doing wonderfully. Though this was such a horrible,
heartbreaking, and disappointing experience, the most important
thing is that Mommy and Baby are ok now. My resolve and
passion to make a tremendous difference was also fanned into greater
flame. I think it was good for me to get out and be reminded
of the reality and how bad things really really are. And I
have to say, it gave me a renewed and deeper love and appreciation
for Mama Christine, the traditional birth attendant I work with.
I have a completely new perspective and will never ever complain
again about the situation in her tiny one room home in the middle of
the slum. Cockroaches, rats, filthy toilets and all, I’ll
joyfully and thankfully love and deliver mothers and babies with her
with a very different attitude, understanding, and appreciation.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, to search out a matter
is the glory of kings.” - Proverbs 25:2
Martin and Jannekah Guya with their son, Ezriel and his big sister,
Our International Charis
Your stories from around the world touch us and we pray for your
Thanks, Love and Blessings to every one of you!
'Behold, I will bring them from the north country, And gather them
from the ends of the earth,
Among them the blind and the lame,
The woman with child and The one who labors with child, together,
great throng shall return there...And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the LORD.'
Jeremiah 31:8, 14~~~
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