Volume 6

~ News From "Your Birthing Family" ~

Issue 9





Charis Around the World

Childbirth in Kenya
by Jannekah Guya

Baby Ariana Pendo

This 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)

As we 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

If any 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.

The post-delivery room - 3 women and babies per bed

Soon 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, Amariah


Our International Charis Family
Your stories from around the world touch us and we pray for your safety.
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,
 A great throng shall return there...And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the LORD.'
 Jeremiah 31:8, 14~~~
©2011 Charis Childbirth Services, All Rights Reserved
Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends in its entirety, leaving all attribution intact.
September 2011