Sunday, March 4, 2012

Delivering Nadine's Baby

It finally happened! A life dream fulfilled! Yesterday I helped with a birth.

I blogged a few days back about the women's ministry at Heartline. At their maternity center, I served as doula for Nadine, a young woman who, interestingly, was born the same month and year as me. Slight difference: this was either her fifth or sixth pregnancy.

Nadine's labor was induced, which was only the second time Heartline had ever induced a labor. She had dangerously high blood pressure and was around 39 weeks.

There were several people. Three Heartline staff: Beth, Tara, and Winnie work with the maternity program and regularly help deliver babies. Shelly is an experienced American nurse midwife who is visiting to assist Heartline for a few weeks.

"Doula" means servant, and my job was to be servant to Nadine. This involved getting her water, fanning her, giving her a wet washcloth, helping her go to the bathroom, and grabbing the bowl whenever she said, "map vomi" (I'm going to vomit).
 It also involved several hours of backrubbing. I am notoriously bad at that. But when a woman is working that hard, and is that uncomfortable, you put on your backrub game face.

Beth, Tara, Winnie, and Shelly took Nadine's blood pressure very frequently and listened to fetal heart tones often as well. The blood pressure remained high.
 This is the birthing suite. There is a birthing stool, and in purple at the top of the picture you can see part of the swing-like cloth harness they have as an option while laboring. It helps support your body weight if you are laboring in a standing or semi-squatting position.
 Poor Nadine, working hard. I had to very quickly brush up on my encouraging Kreyol phrases:
  • Ou ka fe sa! (You can do it!)
  • Bon travay, bon bagay (Good job)
  • Respire (Breathe)
  • Eske, ou vle anyen? Ou vle ed? (Do you need anything? Do you want help?)
  • Preske fini (Almost done)
 At one point her IV had wiggled loose, so she wasn't getting any pitocin (the drug that induces labor). Labor practically stopped for an hour or more. Then they fixed the IV and labor became very intense.

At one point Nadine and I were walking to the bathroom when a big contraction started. She lay right down on the tile bathroom floor, IV lines and all. It was the second time I have lain on a bathroom floor with a near stranger in an intimate moment.

There was only maybe 15 or so minutes of pushing, and out came a healthy little girl. I was standing, holding Nadine's hand, and watching the baby come out into Beth's hands. I got to cut the cord! There was a sterile set of scissors that are in a plastic packaging and are only opened right before the birth. It took me a few tries.
 The baby was a little too cold at first. Shelly and I rubbed her hard for a few moments. She warmed up, breathed well, and started breastfeeding well right away. Praise God.

I wondered what I would think about the delivery, and how I would react to seeing the birth. I didn't cry- I just smiled and watched. It all looked like I imagined.

It's just as miraculous as I thought; I mean, a PERSON comes out of another PERSON. There was a sweet, special feeling in the room. We all petted and congratulated Nadine, and she smiled for the first time that day.
Yon ti fi! Job well done, Shelly.
 Shelly helped the mom get settled with breastfeeding right away.

(Ok, fair warning. The next picture is a bit graphic. I made it small, so just skip it if you're not into body parts.)

One part of birth that I was completely unable to imagine is the delivery of the placenta. To be honest, I didn't really even know placentas existed until I worked at a pregnancy clinic in college. I just thought babies came out, and then the labor was over. But no!

Beth is very fascinated by placentas and gave me a guided tour of the two sides.... and then I held it. It was heavy! It looks like the surface of a heart, but the shape of a liver. Beth also showed me what the inside of an umbilical cord looks like. It's all very fascinating. 

So there it is!

This group of women was calm, loving, and knowledgeable. I was so grateful for the way Shelly took time, unnecessarily, to explain things to me such as what the normal fetal heart rate is, or why certain laboring positions are advantageous for controlling blood pressure. It was so generous of her.

I also loved the way Nadine was treated with such dignity and respect. When it was time for internal exams, Beth would explain the whole process to Nadine and ask permission. When Nadine seemed uncomfortable to have a crowd in the room, everyone left. I've heard horror stories of delivering in Haitian hospitals, and the contempt with which patients are sometimes treated, so I was overjoyed that Nadine was able to receive this tenderness and deference.

Nadine's 26 years have been very difficult, and will continue to be. But for this day, at least, she was well cared for.

What a day! I felt high on life and could hardly sleep afterward. 

Oh God, your design is beautiful.



  1. Wowza. Excited for you and super glad that Nadine and baby are healthy!

  2. So exciting! So I guess my question for you is: Natural Birth? :)

  3. Quite cool. I thought I 'helped' when my daughters were born. I was really just watching and sometimes just getting in the way. Very special. I'll never forget my 3, and I'm sure you'll never forget this one.

  4. How special and wonderful!! What was Baby named?

  5. I am so excited that you were able to experience this!! Can't wait to have you retell the story to me this summer. :)



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