Sukuma! by Andrea Alonso



July 10, 2010:

This was one of the most stimulating and exciting days of my life- I helped deliver a baby!!

In the morning at around 11, I walked into the delivery room and saw a 20-year old woman in labor with her first baby. I hung around with the doctor waiting for the birth for around 30 minutes and observed as he disinfected the woman’s vagina, checked the dilation of the cervix and the baby’s descent, and gave the woman glucose to offset the exhaustion she’d developed from being in labor. Then I went to the MOH’s office to discuss the jiggers campaign and my water tank installation proposal for around 15 minutes. When I was walking back to the delivery room, the mother of the woman giving birth called to me in broken English (we had no idea what the other was saying). I followed her back to the room where her daughter was in labor and she pulled me by my arm up to the delivery bed. Then she opened her daughter’s legs apart and I saw a balloon-like object jutting out from the vagina- the membrane.

Since I had never before seen a pregnancy, this really surprised me and I went to go search for the doctor or any of the staff that could help. However, most of the staff was in a meeting or busy doing something else. So I went back into the room, still having absolutely clue what to do and put gloves on. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but if that baby came out, I was going to deliver it. Thankfully, as I finished putting on the gloves, a nurse walked in and asked me if I had everything under controlled. I replied that I had never before seen a delivery. She laughed and looked surprised and told me to help her this time, and that the next time I’d conduct the delivery on my own. So I handed her some scissors, which she used to rupture the membrane, which spilled a yellowish fluid over the bed, on top of the urine and fecal matter that had already accumulated. Immediately, I approached the woman’s legs and held them open while encouraging her to push (Sukuma! Sukuma!).

I began to see the hairy top of the baby’s head protrude from the vagina and kept yelling for her to push. Meanwhile, the nurse was at the woman’s side, opening the vagina so that it would be easier for the baby to come out. However, the woman was being uncooperative and not pushing; just grunting and screaming. So the nurse said that she’d have to perform an episiotomy. I handed her the scissors and she began to cut the outer part of the woman’s vagina to make space for the baby’s head. Keep in mind, the hospital gives no form of anesthesia to women in labor AND the episiotomy was performed without a contraction, so the woman got the full force of the pain- she started bleeding, screaming, and flopping around. I lost my grip on one of her legs and she kicked me on the chest, knocking me back into medical equipment. I re-established my footing and held on tight to her knees once again, pulling them apart. After a few more minutes of bleeding, flopping, and screaming, in about half a second, a human head popped out of the mother’s vagina. I’ve never seen something so surreal- it was like watching an Alien movie- a human head protruding from a woman’s vagina.

At first I thought that the baby was dead, as it didn’t look like it was breathing and its body was so pale. But finally, when the body popped out a few seconds later and the baby was held in the air, upside down, it began to cry- I’ve never felt so relieved. I got some cottonwood and cleaned inside the baby’s mouth, head, and face, while the nurse cut the umbilical cord. It was then placed on another bed and bundled up in a sheet while the nurse pulled out the rest of the cord and the placenta, checking it to make sure that no blood clots had been left inside the woman’s uterus. Then the woman was given some anesthesia and the cut was stitched. I had some blood on my forearms but no soap or disinfectant to get it off. I finally found some floor-cleaning fluid that was alcohol-based and poured it onto my arms.

One of the best days ever! Oh, and the name of the baby? Andrea!

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