"Before I set foot on the beautiful red soil of northern Uganda I often wondered what this journey would hold, what
adventures I would carry forth in my heart and what are the unknown details of this work we were about to undertake.
Service that asks everything of your heart, body and mind. Service that lays claim to your spirit.
Our journey, (with amazing Ida, an inspiring young woman who has made her way around birth since the age of 9),
began in early December and concluded in late February. We shared one amazing month at Mother Health International and are forever in gratitude for the graciousness and splendor of the community built there. Here are a few of the many experiences we shared, in the form of compiled notes to loved ones back home.
Rachel, Ida and I are heading off to the deep bush today for prenatals in one of the villages. We spent last evening
watching 'Babies" in our hut, with our brooding hen 'Jocelyn' who will hatch her babies in the next two weeks.
Birth yesterday of a sweet boy, and his mama is a niece of one of the local midwives:) Love, love, love the sister
midwives here, so generous and helpful and patient as I fumble through my first attempts at words.
Learning about an amazing herb to treat UTI symptoms and it also scans the body to support whatever systems are
Ida and Nighty, (our amazing cook) are working on developing two new prototype projects to help Mother Health International become
self -sustaining (baby wraps and beaded curtains).
MHI is so deeply thoughtful at every level with their commitment toward sustainability (gardens, bee's, local
employment, reuse of all water systems, solar power, etc....)
22 mamas are visited today in a group 'centering' prenatal circle. Two sets of twins likely, one mama will birth with us
during our stay, (first time mama, 16). So love that all the women sharing and learning together:) In this lovely circle
today there were 2 traditional midwifes who live in the community. We were exploring the contrast between what
a tummy looks like when a baby is face up verses face down (anterior/posterior). It was so fun to have lots and lots of
tummy's to show this difference with:) (Gail if you are reading this we began to explore 'Spinning Babies' concepts)!
Ida is so wonderful with the mama's and midwives. Everyone is loving Ida and there are learning opportunities abound
for us all. A bit joyfully exhausted after all this wonderful exchange:) It is so hard to put into words how amazing this sacred space and journey has been.
Rachel is preparing to leave in a few days and I have so much to learn from her yet, (she and Olivia). My heart already
knew, on day one, that I would be coming back to serve again:)Thanks so much for all the support and love from home, it truly sustains us here.
This morning we took at trip to the local heath care unit in Atiak. Two days ago when we walked in the only person on
staff was the male circumciser/nursing assistant who was there to care for the sick and catch babies, (yes catch all the
babies). We took one of our mama's in today for a scan for lack of growth. We walked in on a birth in process with the
circumciser ready to catch, (mama flat on back, in stirrups), we helped mama up and received a lovely baby boy who
needed a decent amount of recess/close observation for about an hour. Next mama laboring outside comes in and her
labor stalls as she is pushing. Another mama walks in and hop's on to the bed right next to her and we receive a sweet
girl. I hear the mama whose labor had stalled beginning to push and I pop behind the curtain to check in with her.
Ninety seconds later as I cross the curtain again to see how that mama who just birthed is doing I see a beautiful shinny
orb emerging from her body and we receive her second daughter, surprise twin’s. Our stalled mama is weak from lack
of food, rest and hydration. We bring her back to MHI for some food, fresh water and rest, (there was no
running water at the govt health clinic). Mama gives birth after getting some nourishment and rest to a very large baby:) So 4 babies in 3.5 hours, (set of twins to boot:). Ida is such a wonderful natural , her hands were full of babies, placentas and mama's:). So it is 2:30 in the afternoon here and I wonder what the rest of the day holds for us:)
The morning began with a lovely labor at 4:30 a.m. She was an experienced mama who labored best in privacy, so we
rested on the wonderful hammocks just outside her room. Sweet baby born into her mother’s hands at 7:26:) Lucky Ida
has now had two babies named after her:) Nighty and Patricia are taking turns interpreting for us in the wee hours of
the morning with there little ones in tow Both
Yesterday began with several hours of prenatals in a local village. Ida conducted 7 of the prenatal visits:) At one point I
heard a loud click clonk down the corridor and was greeted by a large pregnant mama cow walking down the hall; you
just never know who is going to show up on prenatal days.
Today was so sweet. Lovely first time mama (16) labored so beautifully with lots of love from Ida who went on to
received her first baby with a four handed catch:) Ida is well on her way:)
Walked to town center to listen to services and song in a completely new language. Ida was able to record all the songs:)
Smiling while I harvested fresh calendula for a new mama's postpartum bath.
Savored Ina May Gaskin's new book in the hammock.
Took a lovely evening stroll and chatted with children along the way (practicing my new few Achole words; all the giggles
let me know I have a ways to go:)
Indulged in a sunset outdoor shower, water warmed by mama earth.
Sipping on homemade pineapple/passion fruit wine while preparing chapattis topped with cheese, fresh avocado,
tomato, onion and garlic:)
Love and smiles from Uganda:)
Ebb and flow, Tuesday began with great promise; a lovely long mornings walk and opportunity to practice a few new
words of Acholie; a scheduled meeting with all the lovely midwife sisters from the surrounding villages (30); then the
joy of two calls for laboring mama's. Oh my heart sang with anticipation for what the day was holding. As life can,
shifts occurred. Our ambulance (4 wheel drive Toyota) broke while picking up a mama. Earth Birth has one of the only
automobiles in the entire region. We called a boda-boda (motorcycle) and were able to transport one of the laboring
mama’s back home where she birthed with her local midwife; her labor was progressing to quickly to get her to Earth
Birth. The other mama also birthed before we could reach her. Our hearts mourned a few hours later when we learned
that the first mama's baby had been born full of life and then passed away 90 minutes later. We do not know the cause
of this little ones passing and will visit with mama very soon. We have learned that she feels that this loss would have
occurred regardless of where she had her baby and is in a place of acceptance. So many mamas have lost one or more
of their children here. The rate is so high for this sort of grief. Knowing the contrast of all the available resources in
our homeland, it feels completely unacceptable to see that most mama's completely prepare for the fact that they will
probably loose a baby/child at some point in there life.
My words and descriptions feel so inadequate as I try to covey the deep and powerful work of MHI, reducing
these losses and suffering/grief for families and bringing safe, gentle, holistic maternity care to the region. All this
beautiful work is steeped in cultural competence and sustainability efforts on all levels. The loss of our vehicle also
meant the large midwives meeting would be postponed as we could not pick-up several of the far reaching midwives to
bring them in for the meeting.
The day turns again. The sky's opened and in 24 hours we had a total of 8 birth calls. One strong and mighty mama, who was well under 5', labored for 52 hours and brought her firstborn into the world with such power and strength; we wept tears as her baby emerged. Exhausted on every level, we joyfully slipped into bed for the first time in 2 days for 2 hours before we woke up to travel to Gulu, the closest city, to do our supply shopping and get our Toyota repaired. Mechanic let us know that the repair will take sometime, so a surprise overnight stay in the city. Ida and I have had so much fun discovering the sights and sounds of this very busy city and already long to return to the sweet peace of MHI. Friday morning here now and we send our love to you all.
Two sweet Xmas babies yesterday. One mama who was welcoming her 9th baby arrived, complete (10cm) at 6am and
followed her bodies lead beautifully (resting, eating, hydrating, walking, squatting), her baby decided that 1:03 pm was
the perfect time to be born:) The second baby had a bit of a snug cord and extended shoulders and asked us to help
her be born just a bit. We were able to birth with the cord intact, which she really appreciated for the extra 02 while
we supported her transition to this wonderful outer world. Both mama's choose the name Mary & Merry as the perfect
fit for being born on this special day. Ida and I ended the day with a special meal of chapatti based pizza's, bits of dark
chocolate drizzled with fresh Carmel and a sip of Baileys. All very, very special treats here:) We ate under the canopy of
a vast star filled sky.
The night is dark and our space is candle lit. Esther and I share this sacred space that call’s our full and total presence.
Eyes wide, she lay’s on the matt on the floor, her choice of place to birth. She reached for my hand and places it on top
of her large round tummy. “See, see, see” she says rubbing my hand on her rounded belly, “baby is to big, you must
cut me, please you must cut me. My friends say I must be cut to have a baby. Please cut me”. I tell her that her body
will make way for this beautiful baby, that she can and is birthing her baby very soon. She rocks her head back and forth
and again pleds with me to cut her. Our hands join and do not part again. We share this dance of fear/belief until the
threshold is crossed and her baby is slowly passing through her body to this outer world. Oh the joy that emerged from
within this fresh mama. She has seen and experienced her full power as woman and I was so blessed to be her witness.
Life abound, As the sunset yesterday afternoon, I was showering outside and looking at the purple shadowed outline
of mountains many miles away. I had a moment to look up and saw, for the first time, the beauty of a dozen or so
humming birds fluttering around the papaya tree. Oh my heart danced as I watched their beautiful ballet. I began to
reflect on all the life cohabiting here at Earth Birth. Two days ago a small herd of goats wondered into our compound
and spent the days walking around in a sisterhood cluster, as if they have always belonged. This morning 4 new chicks
hatched and are waddling after their mama, so sweet and fuzzy. We have: bee's; black wasps; snakes; scorpions; rats;
mice; butterflies; a cat named 'Baby Jesus, who is pregnant with her first litter, 2 pigeons, a roster name 'Bonaparte'
who is regal and tolerant, many hens, innumerable insects and the life force of thousands of plants. Even the dousing of
constant dust from the passing vehicles (that casts a dirt hazy like heavy fog or smog), cannot put to sleep the balance
of harmony and life all around here. Five-labor calls in the past 24 hours and 2 mamas’ were able to make it in on the
motorcycle. Two lovely girls are added to the world, within an hour of each other:) News of our ambulance being fixed
today has us hopeful that we can again serve all whom call:) Ida has been working on clearing new space for more
planting of garden and creating the most amazing sewing projects that other mama's can make and sell to support MHI(Baby Hammock's, Cushioned Computer bags in the most wonderful fabrics, baby dresses, pouches, etc.... All this
and she creates space to be present for prenatals and births:) Love and warmth from Uganda