Saturday, September 1, 2012

August or I Looked Like a Wrinkled Old Man When I Was Born


August has shaped up to be an exciting month. I will proceed in chronological order...

I got a staph infection in my foot that made it swell until I looked like I had elephantiasis and I couldn't walk for a couple days. The Peace Corps doctor was amazing, though, got me on super strong antibiotics, and has followed up amazingly, and I am all normal except for missing one toenail and looking a little like I was exposed to nuclear radiation.

The clinic had been short staffed - more so than usual- while my mama, the nurse, and the new nurse we got from the district were both in town, so I was left running the clinic myself while my baba, the clinical officer, was in and out with back pain and a tooth ache. I go to clinic one morning, I notice a woman is in the other room having contractions, but that's normal, so I continue with weighing babies. The bibi who has escorted the mama comes out to ask for my help, and I tell her the doctor is coming, I can't really help you, I don't know how to deliver a baby. I tell a kid to go get the doctor and tell him to come quickly. I continue with clinic. The bibi comes back out and insists, come in now, so I go look at the mama, expecting to see nothing. Uh, yeah, the baby is crowning... I run back outside, the kid still hasn't left, I yell at him, Athumani, go now, FAST! I return to the room, clumsily put gloves on not steady hands, thinking about how every baby I have seen delivered has been born with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck and I am terrified of this kid getting strangled by it I don't know how to avoid that from happening this baby could die... The bibi and this other mama are in the room standing behind me, yelling at me, I have finally gotten the gloves on all of my fingers, the mama gives one push, the head pops out, the neck is cord-free, the shoulders pop out, the baby twists around so its facing up, and slips out into my hands in a gush of blood and slime! Wrap up the baby, clamp, string, scissors to cut... why is that mama rubbing the other mama's belly like that? Oh, shit, the placenta! A retained placenta can lead to sepsis this is the time when women hemorrhage and bleed out after giving birth rubbing the belly or stimulating the nipples causes oxytocin to be released which will help stop the bleeding rub the belly get the placenta out... BTW that shit is slippery. It is not possible to grab the umbilical cord and pull because it is impossible to hold onto the cord, covered in bloody slime as it is. The mama has to push again, and you ineffectually pull, and eventually it pops out in another rush of blood and clear fluid. Relief rushes over me, everyone is alive, the crying- breathing- baby has been wrapped up and is being held, I'm helping the mama clean up, wiping up blood, then I went and taught about exclusive breastfeeding and finished clinic!

On a different afternoon, I was siting on my couch, when my cat- correction, Ruthie's cat, there is no love lost between this animal and I, I take no ownership of it- comes in carrying some mewling animal I assume is a rodent it plans on eating in my house in typical fashion. This is an on going war between us. To my horror, she jumps onto my couch with it before I have untangled myself from my blanket enough to stop her.... and I realize she is carrying a kitten. I still think she's going to eat it when I realize that the kitten looks just like her, and its probably her kitten. So now is when you are probably thinking didn't you realize your cat was pregnant? My response would be 1. What is the gestation period of a cat? 2. I didn't want my cat to have kittens, so I thought of other reasons for her belly to be so firm. So, I am now the owner of two kittens. They're kind of funny- they are just now figuring out how to walk, so they stumble around on legs that tend to go awry in unintended directions, and they have a habit of picking their feet up higher than necessary, as if they were tip toeing cautiously, or stomping their feet.

The next Monday I delivered another baby solo. I was much calmer this time, none of the panic I had the first time. This of course has nothing to do with development work or my actually role as a Peace Corps Volunteer, but its really cool. In a letter from my mother for my birthday, she wrote that now that I have experienced a baby's delivery, I would know what a special experience it was when I was born! Sorry to disappoint, but a baby's delivery is gross and slimy, with explosions of blood and goo, and I'm sure its nice for the mama when its all done and they get to move onto a new kind of pain from labour pains, but I haven't experienced the wonderfullness yet. I do think its crazy though that one person comes out of another person like that, after having lived in a liquid filled bubble for nine months, and having grown from the chance meeting of two traveling cells. I am thrilled I didn't kill anyone.

Then It was my birthday! I celebrated in my vill by making cakes and sharing them with all the families that take care of me, and I had an American visitor in the form of a traveling PCV, which really made it feel so much more like a birthday.

Also happening this month is the Tanzania census, which I got to take part in as a current resident of Tanzania. Teachers around the country were trained in how to fill out the census forms, and then went door to door in their communities to ask every household their names, ages, marital status, level of education... and if they grow corn, pigeon peas, cassava, or keep cows, goats, or chickens. My grandmother sent me a birthday card, and in it she tells me how much she thinks of me, loves me... and how someone tried to scam her, falsifying my cousins presence in a Peruvian jail, so she writes to me, “Please don't get into trouble, because I won't believe you.” I recently discovered Gotye and the video of “Somebody That I Used To Know.” Uh, yeah, I'm a little behind the times. I want that final scene from his video, when he is so exposed, looking at her while her paint is being removed so openly and obviously vulnerable, as a still to hang in my house and look at always. It is such a well done, emotional video, with their purposeful eye contact, or lack thereof, and facial expressions, and his punctuated sighs. Today, my dear sitemate Rachel was waiting to meet me in town, and from afar sees a small figure swathed in fabric, and thought it was me... no, it was a tiny black man. Thanks Rachel.

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