This is a little taste of an average day for us during our volunteering at MBH:
Wake up time! It’s light on the balcony where we sleep on mattresses under mosquito nets. Even if the sun wasn’t already blazing the dawn chorus started several hours ago – frogs, cockerels and numerous birds, lorries, people on their way to work, cows and dogs.
There were no labouring women last night and we both got a full night’s sleep. We take it in turns to get up and help Marie but always sleep with “one ear open” in case more hands are needed.
We do about half an hour of yoga practice. This is the only time of day we get to ourselves and we decided that yoga was something that was going to help with the intensity of living and working in the clinic. This is often accompanied by the animated conversations of the women waiting already outside the clinic gate.
We rush to shower whilst the power is on, showering is precarious and it has become a finely tuned art – swift but thorough under the mercifully cold water. The first person to shower always has the guilty thought that an extra second might mean that the power snaps off and your colleague is left with the “bucket” option.
This is the time for blogging and emails home if there is power. The evenings are so short that this is our free time.
Breakfast – mush and fruit. We restock the clinic room with pregnancy vitamins- our stock that we brought with us is soon running low and hygiene kits (a small flannel, soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste).
Our interpreter Emmanuelle arrives and the clinic begins. We run in tandem with Marie and so two women are seen at the same time. We fully acknowledge this as a confidentiality nightmare- they often know one another. This can lead on occasion to a heated debate where a consultation turns into a bit of a committee event with the other woman putting in her twopence worth as well!!
Sometimes the fan is on for a blessed hour or so. When it clicks off, we both inwardly groan, five minutes later everyone is awash with sweat.
A young primip arrives establishing in her labour. Marie assesses her and encourages her to walk around the garden to help her labour establish and deepen. Roseline (named changed for confidentiality) dances through her labour, shifting and swaying around the garden accompanied by female relatives. We continue to see women whilst listening to her progress and popping out to listen to the FH every 30 minutes.
Roseline arrives back in the clinic room obviously in good strong labour. We clear the room and make preparations to have a baby. Marie catches a healthy baby boy just over an hour later watched by a terrified dad who is torn between watching his child born and running away.
We help Roseline feed her new son and transfer her to the postnatal recovery area. There are about a million relatives waiting to greet the new arrival. We try in vain to get them to leave her to rest and eventually after washing the birthing linen and her clothes in the back yard the greater part of the relatives leave and just Roseline and her partner are left to enjoy their new family.
We tidy the clinic room and prepare to resume the clinic after a quick lunch trying to catch the hint of a breeze on the other balcony.
We resume the clinic and see approximately another 10 women between us.
We check Roseline and restock the clinic room for the next day. We discuss the day with Marie – there were things about the birth that we wanted to talk about.
Time for a shower (if there is power) or a bucket and the ritual application of yet more layers of DEET which means we can sit outside without being paranoid about mosquitos.
We sit on the roof as the dusk falls watching and listening as our little neighbourhood gets ready for the night. The moon is getting bigger and brighter every night now and we think of all the very pregnant women we have seen today. Anything could happen tonight.
19.30 We have eaten dinner by the light of our headtorches and chatted with Marie, Zeenia and Santo. The power hasn’t come on this evening at all. So its bedtime for us! Hoping for a full night’s sleep we wrestle with our mozzie nets and fall asleep. We keep half an ear open for the creak of the gate.