What a weekend!
On Friday, the pain around my belly was still coming and going. Ten days and it hadn’t eased at all. I went to the health centre and found Sister Cecilia leading the weekly Antenatal Clinic.
The Sister is the only qualified midwife in the whole eight districts of Jaiama Bongor Chiefdom. As part of the free healthcare plan, the government has asked her to come out of retirement and train-up health workers, like the Maternal/Child Health Aids.
I had not been seen by the Sister before but, after some quick checks, she explained that there’s no equipment here to help predict a due date, so a vague estimation is given based on your monthly cycle. Sometimes a woman can just miss a period though, and it doesn’t mean she is pregnant – and that’s what’s happened with me! The Traditional Birth Attendants, even the Maternal/Child Health Aids: they all got it wrong!
They said I would give birth by the end of November, but the Sister thinks I might not give birth for another week or two! I have been having false labour – she called it Braxton Hicks Contractions – which could have been brought on by my anxiety over the baby’s ‘late’ arrival.
I was so relieved to be given a good explanation for what I’ve been going through. At last, I could stop worrying and get on with life as normal for a couple more weeks.
I started doing laundry again, and pounding palm nuts to make oil. We use a lot of palm oil to make the food for Christmas! On Saturday, I walked into and back from Koribondo to the market and, yesterday, I went to Church.
But last night, the pain started to get worse. By 6 o’ clock this morning, it was agony. My mother, aunt and half-sister helped me walk to the mile-and-a-half to the health centre.
This is it!
Someone fetched MCH Aid Lucy, who opened the health centre, and I laid the two clean lappas (pieces of material) I had brought with me on the centre’s only delivery bed. One lappa so I do not have to lie on and stick to the plastic sheet covering the bed, and one to wrap the baby when it is born.
The labour was like all my others. I did not make a noise, even though it’s a big baby: I don’t want people to hear me and be asking, ‘Who is this shouting?’ Men do not want to hear women in childbirth! And like all the others, it was over in a couple of hours. Thankfully, there were no complications.
By 9 o’ clock, I was sat holding my baby boy. He’s a very healthy 3.7 kilogrammes (8lb 2oz).
After coming to greet his son, Suli has gone straight to buy clothes, plastic baby pants, everything we need for our new arrival. In Sierra Leone, superstitiously, we never buy anything before the birth – just in case.
I have no idea if my baby was in fact early or late! I think his timing was perfect, as Christmas is the only time of the year when all of the family comes together. My Mama and Papa, my brother and sister have returned from their schools, and even my Grandma will come from Kenema this week. In seven days time, they will all still be here for his naming ceremony as well.
I cannot stop smiling! Even his crying makes me happy. I feel so blessed: my beautiful, Christmas baby boy. Thank you!*
* Rather than ‘Congratulations’, life is so precious in West Africa that the mother says thanks/is thanked for bringing another life safely into the world
Mamie has been sharing her story with Amy Waddell in Sierra Leone
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