My Role as a Woman (in Honor of International Women’s Day)

March 8, 2013 § 5 Comments

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day as a national public holiday here in Zambia.

Since becoming a mother last June, I have been contemplating my role as woman and what that means for my identity, my family, and my work.

Growing up, my Dad was the sole breadwinner and my Mom worked to take care of our home. She home-schooled my brother and I through high school. I’m forever grateful to both my parents for their sacrifices for my education, well-being, and spiritual upbringing.

I had my own ideas about what being a woman would look like, which in my mind was the same as being a mother. « Read the rest of this entry »

Mama’s First Day of School!

August 27, 2012 § 4 Comments

Today is my first day of graduate school! I am now in the Masters of Science in Nursing program to become a Certified Nurse-Midwife. I’m a bit excited (and nervous!) but am ready for the challenge. It’s a completely online distance program. I’ll start the program remotely in Lusaka and then my clinicals (practicum) will be done in Seattle under Nurse-Midwives. If all goes according to plan, I’ll graduate Summer of 2014!

The road to being a midwife has been long. I was born at home in 1985 with FraNa Ready as my Mama’s midwife. All my growing up years, I would hear the story of my birth and I just thought home birth and midwives were the norm. I remember being 14 years old and checking out pregnancy, labor, and birth books from our local library. I even created a business plan in Sue (Anderson) Robert’s high school class for my future home birth practice as a midwife (Thanks for that, Mrs. Anderson!).

Throughout college, I had worked at a few different ICU’s as a nursing assistant. When I graduated nursing school, I got my first job working in a pediatric ICU. It was hard work and rewarding at times but I just wasn’t that passionate about it. Through my work as a birth doula and delivering babies in rural Malawi I rediscovered my desire to work with pregnant women and help them give birth.

It probably seems a little crazy to adopt a child and then go to graduate school but I believe I can do nothing else. My time here in Africa has shown me the need that exists for well-trained midwives and how I must steward my gifts and abilities.

February’s Book List

February 29, 2012 § 3 Comments

This is a series of brief book reviews of literary works that have been read by Ben or myself. The book list will be published at the end of the month and will include titles that have been finished in the previous month. All books are rated using the following system:

5 Stars – Excellent. Couldn’t put it down, a real page turner. It’s easy to be a bookworm when the material is this good!

4 Stars – Very Good. Liked most of the book, a little slow in parts. Was an enjoyable read overall.

3 Stars – Average. Nothing really made it stand out. A bit boring. Unrealistic plot.

2 Stars – So-so. Blah. Could only read a few pages before I fell asleep.

1 Stars – Poor. So boring…why did I even finish this??

Even though it’s technically Wordless Wednesday, it’s the last day of the month and that means it’s time for my monthly book reviews! This month was mostly a fiction month for my reading – I do have some non-fiction pieces in the works but I was a little slower going on those. Here’s my reads for this month:

Image via Amazon.com
  •  Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
  • Read in paperback, available as an e-book
  • 3 Stars

This novel showcases a medical malpractice trial of a lay midwife working in rural Vermont in the 1980s. I would mostly put it in the mystery category, more than any other genre. I mostly just wanted to read it because it had the word midwives in the title and I’m fascinated with all things birth. I don’t think I quite knew what to expect from it but it held my attention and was good entertainment. I was frustrated by the ending as it wasn’t very tidy or conclusive. Fair warning: it’s a little gruesome at times so it’s not for the faint at heart.

Cry, the Beloved Country

Image via Wikipedia

  •  Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
  • Read in paperback copy, available as an e-book
  • 5 Stars

A classic novel by Alan Paton showing the parallel lives of a black priest and white businessman both living in South Africa in the 1940s. The story highlights many of the racial issues that South Africa (or just ‘South’ if you want to sound cool here in Zambia) has dealt with and to a large degree still remain present. I found it particularly enjoyable to read since I am living in Africa but I believe it could be enjoyable to someone that’s not as well. The writing is beautiful with a quality rarely seen in writing today. It took me a bit to get used to the stylistic way of showing quotes but I don’t think it detracts from the book. My favorite aspect of the book was that it got Ben and I thinking about the issues presented in the book – race, family disagreements, development in a tribal/village based society, etc. Highly recommended!

Trip to Malawi: Village Life

February 27, 2012 § 6 Comments

This post is (quite) a bit later than I anticipated but it’s much too important not to share it. I spent the first week and a half of February visiting my friend Elizabeth in a small, rural village in Malawi. Elizabeth is in the Peace Corps and visited us in Zambia in December (see HERE). I went to Malawi because I wanted to spend some more time with her and explore what village life is like. Here is a summary of our adventures in the field!

Elizabeth and I

The adventure started out in a typical African way. The night before I was supposed to leave, I realized that Ben’s temporary work permit expired while I was to be gone and we needed an extension (we haven’t gotten the permanent work permit yet because the immigration office is out of the official booklets…but that’s another story). I had originally planned on catching the 6am bus to Chipata, Zambia where I would meet Elizabeth and spend the night before crossing the border to Malawi. With the immigration issue finally settled, Ben dropped me off at the bus depot and I got on the bus to leave for Chipata at 9am (the ticket counter said they would probably leave at 10:30). Perfect timing, I thought! By the time it was 11am…12pm…1pm I was starting to be anxious about when we would leave. Then, I heard the gentleman in front of me calling to complain to the bus company that this 6am bus that he was on still had not left yet! So typical of African culture…there was no “set departure” time. The bus would leave when it was full (or almost full). I had an offer from my sweet husband to take me home for the night but I decided to tough it out knowing that the same scenario could occur if I attempted the trip the next day. Instead, I camped out on the bus, ate vendor food (boiled eggs, popcorn, bananas, biscuits, etc.), and got through a good portion of my book (when I wasn’t interrupted by vendors wanting to sell to or talk to the only mzungu on the bus). After waiting all day, we left at 530pm and Elizabeth and I had a late but very welcome greeting in Chipata that night!

Preaching on 1 Peter

The next day, we had an interesting day in transportation. From our lodge, we took a taxi to the border, crossed the border, got a taxi on the other side, changed to a mini bus, stopped in town for lunch and groceries, got back on a mini bus, got in a matola (transport truck), switched to a different truck, and were preparing to take bicycle taxis into the village before we found out that the truck was going directly there. Lucky us!

Some highlights for the week were preaching in one of the local churches. I’ve been studying my Bible and when they asked me to share for the weekend message I had something ready to share (I preached on 1 Peter 1:3-10 about the hope we have in suffering). It’s particularly relevant to Malawi as inflation is very high, transportation is difficult because of the fuel shortage (there’s over a 48 hour wait in some places for fuel) and the crops may not be very good this year because of low rainfall.

My midwife tutor

I also spent time in the labor and delivery ward of the local clinic. You should know that this is a rural clinic in all senses of the word. They have no running water, no electricity, and only a little medical equipment. All of the mothers are required to bring their own bedding and plastic sheet (i.e. large grocery bag) for the birth as well as most of the supplies that are needed. At night, babies are delivered by candlelight and it is not uncommon to run out of drugs, gloves, or other basic supplies.

The first baby I caught - Baby Rola

I worked with the local midwife assisting her with the clinic work and regular checkups (prenatal, postnatal, etc.) as well as assisting with deliveries. I even delivered my first baby – a cute little girl that is my namesake. Well, sort of my namesake. Africans often have difficulty pronouncing my name because of the L’s and R’s. So the little girl is actually named “Rola.” Close enough. She’ll have story when people ask her about her name, “Well, I was the 6th of 6 girls and my mom was out of names so she named me after the mzungu that delivered me…”

Working at the clinic

Little breech baby

Another birth I was able to help with wasn’t supposed to happen at the clinic but the mother couldn’t get transportation because the ambulance didn’t have fuel so this little one was born frank breech at the clinic. The midwife I was working with was nervous about the birth and rightly so. I assisted the midwife and all of my emergency obstetric training came back to me in a flash and I was able to assist this little girl with her entry into the world. She also needed quite a bit with breathing for the first time. In true midwife terms, I had to work that baby hard. After a decent amount of resuscitation, we were able to relax and get mom and baby settled. It was amazing to actually assist with a breech vaginal birth, something most practitioners in the West never get the chance to do in their careers.

A true African woman sweeping

Cooking n'shima over the stove

Life in the village is very different than our western style of living in Lusaka. I enjoyed the change and it felt good to work hard. We cooked over a small outdoor stove, did laundry by hand, bathed with a cup and bucket, and enjoyed great community with Elizabeth’s neighbors and friends. I absolutely loved it and after only a week in the village, it was a bit of a shock to get back to flushing toilets, stoves, TV, and everything else modern.

Traveling back to the big city of Lilongwe

My trip home was long but luckily uneventful – 15.5 hrs on a bus and more bus food but osadandaula (no worries) I made it home to my husband who picked me up and had a home cooked dinner waiting for me. I am a blessed woman. I love living in Africa.

Life Updates: House, Car, and Laura’s new job!

September 29, 2011 § 5 Comments

It’s a very exciting time around here as we move from our current home living with friends (and many, many gracious thanks to the Showell family!!) and venture on to a place of our own. We are very excited about getting settled in and will share pictures when we have them. In other news, we found a car! We are working out the details but hope to get the keys sometime next week. More details to come.

In other news, I am volunteering for a medical mission organization. Our first outreach is Monday October 3 through Thursday October 13. We would appreciate your prayers as I go on this journey. We will traveling by plane 2 hours from Lusaka to a small outreach hospital and doing surgeries on women who have become incontinent after prolonged labor and who didn’t have access to an emergency c-section. These women become ostracized from society (modern-day lepers) who remain in their own urine and feces day after day. The VVF surgery (more info HERE) has a high success rate of repairing the damage these women have experienced and allowing them to integrate back into society. It’s a fantastic organization and more info about it is available HERE.

After the move, we won’t have internet for a while at our home so you may only receive sporadic updates from us. Stay tuned!

When Life Gets in the Way of Being a Doula

August 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Here’s a story from my doula days…I haven’t had a birth since May and I’ve been missing it a little. This is a short piece I wrote a while ago about life as a doula. Enjoy!

I just experienced one of the more painful experiences as a doula – I just missed my first birth. I had my backup doula just in case but it still felt terrible telling my client I couldn’t be there at her birth. She is a good friend and was my first doula client 15 months ago (before I even considered myself a doula, just a “helpful friend”).  I have had 7 births so far and haven’t needed to call my back up doula until today. So this first time experience left my heart sad realizing that I truly can’t do it all and that the world really does goes on without me.

 

Living as a doula means being prepared at all times to drop what you’re doing and head to a birth. For me, these have been birthday parties, dinners at home with spouses and families, church services, and outings with friends.  People are always very understanding of my work but it does come at a cost. This weekend, we were celebrating my dad’s 60th birthday in the mountains at their cabin by the lake. I had births the past two weekends and my next client wasn’t due for two more weeks. Now would be a great time to leave town. She was a week late with her first. This is perfect. Boy, do babies sure do have a funny sense of timing!

 

When I got the call from my friend at 630am on a Saturday morning, my first groggy thought was, “Surely, she’s not calling because she’s in labor.” Dang. After listening to her on the phone, I knew that even if I wanted to try to make it, I couldn’t. Women having their second babies with intense contractions 4 minutes apart generally don’t have very much time left in their labor! Not only that, she kept saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore!” Double dang. She’s in transition. I ran through in my head how I could get home and attend this birth. I quickly realized that was not possible – it would be at least 3 hours speeding home through the mountains. I notified my back up doula and burst into tears realizing that I couldn’t be there. I am not super-doula. I can’t do everything or be everywhere. But that is OK. I felt like my soul needed to breathe a bit and so I took a walk while the rest of my family slept.

 

I knew I made the right decision but it was so hard. As doulas, living on call can be difficult and tiresome at times. But we can’t live our lives just waiting for the phone to ring. While I was in the situation, I was reminded of an article I had read in the DONA magazine a few months before stating the exact same thing. As doulas, we can’t put all of our lives on hold just because we have clients due to give birth. It was incredibly challenging to stay put and not go to my friend in labor. I wanted to help her focus, breathe, and encourage her. I wanted to help welcome her baby (who is also my godson) into the world. As doulas, we are doers. We don’t wait very well. While out on my walk, I read my Bible to help encourage my heart and enjoyed the sunshine and mountains. I knew that I had made the right decision in staying, even though it was difficult. I knew how important it was to my dad that we could be together for his special birthday. My phone rang and my friend let me know that she had delivered a healthy baby boy only 2 hours after she called me. I cried again, rejoicing with my friend. She was elated and I was happy to know that she had the kind of birth she wanted. I hadn’t been there, but all was still right in the world.

Recent Reads: Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart and Baby Catcher

February 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

It’s the weekend and I thought I’d share a few of my recent reads with you. I recently got an iPod Touch (for free – thanks, Keybank!) and have been loving the Kindle app. As most of you know by now, I work nights half of the time and so often this leads to laying in bed but not able to sleep. The iPod is great because I can read without waking up my sleeping husband. Yes, I know it’s a backlit screen and too small…yada, yada, yada. I don’t care. I like it.

 

The following two books are childbirth/doula/midwifery oriented. I have two doula clients due in the next 6 weeks so perhaps I am getting my mental gear in motion.

*** Average

The first book I read was Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart by Carol Leonard.  It was an interesting read about an apprentice-trained lay midwife on the east coast in the 1970s and 1980s. It had some suspense and good chuckles. It does have some strong language at points and the author is quite prolific in talking about her New Age spiritual beliefs. It wasn’t a book I’d necessarily pick up again but it wasn’t something I wanted to leave unfinished either. My rating (from 1-5 stars) is 3 stars or average.

 

4.5 **** Almost Excellent

I read Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent next. This is a story of a Labor and Delivery RN who became a Certified Nurse-Midwife in the 1970s and 1980s. Now, this was a book I COULDN’T put down. I read this on paper (you know, the old fashioned way?) and I was glad I did because I nearly finished it during the 4 nights I worked last week (when it’s slow we’re allowed to read). Wow…Peggy is an excellent writer who had me giggling out loud at points then cringing in anticipation of the next twist of her very real stories. It was amazing reading about her journey to midwifery, helping women and their partners in all walks of life, and the sacrifices she and her family gave so that she could live out her calling as a midwife. It also has some unnecessary language (thus the 0.5 point dock) but could be appropriate for a mature teen interested in being a midwife. I know I would’ve loved to read it as a teen!

 

What are your recent reads??

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