Happenings in My Doula World


I had become a little weary of chasing down CMOs, hospital admins, sisters, matrons and nurses at Manzini’s hospital, RFM. Even after some great progress and hopeful news, I was getting doors closed that I thought were open. Suffice it to say the doors kept closing, and I was frustrated. 

At the end of last year, I joined a hospital committee to apply for a UNICEF grant. The grant would enable the hospital to bring in a doula teacher who would train ladies to become doulas. It would also provide a small stipend (for transportation or meals) for the women who chose to volunteer. Two weeks ago, I found out that was likely to not be approved. 

Out of that birthed a doctor’s desire to still see this thing happen. He decided a lay-doula, volunteer program could still happen. The hospital staff could teach the doulas what to do. (This should be interesting since they don’t do ANY of the work of a doula, NOR have they ever seen a doula in action. I’m already coveting a certificate to teach doulas.) He called a meeting with myself and two of the head nurses. During that meeting last week, one nurse turned to me and said, “I think you should start working here. Maybe you can volunteer time, they we will know you and know this doula work. And from there we’re going to find other women to serve as doulas, and we’ll start an orientation.” 

Just. Like. That. 15 months AFTER the inception of the idea to become a labor doula and be allowed inside the doors to the Labour Ward. 15 months after I started praying for doors to open. 11 months after I first took those nurses cookies. 5 months after I was told I had “permission” to enter the labor ward, only to show up there with a mom and be asked to “sit on a bench” while they tried to figure out if, indeed, I was allowed. 

Yup. It’s been a while. I had almost given up. I had almost washed my hands. I had laid my head down on the table and yelled, “That’s it! I give up. I will educate women, but I won’t accompany them in labor or get my certification.” [Yes I actually did this.] I had wondered if I had listened to my community all wrong. 

But now there’s hope again. The doctor immediately went to the Chief Medical Officer, who became very excited that I wanted to start volunteering. For now, I’ve committed to every Wednesday. If all works out, I would work a 7am-4pm shift. When I am ‘hired’ privately by a mother, I could accompany her in labor – even if she’s not delivering during my shift. This way, I’ll get to know the routines, know the nurses, they’ll trust me, and I can be present with these moms all the way through. 

AHHHH! A big sigh of relief washed over me. Maybe, it’s gonna happen. 

________

For now, I continue educating the pregnant women on Thursday’s at our local clinic (much like a doctor’s office here, it’s the closest medical facility where nurses serve the multifarious needs of the people – ARVs, shots, antenatal check-ups, broken limbs, sick check-ups, burns, infections, etc). Through that, I met a wonderful mom who’s eager to learn more about her body, baby, and how she can be the best mom. 

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A Busy Day in the Life of a Doula, Student, Teacher, Community Developer, Homesteader Missionary


Just about every time I’m explaining myself to a new person, they always ask, “So what do you DO?”
This is a difficult question to answer succinctly. Maybe my readers can help me. I DO so many different things on any given day, how do I summarize my work? So by all means, comment below if you’ve got a good title for me. :D otherwise, here’s a sampling.
Yesterday stands as a perfect example of any average day for me. Here’s the run down.
I woke with the sun, hearing our roosters great the dawn even before it had peeked over the mountains. Thor stood whining at the door, beckoning Please let me outside. I gotta pee AND it’s daylight. We’ve got work to do!
Rolling out of bed, I dressed in the day’s first outfit. Gardening pants and a tanktop. Slipping on my flip flops as I slid out the front door and to the watering cans. Sean and I watered the garden, fed our chickens, and cooed to the hen sitting on eggs. Watering takes about 30-45 minutes with two of us working, so we had just enough time to move our chicken coop to a new location and prepare a bed before I had to leave.
Rushing inside, now 8:00 greeted me. I hurriedly ate breakfast. Changed into my second change of clothes for the day – slip on shoes, a long skirt, fancy shirt, and jewelry. I grabbed my doula teaching stuff. Two stacks. One for the clinic. And a personalized folder for a mom I was meeting.
Hurrying (aka 20mph) down the gravel road, down the highway, and back onto another gravel road, I hopped out of the truck and rushed into Moti clinic, our local clinic where everyone from our town Masini, and the 2 surrounding towns head to for check ups, minor medication, ARVs, and prenatal visits. The later is why I’m here. Greeting the nurses and informing them of my presence, I sat against the wall on a bench. And settled in. With no pregnant women at the clinic when I arrived, I settled in to wait. I pulled out notes for my yoga class and started adding poses to my sequencing. Tipping my head back to rest on the windowsill, I closed my eyes and imagined my body moving through the poses- looking for any holes or needed additions.
The feeling of a very close body interrupted my imaginings, so open popped my eyes. Seeing a young girl smiling shying and looking at me, I looked at her belly. Does she look pregnant? Was she one the nurses had sent for me to counsel?
Not seeing any ‘bump’, I resorted to asking her in siSwati, “Are you here for counseling?” Her response was inaudible, and incomprehensible. My heart went out to her- her shyness, her fear at speaking with me. After asking her again, and getting a different, yet wierder response, I figured I’d wait and see. She sidled closer to me, really close even for a culture where personal space doesn’t matter too much.
And I thought What’s going on here?
Then the singing started. And the mumbling. And every time I looked at her and smiled, she’d let a huge grin and cackle loose.
Eventually I went back to outlining my yoga class, with her pouring over my shoulder. And all the patients started looking at us. Me scribbling. Her singing and sitting on my lap. They tried talking to her, getting mumbled responses.
And we all exchanged a look- the other patients and I- it said Oh dear. Another mad one. Oh well. Sigh. She seems harmful. And we shrugged our shoulders in unison.
After some time, a nurse gave me an “office” and sent a first-time mom to meet with me. Introducing myself and asking her name, I pulled out my siSwati teaching cards and card stock mini-posters. I began (like always) in asking what questions she had about childbirth, and what she would like to learn about. Once she picked her topic – What to Feed Her Child After She finished the 6 Months if Exclusive Breastfeeding- we proceeded. From her questions, I concluded she WAS HIV +, so I launched into education regarding mother to child transmission. We discussed (mind you this is in siSwati.. Extra brain power needed!) the benefits of breastfeeding. She even asked about eating the placenta. I was so surprised, I asked her to repeat herself. Hah! Yup. She just asked that. I busted out my “According to research” responses, and looked out the window to make sure I wasn’t getting PUNKed – Swazi style. I spent extra time with this first time mom, because she was curious, inquisitive, and eager to learn. Often the moms are shy and whisper their answers to me, exhibiting a lack of trust. For whatever reason, sometimes I get a mom who trusts me, and she rambles on about her choices, rattling off question after questions. Seemingly grateful to have someone willing to answer her.
Once Inquisitive Mom left, I stayed in the ‘office’ until 12. I edited my book on the phone, prayed, and by 12, I knew no more moms would show up. So I chatted at the nurses’ stations, confirmed there were no more prenatal patients, and piled into the truck.
As I started my engine, a middle-aged man ran up to the car. Rolling my window down, I greeted him. He responded with, “I’m asking for a lift to Tri-cash.” He hopped in the cab, and away we went. Until we rounded the bend and picked up more hitch hikers, until the bed was almost full. Along the short trip back to the junction that’s the gas station/bus stop/ my turn-off, he reminded me, “You must bump this wheel,” pointing over my steering wheel. It took a repeat of the phrase to get it.
“oh my tire is low again. I need to PUMP the tire up!” gosh what a nice thing to say.
Upon stopping at the appropriate place, the hitch hikers all piled out,giving me a two-hand wave of respect and gratitude. My cab passenger said, “Ok. Must I accompany you to bump the wheel?”
“Oh no, thanks I can do it. We have a problem with this wheel, so I know the way.”
“Ok. No. Thanks,” he replied and popped out.
12:32 and my day still had 7 hours to go.

After filling the tire, thanking the two more offerers of help I got, I loaded into the truck, again. A quick trip down the road ended me at Nhlambeni. The neighboring town where I would meet Sisi Sibisi, my newest doula client.
Her directions got me to the turn off, (which shockingly was the correct road!), upon which she told me, “Go to the first homestead and ask for my house.” Which I did. And the man I met told me to keep up the road and ask another homestead.
Which I did. This man waved me up the hill, where his daughter or niece jumped into the cab, then pointed the way. Through, you know, brush, trees, grass past my window, and a pothole so big I thought my car had been swallowed by El Chubacabra. And it ended with, “Here is the home.”
Thanking her, and feeling like schmuck for her having to walk home now, I grabbed my second pile of doula folders, and fell out of the car. Popping one last grape into my mouth, I yelled, “Sanibonani Ekhaya!” Hello everyone at the house.
Like it always happens, faces of children and women peer over and through the grass, respectively.
Sister Sibisi got two chairs for us from her room, and we set up on the shady side of her house. This being our second visit, we already knew quite a bit about each other. We met last week at the clinic. Upon me explaining the nature of my work, she promptly asked me to be her doula and teach her more, and accompany her to the hospital when her contractions started.
So here’s we were. At her house. We reviewed the contract, her medical history and dove into lessons on how to time contractions and the stages of labor. She soaked it up. Accurately figuring out HOW to time contractions. A feat that took me a few tries the first time.
When I asked her what she would do with this new information she learned today, Sibisi replied, “I’m going to teach others.”
And when I asked if she had any other questions, she inquired, “When you come again, can it be when my husband is home?” A rare thing- for husbands to have much to do with their wife’s pregnancy. Never have I had a women take me up on the offer to meet WITH them and their mates. Until now
Oh God, what a gift. Have you connected me to another mom who be a perfect client? How lucky am I!
After 1.5 hrs, I too my leave. Leaving her assignments and readings to complete by our next appointment in two weeks.
On my way home, I stopped at the shop, sat and talked with Glorious. We tried troubleshooting some answers to the church-building’s money problems among other news. She asked if I was going home late today.
“No around 7 o’clock I’ll be home.”
“Oh because I have my sugar and wanted to buy maize.” Glorious is our neighborhood sugar lady. Several times a week, she takes a bus to town, buys 52 pounds of sugar, brings it back, carries home 2.5 miles on her head, where she promptly sells it, making about $.30 profit on each of the 8 bags. Sometimes when I drive to town, I pick up the sugar for HER, saving her $2.50 in transport. Other times I just cart it from the bus stop, the 2.5 miles home.
In addition to sugar, we loaded 110 lb sack of ground maize into the truck, and arranged I would deliver it after my yoga class, because by then, someone would be home to help me unload it.
I charged home, watered starts, boiled an ear of corn for my lunch at 3 pm, showered, changed into my third pair of clothes for the day. Yoga tights under a knee-length skirt, with no jewelry and a t-shirt. Multi purpose outfit. She’d the skirt for yoga class. Don the skirt for lessons and diverting maize.
Unloading my doula books, I loaded my siSwati notebooks and dictionary and yoga class supplies. Three trips in all.
Locking Thor inside again, I barreled down the road. Only to barrel right back. I met Mthami, who said Ukhohliwe? I nodded yes, I had forgotten something. Sean’s books. He wouldn’t make it home before lessons, but would meet us there.
4 pm, I picked up Nolwazi, and we headed to the clubhouse. She helped me translate about foods to feed your child for one hour. We poured over Sally Fallon’s book together, discussing SwZi traditional foods to feed infants.
5pm, I drove the 1 minute to the rec room, where I ran trough my yoga class, set up, and meditated for 2 minutes before my students arrived. These expat women sought me out, begged me to employ my Yoga-Teacher skills, and faithfully have attended classes for 4 weeks now. I have 4-5 students every class, who bless me with enthusiasm, a reason to keep MY practice up, and their smiles each Tuesday and Thursday.
We practiced on the porch today, listening to birds and crickets and looking out over the mountains.
By 7, I was heading home, with one last stop. Thank goodness I remembered today, because I often forget. Pulling into their ‘driveway’ that Mr Lulane spent a coveted day off clearing, just so when we visit, we can drive our car up to their house, the Lulanes met me. Glorious helped load the 52 lbs of sugar onto my head. I trepidatiously walked the blackened path through their gate and into their house, where I off-loaded the sugar. On my tales came her husband with 110 lbs of maize over his shoulder, and Glorious exclaiming, “Thank you so much! Thank you. I was going to be stranded. No one ever picks you up with this much maize. Please tell Mr Sean thank you very, very much.” She hugged me and I was gone. Then home.
7:15pm. Almost 12 hours to the minute since I walked out the front door. Now I was back through it. To a husband who cooked us dinner, a dog who still loves chasing cows, and a room lit by candles. Ahh! A good day.

So tell me, what do I do everyday? Seriously, what’s the job that I tell people about?

Categories: aDventures in Doula-ing, In the Garden, Kingdom Coming Related, Swaziland Updates | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Updated Photos – March


“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
― Wendell BerryThe Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

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You’ll notice in many of my photos that there aren’t really, well, people. It’s kind of on purpose. In a community where Smart Phones are rare, cameras are even more un-head-of. Call me an over-thinker, but I struggle to whip out my camera (or smart phone with a camera) when someone is doing something cool, so I can capture their image and put it on my blog. It feels too much like exploitation. I prefer asking people’s permission, even if they’re not sure what a “blog” is. ;) For those who love photos, here’s some. For those who want photos of  people, well you’ll have to settle for the stories I tell. But occasionally, I’ll spoil with you some faces!

Categories: In the Garden, Kingdom Coming Related, Swaziland Updates | Leave a comment

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