By Annette Meyer
Thinking back on my recent visit to Tanzania to volunteer in the labour ward at Amana hospital brings to mind all sorts of feelings and memories. The familiar smell of the building as we waited for our luggage in the humidity following the heavy rain, the constant babble of voices at the airport, and the hassles of the customs officers as they inspected the bags containing precious medical equipment that Midwife Vision was bringing into the country to help conditions for the mammas in the hospital. And then the relief as we were allowed to leave at last with our cargo.
The welcoming smile of our ever-loyal driver, Michael. So much rain, big puddles, flooded roads, a wheel chair half submerged in water in the hospital yard. Beds of mammas writhing in pain calling, “help me nursie”, “doctor”, “mamma”, “God help me”. Midwives rushing here and there with deep concern and caring for the mammas. Midwives administering Panadol and codeine, followed by the silence of pain relief.
The welcoming smiles and cuddles of the Midwives at Amana hospital, calling “mambo Bibi” (hello grandmother), habari (hello). The cries of new born babies, sometimes with relief that they have survived the birth experience, such helpless bundles of joy, the joy of weighing the babies, dressing them in the beanies, singlets, and booties or socks that such loving volunteers have made, wrapping them in their mamma’s kanga or a warm blanket so caringly donated for those little ones who have endured a particularly long birth or a caesarian section, taking temperatures, listening to heart beats, putting antibiotic ointment in their eyes to guard against infection.
Cleaning the baby bench and spraying to discourage the flies, comforting the crying babies, waiting for their mamma’s to be stitched up before having a feed. Observing the transformation from a distressed mamma wracked with pain to a tired but relieved mamma holding her newborn with such love and pride, big smiles and Asante sana (thank you very much) to the nurses and midwives who helped her through the long hours of labour.
The aching legs from long hours of standing, emptying urine bags, washing down beds after a delivery and putting a clean Macintosh on the bed, rushing from one mamma to another, rubbing backs to relieve the pain, holding the hand of a frightened mamma who is experiencing child birth for the first time, and answering requests of the midwives who are so busy with one birth after the other.
And then at home after a busy day, a welcome shower to freshen up, a delicious meal that chef had cooked, a fun evening watching TV, and lastly the welcome bed. (until the alarm goes off next morning and it all starts again).
But would I change anything? No, not at all. Would I go again? Absolutely! It is so rewarding to help such a hard-working group of midwives, and to help those mammas and the beautiful babies.