Today was the definition of “hurry up and wait”. The maternity staff always rotates and one staff works Monday, Tuesday, Friday while the other does Wednesday and Thursday. Today, we had the staff who lets us do all the deliveries but not much of the paperwork. Unfortunately, nobody was in labor so it ended up being a pretty slow day. This would’ve been fine if I had a book or something but my silly self brought a book where I only had 20 pages left and finished it during the ride to the clinic. Side note– the book was “Sorority” by Genevieve Sly Crane… there wasn’t really a plot it was more of a fictional exposé so it was fun to read and felt low-key trashy but the quality writing was incredible? 7/10, would still recommend. Anyways, I was left to my thoughts and my Candy Crush but it was a wonderful day nonetheless. One of the Mercer interns left last week for a family emergency and another one arrived today so we had fun getting to know her and just hang out together.
However, after a very slow morning we decided we needed to do something. I ended up heading over to the dentistry unit to see if they’d let me observe. Luckily, a (particularly beautiful) dentist let me watch him do lots of tooth extractions. Though I’m fine with blood/other medical procedures, something about cracking teeth and dental tools has always given me a fright. I stayed for about an hour, watching children and adults alike with tooth pain get numbing shots then having every painful tooth removed. He said about 95% of patients come here for extractions with the other 5% being “patches” (cavity fillings) and cleanings (rare). As interesting as this process was, I scooted out after about an hour.
After we returned for lunch, a mother went into serious labor around 1:30. This woman had been sitting on a bed for a while but, as she told me, “I’m trying to push but only the poo poo is coming out!” Disclaimer for anybody who has not yet given birth/is nervous about it: 90% of women poop in labor so when it happens to you, know you are NOT alone (in fact, you’re normal). This same woman kept wanting me to clean it up for her but didn’t know my name so she continually shouted “White Woman!” every five minutes for an hour. It has become my new identity within the clinic. She begged me for an “operation” saying that she didn’t want to push anymore but, unfortunately, that’s not an option at our clinic.
After some more consoling and even more “White Woman” calls, she was ready to push and I could feel the baby’s head. However, she was only about 5cm dilated and the possibility of a baby coming out seemed nearly impossible from an outsider’s perspective. The sister-on-staff told us to go for it and get her pushing so we set up around her: Nikki lifting the head and shoulders, Skylar on the abdomen pressure to push the baby down, and me on the pulling/catching side with Madison (new intern) watching from the sideline. After a few pushes and a lot of stretching, the baby was out and breathing (and mama only needed 1 stitch!). It cried for about 10 seconds before going silent which meant we had to start hitting/flicking it to keep it crying (and, therefore, alive). This baby was alert, looking around, and clearly breathing, but it just didn’t need to cry. It was precious. After cleaning him off and weighing him, I got to hold him for 15 minutes while the others dealt with the mother/cord/placenta. Highlight of the day, for sure– he was biting his fingers, staring at me, and sticking his tongue out like a pro.
We headed out to the parking lot as soon as we got ourselves cleaned up (baby fluid/blood literally goes everywhere) and hopped onto our shuttle where the driver, Luvo, immediately asked “how many babies?” He’s the best. I headed home, hit the gym, then went out to dinner with some new friends from the Safari before jumping into my glorious bed. Tess (roommate) is living out in Franschhoek in her boss’ guest house so that they can work every day for a week (it takes him an hour to really get into Cape Town so they don’t get to work much) and I’m a little bit lonely but it’s nice to have some space for the first time in a while. One Mad Men episode in and I can already feel myself fading so it’s time to peace out. The Xhosa word of the day is “remove” as in a tooth: khupha.