After slodging through calf deep mud, we climbed the rough-hewn wood ladder into a slatted hut. Our translator waved us to the far back corner as our eyes adjusted to the dark. There sat a small, slender woman holding a blanketed bundle. She looked weary but content.
Our mid-wife, Faye Fraser, set down her heavy pack, folded her legs underneath herself, and leaned into the bundle. A tiny, wrinkled brown face with dark eyes peered back. Her name is Subet. She was less than a day old at this point.
She was the tiniest baby I had ever seen in person, born early. How early, we would never really know. Her bruised arm indicated a rough entry into the world. Faye checked her vitals and, then, had momma lie down as she asked questions and pressed her abdomen gently. This was Bessia’s fourth child; all were still living, a rarity in the village of Sisiami.
As questions were passed through the translator, we found out the birth story. Bessia was up a tree getting sago for her family when her water broke and the pain came on. There were no sago trees nearby; villagers usually travel via boat to get to a plantation.
She travelled back to the village; her only helper was a young woman with no experience in birthing. They indicated a small palm hut out back as the birthing place. It was surrounded in deep mud with roosters clawing around the entrance. With woven palm frond walls and roof, it was open to the world on one side. Bessia didn’t labour long, however. An hour in the baby came. The young helper indicated the bruised arm came out first.
Faye was concerned about the baby’s lack of eating and talked to Bessia about constant feedings and expressing milk, since the little one hadn’t fully developed the strength to nurse. Both baby and momma were given some immunisations, a bundle of clothes, blankets, and soap.
I couldn’t help get emotional as I watched Subet sleep gently in her mother’s arms. All life, but especially new life, is such an amazing miracle. What a gift to be part of a team that gets to better Subet’s odds of survival and bring a fuller, healthier life to baby and mum.