Friday, March 28, 2008

One smol Sunita blong Vanuatu!

Yesterday was a very special occasion…the first baby named after one of us! Apparently it is a phenomenon that mothers, or sometimes the midwives, name the babies after visiting midwives and students that they like very much. There are a few Tracy’s, Molly’s, and Tara’s running around Vanuatu, and just recently a nurse named her granddaughter after a midwife from New Zealand that she befriended during her stay here.

Just this past week three of the midwives told me that they liked the name ‘Sunita’ and were threatening to name someone after me…now there is another smol Sunita running around Vanuatu! Well, not running yet, as she is barely 24 hours old…and it suits her because she was a very naughty little girl and decided to be born with both of her arms across her chest. Her mother had to push for an hour, which by Vanuatu standards of pushing is a VERY long time. It was extremely hard work for her, she was pushing so hard and the baby was coming very slowly. The mother asked us to cut the baby out a number of times and we had to calmly, and sometimes sternly, coach her to push and assure her that she had plenty of power.

Little Sunita was her second baby, but her first child was born by Cesarean section after prolonged labor and fetal distress, so effectively this was the first time she had to birth her baby vaginally. Here in Vanuatu they do not automatically sign someone up for a Cesarean section if they have had a previous one; they allow a trial of labor on well-healed scar. This type of birth is commonly referred to as VBAC: Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. This made the “prolonged” pushing stage trickier to manage because I wanted to coach her to push effectively and also be mindful of this being a VBAC, which is a much bigger issue in the States both politically and in practice. However, here in Vanuatu, we have already seen many successful VBAC’s and it definitely adds flavor to my brewing thoughts about the lack of availability and support for VBAC in the States…but we’ll save politics for another time.

What was also lovely about this birth was that I was able to use my French! There are a number of French speakers here in Vanuatu, and one of their three television channels is in French. This mother is a teacher at French-immersion school and spoke fluently. Although I am not a fluent speaker and am out of practice, words came flying out of my mouth and it felt good to finally be able to truly communicate with a mother here. Even though we try with Bislama, our skills are limited and it is rather unintelligible to women who are not from Port Vila or Efate because there are many different languages in Vanuatu. I think that the fact that I was able to speak with her in French made her feel slightly more at ease and take on the task of pushing so hard for one hour. It also reminded me how important it is to have at least one support person who is on her side (whether from her language group, religion, race, or family) to support a woman through the incredible work of birth. Even within the same country, hospitals and medical institutions are a different culture and the people in them speak a different language; a doula or someone who can function as an ‘interpreter’ to straddle that cultural gap can be invaluable.
To end the evening, I had to write my own name on the baby’s birth certificate, which was a very strange and also proud feeling. For those of you who have slightly more unusual names, it’s not often you encounter someone else with the same name, let alone write it as someone else’s! And it doesn’t hurt that the ‘someone else’ was a very cute baby! Now I am off to do a lot of nothing on my stunning day off…working on my excellent tan, Vitamin D levels, and floating skills. Seeing as how the three of us have split up in to different shifts, you are likely to be treated to more variations on the same day. Enjoy!! Love, Guess who


Anonymous said...

Hi Sunita,

How are you? I hope life has treated you well these past 8-9 years, you certainly look the same :) I read your post from Friday and was wondering if you could elaborate on the politics in the U.S. regarding VBAC births. I know that after one c-section, generally patients (in the U.S.)are advised to have another for any subsequent pregnancies. I didnt know there was a political angle to it, though I guess there is to most everything. Anyhow, drop me a line if you get a chance, my email address is on my facebook profile. I hope all is well.


lmv said...

another sunita! c'est magnifique! i'm loving the entries - giving me a whole new understanding of midwifery, vanuatu, and new life...