Too many babies are dying in Nigeria

A baby died today who should have lived.

When I arrived at the clinic this morning, two woman were in delivery and 1 woman had just delivered. The first woman delivered a premature baby girl but she was healthy and beautiful. The second woman began to push only about 30 min after the first had given birth. She already had gravida 9 with 8 children still alive. She was a skinny woman and her stomach was huge. She was having twins. Everyone in the clinic was excited to give birth to two beautiful twin girls. All the woman insisted that I deliver the first one and then Helen would deliver the second. I was petrified but since Helen was next to me, I figured it would be fine. With my gloves on, I stood by the bed and waited for the placenta to break and the baby to come. Helen reached inside the woman, felt around and then told me to do the same. As I put my fingers in, Helen asked me if I could feel the foot, which I could, and told me the baby was going to be delivered breach. I stepped aside, knowing that in Nigeria, this could lead to complications. Helen took over and told the woman to push. Half the baby came out easily but that was it. Helen tried to pull the baby the rest of the way out but the woman had stopped contracting and the head and shoulders were stuck inside. You could see the babies legs and body move a bit and it looked like it was trying to breath. Immediately, Helen called for the head nurse who rushed in and told one of the students to giver her an IV drip that should make the woman contract. The head nurse tried to wiggle the baby out and after about 10 minutes of the nurses yelling at the mother, the baby had not moved any further out. At this point, there were about 15 students in the delivery room, all leaning in to watch, and making it difficult to move around the room. I couldn’t understand why the head nurse didn’t yell at all of them to get out so that she could actually work. It was really frustrating and I felt so claustrophobic.

This whole time, all the woman were yelling in Hausa so I am not sure exactly the reason, but they had the mother get up, with the baby hanging half out of her, and move to the bed next to hers. At this point, the IV was beginning to work and after a few more pushes, the baby came out. This all happened in a span of about 20 minutes. The baby came out, still, eyes closed, and not breathing. The head nurse took her the side bed and tried to revive her. In order to do this, they have a device that you stick one end into the babies throat and the other into the nurses mouth and suck the mucus out of the lungs. Then repeat with the tube down the babies nose. The baby was still lifeless and the students were all crowded around the table watching. Some of them were crying a little and the others had their hands on their face. I couldn’t watch any more so I turned my attention back to the mother and the second baby. The second girl came out easily but she had been in distress during this whole time. I helped to deliver her and then another student, Suzy, and I began to clean her off. The head nurse came over to us and did the same procedure of removing mucus from the babies lungs. You could tell the baby had been in distress because it had diarrhea immediately. After the baby was cleaned, we dressed it and wrapped her in a blanket. She was a very healthy and beautiful baby girl.

The other baby had died and she was laying on the table with a blanket over her. I pulled up the blanket just to get a look at her and she looked like a healthy baby. She was actually bigger then the premature baby that had been delivered before her. The mother was laying on the table and she was visibly exhausted. Through this whole experience, she had managed to cry only a little bit. She was a strong woman but she looked very upset about losing one of her twins.

When I was talking to the head nurse later, she explained that breached babies don’t always die here. The reason this one died was because the mother was not pushing hard enough. I don’t know how true that was or who’s fault it was that the baby was dead, but I know that if that same situation had occurred in the states, that mother would be at home right now with her two beautiful babies.

One of the more interesting and slightly upsetting parts of all of this was the reaction of the students and nurses. As this situation was unfolding, everyone was very upset and worked very hard to save the baby. But, after there was nothing left to do and the baby was dead, that was it. They went back to work and started joking and laughing as normal. I guess that is what happens in a country where it is so common to lose a child during birth. It was hard for me to joke and laugh with the girls because I was still very upset (although had somehow managed not to cry) and because the woman who had just lost her child, could hear the girls laughing. Once again, this is not my culture. I do not know how things are done here, how people feel about some situations, or how people coup with loss. I can’t judge the actions of any of the nurses at the clinic. I know they did their best to save that babies life. It is just upsetting that I know that baby should not have died and that they are so used to babies dying that they are able to laugh right after.


4 Responses

  1. This story made me cry. I am so proud of you. I don’t think there is any way I could have been as strong as you were.
    I love you and miss you so much!

  2. Evelyn, you are the bravest young woman I know and I am completely overwhelmed with sadness from your story. I believe that the world will benefit from your experience as you will make it a better place for women.
    I love you and miss you so much!

  3. As I read this last post I was seriously quivering and shocked by everything you wrote. I am truly amazed at what you are doing!!

  4. I can’t think of anything more emotionally extreme than watching some one beginning life and some one ending life at the same moment. How you went through that is beyond me but I’m glad you wrote the story.

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