Kudjip Nazarene Hospital, Papua New Guinea: With any pregnant mom, I always feel a little added pressure/stress because there are 2 lives that I am responsible for. Most of the time, everything turns out great and there is a screaming baby and two smiling parents at the end of it all, but there are times when things don’t go as planned. So the pressure/stress comes from within, wanting to make sure I do everything possible that I can to end up with a healthy mom and baby. A recent pregnancy, had all the normal pressure/stress, but then an added pressure on top of it. This wasn’t just any mom, this was my neighbor and fellow missionary, Danielle. This was the daughter and soon to be grandchild of the Schmelzenbachs (my boss here) and the baby was to be the namesake of Lula Schmelzenbach herself (Danielle’s greatgreatgrandmother and the first missionaries, with her husband, of the Church of the Nazarene in Africa). So a healthy mom and baby, was definitely the outcome I was going for.
Things were going well, up until about 34 weeks. The ultrasound at that time, started to show some signs indicating that maybe the placenta wasn’t going to keep nourishing the baby for 7 more weeks, that it was getting old. I started to do weekly ultrasounds and measurements of mom and baby to see if/when the baby quit growing, knowing we might have to have the baby sooner rather than later. Finally, at 37 wks the baby seemed to have grown as much as it was going to inside mom, so the decision was made to induce Danielle, to have the baby early, so the baby could continue growing on the outside.
Missionary deliveries at Kudjip have taken various forms over the years. Often there is a period of home labor, followed by a short trip to a private room at the hospital for continued labor with a nurse and delivery by the doctor. It sounds simple enough. When you only live 4 minutes from the hospital on foot, getting to the hospital to deliver the baby seems like a pretty definite thing, but that wasn’t the case with Danielle.
I planned to get an early morning start on things. The general rule is that you dilate 1 cm an hour and she was starting at 2, so it should take 8-9 hours to have a baby. By starting at 0400, maybe we would have a baby around lunch time…if all went well. As I gave her the medicine at 3:45 am, I told her more specifically what to expect. “It can often take a few hours before you feel any pain or contractions,” I assured her. “Sometimes we even have to give a 2nd dose if nothing happens with the first dose. ” I almost stopped there, but then thought I should tell her the other side, so I continued. “Now, there are times when it goes quickly, quicker than normal, and since we are starting things at home, we don’t want to have to rush to the hospital, instead let Gail (our nurse) know as things progress, so we can monitor you and the baby closely and get to the hospital with lots of time for the delivery!” Danielle said that she understood and quickly took the little pill.
Thankfully, my house is literally a stone’s throw away, a 5 second sprint just across the street from her. I knew I couldn’t go back to bed so I was up doing things around the house and decided to shower early, just in case things ended up going quicker than we expected.
Just as I was about to get into the shower at 5:00am, I received a text message (yes we actually do have these here) “mild contractions coming every 10 minutes.” Okay, I think, lots of time yet. I get my shower, check email and then another text comes at 5:33am, “my water broke, contractions every 2 minutes…I start that sprint for their house!
I find Danielle on their bed looking very comfortable. She is now 3-4 centimeters, but I don’t witness a contraction, the baby’s heartbeat is doing well, so I decide to go home again. If we are 4 cm, we are still looking at 6 hours or so before delivery. I emailed my sister to see if we could Skype at 6:00 am, instead of 6:30 am like normal.
I get a text from Gail at 6:03 am, “she is on her way up, she was having more pain and was ready for Gail to be there.” Okay, I thought, now she is having more pain. Great, labor is definitely kicking in, maybe we are looking at before noon. Maybe 10 minutes later, I was still checking email, waiting for my sister to pick up on Skype, when I heard a loud scream. I thought to myself, that is either someone in the village who is being beaten (of which there is nothing I can do), or that is Danielle and I better go. So, I took off running to their house and as I do, I hear Morgan (Danielle’s husband) yelling…ERIN! I rush in and find that she is completely dilated and could have this baby at home, but I wasn’t ready for that.
Danielle is saying she has to push, but I look at her and Morgan and their perplexed son, who was wondering what is wrong with his mom and why she is screaming, and say with the most commanding voice I could muster looking directly into Danielle’s eyes (as if speaking something strongly means it will happen), “You NEED to breathe, you CANNOT push, and we NEED to go to the hospital NOW!”
I turned around to see Rachel (who also heard the scream) take Theron, and amazingly Morgan and Danielle were up and out the door within seconds. As I am racing to open the car, another contraction comes and Danielle stops in the driveway and tells me she is going to have the baby now. I just continue in my stern voice, “NO, you are NOT going to have this baby now. DO NOT push, keep breathing, you need to get in the car.”
I open up the back of the Land Cruiser, Morgan lifts her up. I confirm that the baby’s head isn’t coming right now and then jump into the driver’s seat. Morgan doesn’t even close the doors, he is holding onto the back of the Cruiser, positioning himself in front of his wife, preventing her from falling out and yells GO. I floor it and go as fast as possible on our little station road to the hospital.
We pass Harmon and Cindy Schmelzenbach on the road as we go. They were coming up to see how things were going, planning to spend some time with their laboring daughter for a while before the birth. They realize it was us, seeing Morgan barely hanging on in the back and they take off running/driving to meet us at the hospital. We passed Gail on the road as she was coming up to help Danielle with the labor and she turns around and meets us at the hospital. When we pull into the ER I confirm the head isn’t coming out right now and then take off running to grab a trolley to wheel her into the delivery room. Gail has arrived, so I leave her and Morgan to wheel Danielle into the delivery room as I run to the private room, unlock it, and get gloves on to catch this baby. We get Danielle into the room, onto the bed and two pushes later Lula Anne was born at 6:19 am.
Thankfully the end result was a screaming crying baby, two smiling parents, two smiling grandparents and a relieved nurse and doctor, who have vowed to not do home inductions again!
You can follow the happenings of the Stephenson Family on their blog here.
Story from the blog of Dr. Erin Meier. You can follow Erin in PNG here.