An Unexpected Gift…

As I was standing outside the birthing center listening to one of the midwives describe a typical day, Sally, our trip coordinator, began to beckon me into the delivery room.  She says; ‘there’s a baby coming.’

I enter a dingy, approximately 10 x 12 room with two old examination tables covered in what looks like white plastic garbage bags.   Two Ugandan women, experiencing intense labor pain, were being treated by a midwife.  Sarah, a member of the OTM group who is a Doula, was giving a woman who was clearly full term breathing instructions as she shared her “Emergen -C” infused water.   No water was available for patients.

Sarah introduced me to Margaret, who spoke little English and seemed disgusted and confused about why I was there.   Drawing closer to Margaret, the repulsive stench coming from her body nearly knocked me out.  It had clearly been a long, long time since soap and water had touched her.

Another contraction began and Margaret reached out for me.  Fearing that I might faint from the funk, I took a step back.  Then I closed my eyes, said a prayer, and took a deep cleansing breath.  A sister was asking for help, the funk didn’t matter.   I held out my hand.  Margaret swiftly pulled her whole face between my breast.

When an examination by a midwife determined that she was only 8 centimeters dilated, Margaret was  told to get off the table and go outside.  Reluctantly and only with help from Sarah and I, she got off the table and went to an area in back of the clinic.  There we met Margaret’s sister.

On all fours in the grass, Margaret indicated that she needed to defecate and did  – right there on the grass.  Margaret’s sister gathered banana leaves to clean her and Sarah handed me her scarf for wetting to wipe Margaret’s face as there were no towels.  Margaret, still on all fours in the grass, writhed and cried.

Sarah and I, insisting that Margaret was near delivery, coaxed the attendants to re-examine her.  They now agreed that it was time.  I held Margaret closely as Sarah continued her coaching work.

Struggling to position her on the garbage bags, Sally held one leg, as I held the other, and together, we scooted Margaret in position.  For an instant, I wonder how in the world I got here – in a hot room overwhelmed with the stank of body oder, defecation, urine and blood, assisting a woman who is most likely HIV-positive in childbirth.  I silently thank God, we open her legs a little wider on the stirrup-less table,  and see the emergence of the baby’s head.  After two more big pushes, we joyfully witness Margaret’s baby boy enter the world, exercising great lungs, weighing in at 3 kilometers. Margaret sees her baby boy and smiles big.

As the child is taken away, Margaret smiles at me, lays my hands on her belly and indicates for me to rub.  When the nurses return their attention to Margaret,  I continued to massage and jump as the placenta is released.  Margaret smiled big again.

Sally, Sarah and I joyously celebrated Margaret and her beautiful baby boy, recognizing that even with all the inadequacies, they were both very lucky.   Most woman in Uganda’s villages deliver their babies in a bush.   The death rate of woman and children in childbirth is insanely tragic.

When I inquired about Margaret and the baby the next day,  I was told that she was gone.  Mothers in Uganda spend hours, not days recouping after childbirth.  Though, I’ll most likely never see her again, I am grateful beyond words for the deep connection I experienced with this sister on the path.  Truly grateful beyond words.


12 Responses to “An Unexpected Gift…”

  1. February 11, 2010 at 11:48 am

    All I can say is, “Wow!” I can’t imagine giving birth in conditions like that, and yet, women do it every day. Thanks for sharing your amazing story. Keep up the fantastic work!

  2. February 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you for this incredible posting. Margaret was a lucky woman to have Nikki and Sarah at her side. She will never forget either one of you for supporting her on such an important day. And surely, she and her baby have left an indelible mark on your hearts and minds as well. Much love to you both.

  3. 3 Kristie, Mikey and Myles
    February 11, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Hey Auntie!

    This is Myles and I’m very happy you delivered a baby from Uganda. also I’m sorry to say but the COLTS lost the super bowl. Okay I love you bye and good luck in Africa.

    This is Mikey. This report must of taken a long time to write but it was worth it. We are and should be grateful that we dont have aids or hiv. We shuold also pray or physically help those who are less fortunate than us. Some poeple dont even have food on the table every day in Africa.I think it is great how you are helping all of those families. If no one helps them then it will get even worse in Africa. From, your oldest King kid, Love you.

    It’s Kristie and we are SO happy that you have added us to your blog! OMG, you delivered a baby in Africa!! You helped to bring life into this world on a continent that birthed us all. INCREDIBLE! I just read every blog to the boys from you and your team. My eyes filled with every one just reading how each of you has been touched personally by your own individual experiences. The work you are doing is incredible and you are inspiring all of us through your service. I would LOVE to be there with you. Keep serving and sharing… We love you and please share our collective love with our brothers and sisters in Our Motherland. Love, your niece, Kristie

    • February 12, 2010 at 5:50 am

      Hey!!!! Next year is South Africa and the year after Haiti. I would love for you to go!!!

      • 5 Laura VanNote
        February 15, 2010 at 8:59 am

        Hi Nikki,
        I cried when i read about the baby. That’s so great! I am going to stop bitchin about my life, for sure. We have so much here. Love you guys , say hi to Kathy for me.
        Laura Jean

  4. 6 Karen
    February 11, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    THIS is reality!

    To coin a phrase: “Got Heroes…Compassion…Service…Community…Power…Greater Good…Sacrifice…Empathy…Grace…Epiphany…Joy?”

    Birth/birthing is awesome; it is cosmic; it is transformative. It IS a miracle. It is our connection to the Infinite.

    Nikki–You gave a young mother such an important gift. Thank you for sharing your experience. It reminds me that I need to apply this level of service to others in my daily journey.

  5. 8 MJ
    February 13, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Dear radiant sacred women,
    All who participated in this birth and others,
    woman doing what we do best best, give life, and strength and hope.
    Holding all close in my heart, MJ

  6. February 13, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Having babies is messy work, but one of the most rewarding jobs ever. As many times as I’ve witnessed this miracle I think it’s interesting that I’ve never ceased to think of it as a miracle. Participating in childbirth is humbling, exciting, and life-affirming. I feel truly blessed to be a part of something that is so much bigger than me. Blessings on your journey and safe travels. Best wishes as you continue to touch the lives of the people of Uganda.

  7. 10 Julie Freeman
    February 14, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    What a beautiful blessing! Isn’t life wonderful!!!
    Love you,

  8. 11 Lea-Rae Belcourt
    February 25, 2010 at 5:09 pm


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