DAY 1: I saw a UTERUS… She has WINGS!


No seriously… I did. Actually, I saw several uterii in the early hours after midnight on my first day, but the first one and the mom it belonged to made an impression on me in a profound way. Before I tell you about her, let me share a bit of background.

In the hospital where we are serving, they have a cesarean rate that is above 50%. To help with context, there were five cesarean sections during our eight hour shift and two vaginal births. There is a prelabor room, a labor room, a delivery room, and a few postpartum rooms for moms. The moms walk from one room to the next, except after cesarean sections when they are lifted off of the operating table and taken by gurney to the postpartum room. The women in this hospital labor without epidural or pain medications, unless they choose to pay for it ahead of time.

I had only been at the hospital for a short period of time and was in the nursery with the babies when my team lead asked if I wanted go to a birth. I said, “Of course!” And followed her through two hallways. As we were headed down the corridor, I saw a woman in a thin, see-through, blue paper gown and shoes covers walking down the hallway following some doctors. She was completely naked underneath.

My team lead led me to an area with four large doors and there were doctors walking around. When I looked inside the first open door to the right, I saw a doctor suturing a woman’s abdomen. I realized I was in the area with the operating rooms and the baby I had just seen brought into the nursery before I left belonged to this mom.

The woman I had seen walking down the hallway went into another room and was instructed to sit on the bed. The doors to the other rooms were open, so the surgeries happening to other women were in full view. I stood outside the door peeking in with my team lead as they prepared her for the epidural… numbed the area… inserted the needle… removed the needle leaving the catheter in place… inserted the medication… layed her down… lowered her head below her belly… leveled the table out again…

My team lead asked me if I had ever observed a cesarean section and I told her I had not. She told me that it may be a good idea to take the opportunity to observe one or two from start to finish when the mom is taken to the postpartum just to get additional perspective about how brave these women are. It sounded like good advice to me so I stayed to watch.

The doors were open, so her body was completely exposed, except for the thin, see-through blue paper gown that had been drawn up to her chest. Someone came in and cleaned her belly, vaginal area and thighs… first with a soap, then with a disinfectant.

I must take a moment to describe what happened next because of what it reminded me of. I grew up in a Baptist church where Communion was observed each 1st Sunday of the month. The way that the two doctors collected, opened and spread out the sheet over the woman reminded me of all the Sundays I had watched my Mom and the other deaconesses prepare the Comunion for the congregation. Every motion was deliberate and in unison. One sheet layed in one direction over her bare body. Another sheet opened in unison and placed in the opposit direction. And the final sheet that only left the bottom of her belly exposed.

For me, it felt symbolic, just like a different doctor who made the symbol of the cross over a woman’s uterus after repairing it and placing it back in her body. I saw two other doctors hold hands and pray before the surgery began.

Anyway, the young doctor began to check the mom’s previous incision area, because she had a scar from a previus c-section(s). Soon after, he began to cut. He took the razor from packet and began. One motion across the mom’s abdomen right along the same line of the scar from her previous surgery. And then he repeated it exposing white underneath. He took another tool and cauterized the incision while also removing a thin layer of scar tissue. Then he cut again and cauterized small areas where there was bleeding as needed. The other doctor followed behind patting the areas with a towel and checking for blood. The doctor cut deeper. There were little clumps of yellow which I recognized as fat.

It was about that time that my team lead told me that they were fine with me standing inside the rooms and not just standing at the door, so I walked into the small room and stood beside the other observers, each of us with face masks on and heads covered. Eventually, I noticed what looked like what the pictures and diagrams show as muscle. I asked my team lead, but neither of us had the best view to verify my guess. He continued, cutting and cauterizing between the muscles. Then they manually began to pull the muscle apart until he got to a shiney something underneath and the other doctor got the suction tube ready. It was her uterus. Then the doctor with the razor made an incision into the uterus and fluids began to squirt out, which the assisting doctor began to suction. The lead doctor manually opened the incision further. And after a moment, the assisting doctor took a tool and held the uterus open. The lead doctor stuck his hand inside of the woman’s abdomen and felt around. After a moment he began to pull on something. It was the baby’s head. After a bit of maneuvering, he pulled the baby’s head forward.

As the baby began to come out of the mom’s body and began to cry, the women beside me who had been observing began to silently cheer in a way I had only observed with vaginal births. The doctor lifted up the baby to show the mom and in an instant the baby was whisked away by the neonatal team to the nursery.

This post is getting kinda long so I will continue it in the next post… because what happened next was the part I had never seen… I did not realize that the physical uterus would remind me of a super heroine… wearing a cape… with wings… that can fly. How appropriate…

Being DARK when Complexion Matters


There is ONE DAY before I leave for Hispaniola, but can I be honest about something? I have had some experiences in other countries that have made me a bit apprehensive about what the experience will be like doing this work in the Dominican Republic… especially when told that the Haitian women are treated a bit harsher than the Dominican women.

I already hear some saying, “Why are you even concerned with color?” or “It is only an issue if you make it one…” I would encourage you to expand your exposure to experiences broader than your own.

As I travel, I am finding that before I speak, people classify me. It happens in the U.S. as well, but it is different when I travel abroad. These experiences have spoken volumes to me about how I view myself, by the way… especially after growing up with people asserting how much continental “Africans don’t like African Americans.” One reason why I have embraced and emphasized the identifications that include “African” is because (while on the continent) before I opened my mouth, continental Africans embraced me as African and tried to figure out where I was from on the continent.

So far, my passport has been stamped in two countries: South Africa and Qatar. Gene and I traveled through Qatar last year on our way to South Africa and decided to spend the night. Gene IS ADVENTUROUS so he wanted to get out and walk around. I was noticeably the darkest melanated person outside of a gentleman working at the hotel.

I noticed that people looked at us a bit as we went in and out of stores. We went to what was the equivalent of a Currency Exchange to get some money because Gene wanted to go into shops and try some authentic food. We happened to be there during their prayer time, so we had to wait for the tellers to come back to their posts. We don’t speak Arabic, so it was quite the experience finding someone that could help us.

Anyway, when we arrived at a dessert parlor, Hadhim Dates & Treats, we chose our desserts and as the young man was checking us out he said to me, “You from Nigeria?” My husband explained briefly that we were from the United States. Hmmm… I began to understand that he saw my husband as one who may be from the area (somewhere in the Middle East), but saw me as an African. He assumed that my husband had gone and gotten him an African bride.

The next morning, we caught our flight and continued on to South Africa. Anyone who is familiar with South Africa’s racial classifications knows that there are people who may have the complexion of my husband or darker that are not classified as Black, but Coloured. (Coloured people are lighter complexioned or mixed race people, and had certain privileges Black Africans did not have during Apartheid.) That was a different experience for Gene. He was even told that he could identify as Coloured if he wanted to… He didn’t like that… It left him feeling out of sorts.

We even noticed that when Afrikaans people (and others considered white in South African) heard our “American accent,” they were enamored by it and us. They admired that we were from the United States. And before our eyes we watched these individuals change their interactions with us and begin to smile and treat us better than our South African family that was hosting us. We didn’t like that either. We are no different than Mama Maureen and our family that hosted us. We are the same people.

In both of these contexts in foreign countries, I understood that my deep complexion caused them to identify me as a Black African and my relationship with Gene as an interracial one.

I am not sure what context I am likely to face when I visit the island of Hispaniola. Hispaniola was the first island inhabited by European explorers and there is a unique dynamic that occurs there between the left one-third of the island and the right two-thirds of the island. Haiti is on the left side of the island and there is very little variation in skin tone compared to the Dominican Republic on the right side of the island which has been a country of people mixed with European, African, and Native American blood for centuries. Haiti and the Dominican Republic sit side by side on an island with histories as juxtaposed as the phenotypes of the people in the two countries. (Haiti has a rich history that influenced land acquisition in the U.S. that you can read about HERE.)

I wonder what THIS experience will be like for me… or will I experience anything noteworthy  at all? Will I be identified by my dark complexion and be classified based on the social contexts of the island of Hispaniola? Lol… I am sure they will know soon enough when I struggle to communicate beyond saying, “Mwen rele… Andrea…”

Still…
I am OPEN to this new experience.
I am OPEN to broadening my understanding about people and their cultures.
I am OPEN to learning more about myself and how I can best position myself in this world.

And I will let you know if being darker in complexion mattered for me in the DR, too.

Oh yeah… If you would like to contribute to the birth work I will be doing with Dominican and Haitian moms and babies, you can do so here –> http://www.drdoula.com/dr2017-donation1.html

I have almost reached my goal! Thank you for your support!

Home Alone…


“I am gonna miss you so much,” he says.
“What am I gonna do while you’re gone?” he says.
“Oh, I am going to miss you SO MUCH MORE, Babe…” I said.
“What will you do in this house all by yourself?” I said. “You don’t even have the boys here…”

You get FOUR GUESSES as to what Coach Gene has planned while I am away helping Dominican and Haitian women BIRTH BABIES in the Dominican Republic… While I am resting up from WORKING HARD on the night shift every night from 11pm -7am, his daylight hours WILL BE FULL!

I swear, he was acting SO PITIFUL and I was feeling SO BAD for him.

I was all like, “Babe… you gotta ENJOY this time! What would you do if you were a CELIBATE, single man with no kids?” I should have known he was up to something when over the next few days he got a twinkle in his eye and a pep in his step.

YOU GUESS what he has planned:
A. Going on several golfing trips
B. Taking a motorcycle refresher course
C. Taking a Conceal Carry Course and Gun Training
D. Going horseback riding at a local ranch

Go ahead… guess… you won’t get it wrong.

This joker… And here I was thinking that he needed his friends to set up play dates or something. He has plans and will be living LA VIDA LOCA! I was even trying to fuss about him spending money… Nope! He was like, “It was only $20…”

But seriously, I am happy for him! He has worked SO HARD for his family over the past 23 years of our marriage. He is such a WONDERFUL HUSBAND AND FATHER… I am so grateful he will have this time alone… where he only has to be responsible to and for himself.

I know every time he leaves me somewhere by myself I LOVE IT!!!! As a home school mom for 13 years and being consumed with the needs of my family 24/7 most of our marriage, I have come to recognize that self-care is a most valuable commodity.

SO ENJOY YOURSELF, BABE!!! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! ♥

Oh! Just remember… DO NOT BUY a horse… a motorcycle… or any of the other stuff… JUST ENJOY!

 

Dr. Doula