We had a quiet time at the health centre in the past weeks.
3rd of November 2013, It’s NewMoon and somewhere in the world there’s an eclipse .
I’ve arrived at the Health Centre at 8 pm approximately. I’ve made my bed and set up the mosquito net, tonight I’m restless.
Around 10PM I had just closed my eyes when I hear the noise of some bikes out the door: I get up and go to the entrance.
A young woman accompanied by 4 or 5 people with a sweet smile walks up to me. She’s a little disoriented. The local midwife is sleeping so it is a surprise to see Baran (white people) at the health centre. I welcome her saying ” chumripsua . soksabay , chmoop From Italy ” ( welcome, how are you? I’m am an italian midwife). She smiles and touching her her belly she replies “chiu chiu ” ( it hurts) and all the other women start explain loudly what is going on (in khmer obviously).
Maryla, the translator who is on call with me tonight arrives; she listens carefully to the family and she tells me that the woman has been in labor for a few hours. I look at this young lady, her belly does not seem very big and also it has an unusual shape. She smiles often and contractions are still very distant and not very strong. Her relaxed expression suggests me that is not yet in active labor.
I take the parameters: blood pressure, pulse, temperature and I measure her belly. 32 CM .. She does not remember the last menstrual period so I can’t calculate the due date. I do some manoeuvres to check the position of the baby and I jot down everything on my journal. The parameters are fine, the baby is in the back position, not the most favourable for childbirth, the head is still high and the hearth beat is good. The midwife visits her, she is 1 cm dilated.
The measurement of the belly shows me that it is not yet full term or that the baby is quite small. Considering all the other conditions I think the baby is not ready yet and she’s not even in labor actually. We advise her to go home and rest, but she decides to stay because she lives far away.The families prepare the bed and mosquito net and we all go back to sleep.
5 minutes later someone knock at the door. I get up and look out : a lady who was with the other mom makes me sign that another woman in labor has just arrived. I approach her. The woman is leaning against the wall, and this time her face, her body and her attitude are telling me that she is in active labor. Together, we move slowly towards the labor room. I make her sit and relax and I check the parameters. All is going well, the head is low, the measurement of the belly is good and in the meantime she had a couple of strong contractions. This is her second child. Maryla has gone to call the midwife .. but she continues to sleep. I decide to visit the woman, she is 6 cm.
I sit next to her. I tell her that tonight is a special night . It’s new moon and in the western world there is an eclipse. She listens carefully, and when the contraction begins, thanks to the oxytocin, she immerses herself in the magic special muffled world of active labor. She proceeds quickly.. The contractions are intense and close to each other.
Here comes the midwife .. She asks for information and I tell her about everything. I ask her if I can attend the birth, she tells me that it’s okay . She knows that we do births in a different way so she asks me where do I want the woman to give birth either on the bed, or on the floor or in the delivery room. I tell her that is not my choice that the woman can give birth anywhere she wants. She smiles but she seems a little puzzled. She tells me that Khmer women usually give birth on the birthing bed. We ask the woman, but she doesn’t reply. Maryla has a conversation with them.. I’m not involved. The midwife at the end concludes: “Maybe it’s better if we go on the bed this time .” I reassure them that’s it’s ok, and we walk to the delivery room.
The woman feels to push. I put the gloves on, within 2 pushes emerges the amniotic sac, the bag of waters is quite full of liquid . This woman pushes beautifully. The midwife tells me to visit her and to feel whether or not the head proceeds. I ask Maryla to translate that we can see without visiting the woman that the head is coming out quite fast, and I prefer not to touch because I don’t think it is pleasant for the woman. In addition, the heartbeat of the baby is fine, so there is no reasons to speed the birth process up . The head slips slowly and gently still in its membranes . I’m very excited and I am careful not to touch to make sure that membranes remain intact, hoping for a birth in the caul. But as soon as the head comes out smoothly, the bag breaks and I catch a glimpse of the baby’s face: her eyes are wide open and curious. My heart is filled with joy . The midwife encourages me to speed things up, but I’m patient and the baby girl, after all, comes out in a matter of seconds.
I gently place her on mommy’s chest. She cries loud, the colour of her skin becomes pink in an instant, her voice bounces me and resonates in my soul as an explosion of life. I glance at my sacred birth pouch, I carry it with me at every birth. I thank all the Mothers, the Earth, and the Universe for this special gift.
I look at the mother and her child. The mother hold her little girl with one hand and slowly takes a deep breath. I feel the cord, it has stopped to pulse but I would like to wait for the birth of the placenta to cut it. Since the midwife looks impatient, I decide to cut it . She smiles and thanks me.
After a few minutes I welcome the placenta, I check it carefully and thank Her for the excellent work she has done in these 10 moons. I make some space for the midwife knowing she’s fearless to check that everything is ok down there.
I hold the baby in my arms, Mom looks relieved. I check her, I listen to the heart and I tie the cord. I ask the grandmother to take a cloth to wrap her. While I’m wiping her gently I sing ” HAPPY BIRTHDAY “.
The husband carries gently her wife on the bed, and the midwife look after the new family; meantime I get a paper sheet and I look again at the placenta. I explain to Maryla that it is my favorite organ, I tell her that it’s sacred and very special … I take a print of the placenta and comes out a wonderful tree. I am happy and satisfied. Maryla admits: “ I’m sorry, you see a tree but I can see only blood”.
We reach the mother, the baby is next to her, she’s sucking. Mom smiles and looks at her – in love- . I ask what’s her name and she says: ” Channa ” Maryla translates: ” the little girl’s name is moon, Channa in Khmer means moon! ” I smile and fold my hands close to my forehead and I tell her it’s a special lovely name, she smiles and reply: “akun” that means thank you.
Maryla is bothering to give the palcenta back to daddy and whispers something like, ” be careful not to lose it and to ensure that it is delivered to the family. It’s a very important thing for cambodian people, I can not tell you now the reason, but tomorrow I’ll talk with you about this.” I nod intrigued.
I go out in the dark, I look at the sky and I give thanks to my beloved New Moon.