She knew the signs of labor pains, the 18 year old mother had her first child at 15, and now she was close to having her 2nd. Her grandmother joined her on a long walk down the dirt road toward a little remote clinic in the bush. But she didn’t make her desired destination before she delivered her little girl on the side of the road! She removed the shitangi around her waist and wrapped her up.
I can hardly imagine the shock when her labor continued and she unexpectedly delivered a second child there on the roadside. They were certainly not prepared for this and so the grandmother removed her shitangi and wrapped the second baby.
If hiking during labor and having twins on the side of the road was not enough, she proceeded to deliver a 3rd child and the grandmother removed the cloth wrapped around her head to swaddle that one. Can you imagine!?!
Eventually she did make it to the clinic without delivering any more babies and was transferred to a hospital where they stayed about a month.
Shortly after the triplets were discharged back to their home, we were very eager to go visit them and bring some much needed food and supplies. The following Saturday afternoon I joined a group of women going and found out one of the babies had died. I was heart broken for that poor young mother. How do you celebrate precious new life and mourn underserved death at the same time?
The single lane dirt road to get there seemed to go on for-ev-er. We clenched our seats to keep us from flying off as our skilled driver maneuvered through deep ruts and potholes in the road. This land cruiser is a beast!
On a trip like this sometimes you have to wait for goats to cross the road…
Sometimes you wait to pass a broken down vehicle…
Sometimes you slide through puddles…
And sometimes you can’t resist the empty eyes of a lonely boy on the side of the road, and pull over to hand him a shirt and a yummy treat to make his day.
When we finally drove up to the little hut where the family lived, the mother quickly ran off and looked as though she was in tears. Happy tears, I believe, as she realized we came to help.
Curious neighbors started gathering around as we met the family and led out in a short prayer, song, and worship thought. I couldn’t understand their language, and when the interpreter wasn’t translating, I know they couldn’t understand us, but I hope they understood the love and heartfelt sorrow we felt for their struggling family right then.
Watching their faces light up when the clothes and food were being passed out was the fun part.
We don’t know exactly how the one baby died and were anxious to assess the other two to make sure they were thriving. Apparently the one baby was found dead after the mother woke up one morning.
As soon as we entered their hut, our hearts sank as we quickly recognized a risk factor for all the babies. The ventilation was poor. And this bed (pictured below) is barely larger than a twin size bed, and smaller than a full size. The mother described how all 6 of them fit into the bed at night—the father, mother, toddler, and the newborn triplets. The mother said she once found a Cobra snake by her bed and felt it was safest to keep the children close at night. I don’t blame her!
The young mother graciously accepted the education we tried to convey on safe sleep, nutrition, breastfeeding and infant safety.
Of course, before we left we had to take turns getting our fill of holding those babies and the other neighboring young children. Our two student missionaries Anna and Nicole are pictured below.
Update: Within a week of our first visit, resources were gathered and a couple from our community at Riverside returned for a couple days to give them a gift of a new home. They built them a larger hut house, with good ventilation, gave the parents a new mattress, and built new safe beds for the babies as well.