Today is the Day that the Lord has made

Today is the day! This time tomorrow I’ll be in Port Moresby. Last night I dreamt that I was still trying to stuff things in my backpack while racing out the door to catch the plane…Hmmmm.

Yesterday 4 friends came to my house and we made another 110 birthing kits; we now have over 300 in total. 100 are already in the village (Mike took them with him on a trip earlier in the month) and now we’ll pop the rest in boxes and any spaces in our packs. Someone has very generously offered to pay for excess baggage which means we don’t have to do too much shuffling of gear to get the packs within 20kg! An amazing woman has also put together some illustrations for the kits! In 9 simple diagrams the poster shows what is in the kit, how to use each item and then how to dispose of the equipment safely. It is awesome! I’ll take a few posters and then give them to whoever I give kits to. This will really help to reinforce our message. What a blessing.

I found a great You Tube clip of some tourists travelling along the Sepik River and then the Keram River where I’ll be going. They stop at the first village along the Keram River, Chimando. The first thing I notice in the film is the sounds of the jungle – that ‘sizzle’ of all the insects singing in unison and then a remarkable bird sound almost barking in the background. There is no change in the pitch of the sound; it is a constant. The water looks quite brown and there are some massive trees right next to the edge of the water. The villages are along the riverbed – pole structures above ground with grass thatched rooves (is that a word? Or is it roofs?). I notice that there are lots of children ‘pikininis’ that look about 6 but are probably 11/12 yrs old! They wear western style clothing such as T-shirts that say “Bob Marley” on them! Many of the women have a child on their hip and appear pregnant – there is work for me after all!!

I have also found out that during the 6 hr transit in Port Moresby, we can go via shuttle bus to the Airways Hotel! It has a website and I must say I’m rather delighted as it has a pool, cafe and wonderful views. I think I’ll need something like that to ease into the next stage of the journey don’t you agree??

As I woke up this morning I thought “Today is the day that the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it” words from an old hymn. It resonates with me. Today IS the day that has been 9 months in the making – I’ve just realised it has been 9 months, the length of a pregnancy! It has taken 9 months to grow and prepare for this trip and now I am ready for the birth. I think back to when I was in labour with my firstborn – the anticipation, the wonder, the awe and of course the fear about what my life will be like with a child. I feel the same about this trip. People have told me I will not be the same after spending time with the village people. I wonder what God has in stall for me? I wonder where this will all lead to? I wonder how my life will be different once I return? I wonder…

What I know is that my Heavenly Father is with me all the way.


Whose Educating Who?

This week I went to a study day about cultural awareness in midwifery care. It was a great day with speakers about African, Aboriginal and Muslim culture. The thing that really struck me is that there is a story beyond and above the person that you see in front of you.  In our western way of doing things, in particular here in Perth where we do live in a very wealthy, high tech society, the drive to ‘tick all the boxes’ is very strong – fear of litigation, pressure of time and busyness can all cloud that broader perspective. A woman who is pregnant needs time – she needs time to develop trust in her caregivers, to open up when she feels safe and secure, she needs time to come to terms with all the changes that are happening in her body and will happen in her family. Ultimately she needs to be able to do all those things in her own time.

It was so refreshing to hear about the great work the Moort boodjari mia service is providing for Aboriginal women in Perth and also the Ishar Multicultural Womens Health Centre in Mirrabooka who really aim to provide care that meets the needs of the women they serve, rather than the other way round, forcing them to fit in with the bureaucracy that develops in large corporate health settings.

Pregnancy and birth is such a profound event in a woman’s life. The experience has many influences – culture, tradition, family, religion, superstitions, environment, health, carers… I may be wrong, but what I hear and what I see is that over and over again in western culture we take the moral high ground, stating that our way is the best way.

A very experienced midwife who has spent many decades working in the developing world said to me, “Don’t assume that the women don’t know anything about pregnancy and birth”. Wow! That is a profound statement and one that deserves thought. Just because the maternal and infant mortality rates are high in Papua New Guinea and they don’t have access to all the machines that go ‘bing’, doesn’t mean that they know nothing about birth. Reading some more thoughts from Robyn, I’ve learned that you can give all the education you like and it can all be based on science and fact, but ultimately the woman will seek out the advice of a trusted and respected village elder. Forming a good relationship with the respected village women is an important strategy; listening to what they tell of womens’ experience of pregnancy and birth in their village, then very gently show them good practise (act it out in a role play preferably) so that when next a woman comes to her for advice, she will remember the role play and be able to direct the woman into safe health care practises. If that advice is positive for the pregnant woman and has a good outcome, they will start to trust the advice the “Australian woman” gave and be more likely to follow that regime of care.

I had better start preparing for some Oscar performances in Yamen!! Oh, have I told you that the destination has changed again? Now we’re going to the village of Yamen, still along the Keram River, but in an area that will allow many more people to come for support and care. Although, I’m starting to feel that it will be me that will be getting the education…

A Little Prod and she responds…

It’s been a while. Who would have thought that finding a mere 20 minutes to write a blog would be sooooo hard! So much has happened over the last 4 weeks. But my freind has prodded me and so I’ll respond…

Where do I start?…

After the fundraising morning tea, one of the members of our team planning to go to PNG withdrew. It just wasn’t working out for him. Mike, our team leader then asked me if I knew any midwife or nurse who would like to join us. I had already asked 3 midwifery friends and it just wasn’t the right timing for them. But, immediately I thought of my nurse friend, Lyn. She is a very special friend and has an enormous amount of experience in emergency nursing as well as wound care – areas I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed about: I can talk about maternity care til the cows come home, but am starting to feel a bit rusty in relation to general nursing stuff (especially dressings for wounds etc). To cut a long story short, I asked Lyn and gave her 48hrs to get back to me. Then I prayed that if it was meant to be, that all plans would fall into place. Well, Lyn rang me the next day to say “it’s amazing, but everything is falling into place and ‘yes’ I can go”. What an answer to prayer.

Lyn has also travelled through developing countries before and had recently accompanied me on the Bibbulman Track – we managed well together on the track and feel very comfortable together. I am delighted to have a female companion and colleague join me to PNG!!

The financial support I have received has meant I can help Lyn with some of her expenses and there has still been money to buy the teaching resources I’ve had on my wishlist. Last week I received the package of resources and they are fantastic! I’ve now got a gorgeous brown baby doll complete with umbilical cord, placenta, his own uterus (including cervix and vagina – all knitted), a model of a pelvis, a brown breast (for breastfeeding education), a pinnard stethoscope to listen to the unborn baby’s heartbeat, a miniature set of a doll, pelvis, placenta and uterus, AND a display book with diagrams showing the growing baby in the Mum’s belly. I am so excited about having these resources! I’ve been practising using them by showing my sons – I reckon they’ll be the best prepared Dads in the future…

This week 200 Birthing Kits were put together by the Mums at Rivervale MOPS and Riverton MOPS. MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers It was an amazing experience putting the kits together. The Mums quickly put a production line into action and in no time at all a total of 200 were made. A few Mums said to me that it was an incredible feeling to know that with their hands they were making something which will help a mother and baby in PNG – maybe even save their lives. Wow.

I really feel these kits are going to be an enormous blessing to the women in PNG. Today I met up with Sally who is a nurse and accompanied Mike on the last trip to PNG. She said there is just nothing there for the women. They get no antenatal care. They give birth and then if the baby doesn’t breathe straight away they don’t know what to do and so leave it – many babies die like this. Often it’s just a simple thing like clearing the airway of mucous to get the baby breathing, or rubbing the baby all over to stimulate a breath. I just know that with these kits we’ll have an opportunity to give them something practical, and then show them how to use the kits which also shows them basic ideas of cleanliness and care for the mother and newborn soon after birth. Goodness me, this is going to be an incredible trip…