The Birthing Kits

This week I have given 5 presentations about my trip to PNG. It has been pretty full on. And then I have 3 more next week. All have had to be pitched at a different audience with different expectations. I’ve spoken about how the trip was a blessing out of a time of real pain and searching for me in my life, about life in the village compared to here, about how to plan and execute an adventure, highlighting the plight of the women in the village and then finally this morning about what my plans are for the future in regard to this work. I’m becoming quite skilled at developing a talk at the drop of a hat…

As I prepare for and then present I feel that in my mind some things are starting to sit more comfortably and be clearer. I’m seeing where God is already at work and moving and so I’m keen to just follow His lead. This is after my initial time of euphoric thinking and ‘mountain top’ experience visions of grandeur, despite feeling awfully weak and weary from the dose of food poisoning I might add!

Making up Birthing kits yesterday just took me back to my thoughts and feelings as we made some kits up and then packed them into every nook and cranny of luggage space to carry all the way to Yamen. I want to just stop here for a minute and fully absorb the incredible way in which I just happened to come across the kits and how God provided money and people to make them! The first Monday morning in Yamen with the women, as I listened to their stories and what they told us about their experience of birth, I just knew that the Birthing Kits were going to be a great blessing to these people. How appropriate! How incredibly simple and yet how significant and timely. This was no accident and it certainly wasn’t fate. It was the leading and provision of a wonderful and caring Heavenly Father.

Tuesday afternoon was the time when I gave education about the kits to the women. In the morning they had learned about spacing babies, preventing the spread of AIDS and how to use condoms safely. The morning session was for all the women, the afternoon sessions were for the ‘helt luk outim’, health carers, a name we had all decided to use to include all the different people represented such as Village Birth Attendants, volunteers, merisen men/meri and the health worker. It was easier to use just one term when addressing them all. They liked it and I think it gave them all an equal standing with each other, whereas before there seemed to be a bit of jostling for acceptance as the most important.

So, the session began with a short talk about antenatal care: the how and why antennal education and support was important. I divided the group into 4 and they each had a piece of butchers paper and a texter. I asked them to write down how they could start doing some education in their village and what topics they would cover. Then I got each group representative to stand up and give a summary of their main points. It was incredible because they really did a great job AND they listened to my instructions – I had said that if another group had already made a point, not to repeat it but just share new thoughts they had. It would have taken too long otherwise! They came up with ideas for teaching no smoking during pregnancy, good diet, exercise and rest, as well as visiting the clinic or VBA for check ups.

This then led for me to explain the birthing kits: what they were, how to use them and how to use them as part of engaging with pregnant women earlier in their pregnancies and thus starting the beginning of some antenatal care and support, building relationship with the women before birth.

Inside the kits are: a sheet of plastic, a pair of gloves, a piece of soap, some gauze, 3 pieces of string and a sterile scalpel blade. I told them who had made the kits – ‘women who really care for you and want to try and make a difference’. I said the kits were made with love from the women in Perth. There was a gentle sigh that went around the room – they were genuinely touched by the fact that other mothers in another faraway country had made the kits especially for them.

Lyn then wrote on the board in chalk the ‘7 cleans’ for a safe birth, something I had learned from the Birthing Kits Foundation. Just an aside, before I even started making the kits, I contacted the Birthing Kits Foundation which is based in South Australia, to tell them of my trip and my desire to take kits. They were great and sent some over as samples to see if there were any other groups in the area that could be partnership organisations for distribution and monitoring of the kits. They are apparently inundated with requests for the kits and so have had to be strict about who they work with to ensure that they get to where they are meant to go, that the people are properly educated about their use and also the safe disposal of the items after the birth. They also want to collect data to measure whether the kits are making a difference. So, they were unable to supply me with kits, but were supportive.

Back to the 7 Cleans:

  1. Clean space to give birth (Plastic)
  2. Clean Hands (Soap & gloves)
  3. Clean ties (string to tie off the umbilical cord)
  4. Clean Cut (Scalpel blade to cut umbilical cord)
  5. Clean eyes (gauze to wipe the baby’s eyes)
  6. Clean perineum (gauze to wipe the mother ‘down below’ and check for tears)
  7. Clean cord (gauze and soap to clean the cord stump)

I went through each item and demonstrated on the models (Lyn included as the woman giving birth!) what each item was used for and then how to safely dispose of the things, in particular the scalpel blade. After talking with them, it seemed the safest way to dispose of the blades was to drop them to the bottom of the long drop toilet!

After the education session I then asked them to send one representative from each village to come with me and I’d give them a supply of birthing kits to take back to their village. I was expecting 5 representatives. When I got back to our haus and then looked down to see who was there, a whole crowd had appeared. I reminded them that I just wanted one person from each village. One lady spoke up and said yes, there was just one from each village, but there were many villages. This is when I realised how many villages had sent people for education! I then asked them to give me their name and the village they were from. It totalled 19!

  1. Doreen from Bunam
  2. Pricilla from Yar
  3. Scolla from Korokoba
  4. Rancy from Butan
  5. Ellen from Munyit
  6. Erika from Samban
  7. Ellen from Bapatan
  8. Suzanne from Angisi
  9. Freda from Longwuk
  10. Juliana from Yamen 1
  11. Maria from Yamen 2
  12. Vivien from Kumbarumba 2
  13. Dorothy from Kumbarumba 2
  14. Selestin from Asagumut
  15. Emisa from Mudamba
  16. Dani from Gring
  17. Silla from Sipisipi
  18. Christina from Avagumbang
  19. Brigit from Kambot

We then made a decision to sort out the kits and hand them out later on in the week.

Birthing kits on the floor of my house in Perth

Group Work – Vivien, Jenny and Ellen



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