Zion Astraea Verdick was born April 24, 2016 at 7:57 pm (EAT) weighing 7.5 lbs.
Before becoming a mother I used to scoff slightly at the phrase “everyday miracle” when referring to having children. I was not the little girl who dreamed about growing up, getting married and having kids. I wanted to travel and change the world. I played at being president (ok, queen too). Life is rarely what we expect. Now that I’m here, I shamelessly refer to my children and their births as everyday miracles. I cannot think of a better phrase to encapsulate the awesome wonder and joyous shock of becoming a parent. It is God who knits them together in our wombs. We are more observers and spectators to the show going on within our bodies and theirs.
Contractions began Saturday night around 7pm. They came and went with varying frequency and intensity throughout the night, church the next morning and afternoon. I kept thinking they would go away, that my body was just practicing. I was so sure she was going to be late (her due date was April 25). Just in case though, I finished packing the hospital bags, called a friend to watch Carmel and texted my doctor asking if I should go in. We decided to go straight to the hospital and should they tell me I’m in labor, then drop off Carmel. We arrived at the hospital around 6pm. They took their time checking my heart rate, blood pressure and weight before confirming that I wanted to know whether or not I was in labor. By the time they actually told me I was 6 cm dilated, I had already had 5 contractions in the waiting room. Christopher rushed to drop Carmel off across town, surprised to find that even on a Sunday night some quarters of Kampala are jammed with traffic. By the time he got back, the doctor had arrived, they had broken my water, the baby was born, cleaned and laid skin-to-skin to warm up. It was straight forward. It was natural. It was finished. The doctor laughed at how I had apparently understated my condition.
Now you might be asking, what is it like to deliver in Uganda? I’ve found the differences fairly entertaining. When the nurse was helping me prepare my birth plan she stated that under no circumstances did I need to bring bedding or a basin to the hospital with me. Funny, I hadn’t thought to! However, I did need to bring everything for the baby. Literally everything, diapers, wipes, blankets, hats, socks, body wash, lotion, towel. When I was escorted to the delivery room, we left our shoes at the end of the hall and exchanged them for hospital-issue sandals. There was an opaque window that opened into a hallway behind the ward with the occasional passerby. There was a fly in the room while I was pushing, but thankfully only one. My doctor arrived only a few minutes after I was admitted to the hospital. He was the main caregiver for the time leading up to delivery, the one giving directions and coaching me through while pushing. He was there the whole time, which for me was a contrast since my doctor for Carmel’s birth missed everything. I heard the nurses complaining about how long she was delaying to come. She arrived in time to sew me up. After delivery we were escorted to a private room for the night. I was given boiled matooke (banana), rice, potatoes, chicken in stew and greens for a late dinner. The delivery package we paid for allowed us to stay two nights, but the doctor asked me how long we wanted to stay and let us go home within 22 hours of birth. The only items the hospital gave me to take home were a large basin and a saline solution for washing the cord. They provided mosquito nets for the baby’s crib and my bed. Our first follow-up appointment was 8 days later. I was congratulated numerous times by the hospital staff and our neighbors on successfully “producing”, as they say here. Every grandmotherly person who sees us tucks in Zion’s blanket closer around her head and scolds me for not having a hat. All Ugandans love children, men, women, young, old. It doesn’t matter, they are all thrilled and proud that I had the baby here. I’ve been told she can run for the president of Uganda one day.