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In a malnourished village, THIS is the responsibility of a midwife

I’ve been a midwife for 11 years, and every day I enjoy my job more.

I am the only midwife in the health center in my Nigerien village of Keita, and I am responsible for reproductive health care. This includes prenatal consultations, family planning, deliveries, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

I remember meeting a teenager who was 16 years old, already married and pregnant with her first child. She lived more than 10 miles away from Keita.

During a prenatal consultation, I noticed that she had a small pelvis – very narrow because of her young age – and immediately knew she would not be able to give birth on her own. Giving birth at home with a family member is very common practice in my community. But for this soon-to-be mom, I knew it would be life-threatening.

I repeated over and over to her parents that she would need a C-section at the health facility on her delivery day. When the day came for her to give birth, I was relieved they followed my directions and came. Her father was in tears, begging me to help his daughter. But our anesthesiologist had an accident that day and I was alone at the health center.

I coaxed the mother until her cervix was fully dilated and then with the help of a suction cup, I was able to deliver the baby. Mom and her baby were both safe and healthy! It felt like a miracle to pull this off. It wouldn’t have been possible if she stayed at home alone. Having the equipment at the health facility allowed for a safe birth.

Her daddy took me in his arms to thank me. He held me so tightly that I had tears because he thought he was going to lose her forever.

How can you not be proud of this job? A job that saves lives.

My door is always open to patients. There are many who don’t like to come to the clinic during the day because of rumors that might follow them. This is especially true for unmarried girls who want to take contraception.

Knowing this, I always take my briefcase stocked with supplies home with me so that I can serve those who need it within the comfort of their homes. If a woman cannot get her method of contraception on time, she’s taking the risk of getting pregnant. I feel responsible as a health worker: it is my duty to help my clients make the right decision at the right time.

My village has so many malnourished children, but I have knowledge of family planning practices that can help prevent unwanted pregnancies so that our families can look after the children we already have. And it’s my responsibility to share this knowledge.

This International Women’s Day, my cry from the heart is the following:

I urge my sisters to do more to improve the quality of the services offered in the health centers. Patients want to plan their births, but very often their wishes are poorly received by the community or the resources are missing – and they give up. Let’s guarantee women and children quality services that are available and adapted to everyone.

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