All you have to say is nine months, and any mama knows what you mean. There is something ingrained in any mention of that time frame that conjures up thoughts of childbirth, no matter the context. But nine months means more than just childbirth, more than just the process. It’s about becoming a mama. Quickly. You’re suddenly given the responsibility of a lifetime and of a life that depends on you for every aspect of its nurturing and survival.
For those of us fortunate to live in a country with high quality medical services, the process of childbirth is a well-orchestrated routine. When your water breaks, it kicks off the hurried sequence of calling family, timing contractions, driving to the hospital, and strapping on delivery room gowns in preparation for welcoming a new baby.
For a mama like Sara, who lives in the western highlands of Guatemala, that process is not always well orchestrated and rarely routine. Nine months in to a healthy pregnancy, Sara woke up at three in the morning and knew it was time. Her husband saw what was happening and ran to Virgilia’s house for help.
Virgilia, a community leader trained by PCI’s local health project, knew exactly what to do.
She knocked on the door of the local health worker and the three of them returned to Sara. When they arrived at the house, Sara had already given birth, but Virgilia knew something wasn’t right.
“I remember us walking in the dark of the night to Sara’s house, and once we entered it, the scene in front of us was frightening. There, on the floor, was the newborn baby girl and her mother, both seemingly dead,” she recalls.
Virgilia and the health worker sprang into action and organized a plan to care for the two. They put the 5.5 pound, cold, purple baby on her aunt’s chest to warm her up. They turned their attention to Sara and realized she had suffered high-risk complications from the delivery.
Sara had retained the placenta, a deadly situation that can lead to internal bleeding and infection. However, due to the training Virgilia and the health worker received from PCI, they could properly attend to Sara before safely transferring her to a medical facility.
Looking back on that night, Virgilia and the midwife said the difficult part was not learning the life-saving techniques. The difficult part was putting them into practice in a situation where someone’s life was actually on the line. But Sara and her baby are living proof that as difficult as it was, they were able to succeed. The photo above shows a healthy Sara and baby a few months later – all smiles.
Sara’s family is grateful for the training. Sara even named her baby girl Virgilia after the community leader who came to her side. She realized how important it is to have people who can look after the health and welfare of the community. And baby Virgilia is grateful, too, that she still has her mama to care for her.