We are missionaries in Zambia. I am an American who moved to Zambia in 2010. My husband is a native Zambian and a Pastor. We are starting our adventure and plan to use this blog to update, inform and encourage our family and friends and whoever else happens to stumble upon it. If you want to read more about my/our history and work here in Zambia, please go to kat-ndazyoka.blogspot.com for stories and adventures I had since 2010.
Where do I even begin? It has been… almost a year since I’ve
written. Last time I wrote it was about the loss of my child. This time, it's about the birth of my child. What a difference a tiny year makes..... Life took over, and I wasn’t going to write but since people have been
asking (so annoying when people write that, right? Humble brag alert!) Here
goes. (I added pictures so the faint of heart don't get bored.
A lot will be missing, because time is gone and life has
pushed on. I’ll compartmentalize and focus on the big stuff. First and
foremost, and ultimately most interesting and most important- the birth of the
sweetest girl in the world. (Warning.
Some parts are gross. Not my fault- childbirth’s fault)
Pregnancy was a confusing time for me. I felt like… I felt
unmentionably bad a lot of the time. The first trimester was hard- I vomited
daily pretty much throughout, I was dizzy a lot, I lost appetite and then lost
weight, and couldn’t stand the smell of
anything. Really. Anything that
I also somehow loved the way I felt. Just to be pregnant.
The bigger I got the better I felt I looked (so weird). Never felt prettier
than in my 500 pound (not really) 9th month of pregnancy. The middle
trimester gave me a bit of a break- I had TONS of energy and wanted to just do-
everything. That was around the time my husband and the ladies at church
stopped allowing me to do anything and so that was also a confusing time
because I felt a bit helpless. Third trimester was. Well it was about 5 years
long, I couldn’t sleep. I lost weight, I puked everything, I only wanted
potatoes, I had perpetual inferno
heartburn and swelled up like the Michelin tires marshmallow guy. Still felt
like I looked awesome. I literally stared at myself in the mirror all the time.
So weird. I struggled a lot with feeling like I was letting everyone down
because my husband was doing… well everything. I wasn’t making it to church, or
literacy class or ladies meetings. I was feeling like I was missing out on
everything and nothing was going to run without me (yea, gross. Got humbled
real fast when everything just moved right along without my presence). I also felt like with Sydneys focus on me, he
was neglecting the church and that I would ultimately be the downfall of his
ministry. Irrational? Yes. But that’s how I felt.
After the 436th day of my 9th month of
pregnancy, on a Saturday, I wrote a letter to mom to let her know that water
was leaking for a few days and was this normal or am I in labor or what (not
cute waiting for facebook messages when you are clueless about having a baby
and just want your mother there). She informed me that noooope that’s not ok
when you are weeks overdue and to go to the hospital. We did, that afternoon.
We had a family from LBC, the Dubekas, who have become friends and gave us the
name of their friend who works at our “nice” hospital here in Mpika. We called
her, she is a nun, and she said we should come in. She met us at the door and I
was checked. I had started the labor process but was told that it was early,
and could be 2 hours or 2 days depending on my body and how I deal with labor.
I was given a choice to stay or leave as long as we were ready to come back any
Now, lemme ‘splain something here. The hospitals here, (if
they are not private and in a major city) don’t have nice little one bed rooms
like they have in the states. We made the big mistake of watching tons of baby
and childbirth shows on TLC through the whole pregnancy depicting a doctor and
a team of nurses and clean hospital beds with a bathroom in your room and where
your family is there and you are hooked up to monitors and given epidurals. HA.
No dice. Here there are big rooms with rows and rows of beds, all of them
always full, of course. That’s the “pre labor” room. Then there is a big
gymnasium sized room with mattresses on the floor. While I was there there were
70 women from all villages from miles and miles who were anywhere from 6-9
months along. They come here to wait. They live at the hospital for the last
few months because where they come from there are no hospitals. They just live
there and sleep on the floor and wait. You bring your own everything. And I
mean everything. E.G. you bring a bucket
to go to the bathroom in that sits under the bed. You just use it. Right there.
A lady comes by to empty it every once
in a while. It’s the stuff of nightmares, people. Also men can’t go in said
rooms so I’d be by myself in a room full of people speaking Bemba and staring
at me wondering why the white lady was here giving birth and hadn’t just used
her bags of dollars to go back to the states. Then there’s the active labor
room where the babies are born (the same room where I saw my first baby’s tiny
body and said goodbye to him when I miscarried), at least there, there are
We opted to go home.
Saturday night and Sunday passed with no baby. Monday we
walked in circles around the house every hour 6 times. I was ready to just cut
her out myself. Monday night the power went out. We were both exhausted so I
ate a bowl of cornflakes and we laid In bed watchingtv shows on the laptop. Suddenly I felt sick.
I was back and forth to the bathroom til I realized it wasn’t passing. Again we
called the nun who helped us the last time and she said to come in for a check.
We got there with our bags (full of things like
chitenges/sheets for the bed, gloves for the nurses, disinfectant and bleach…
all required for YOU to bring, not the hospital to provide….) and buckets in
tow and there was one midwife on duty. Not a midwife and a doctor, not a
midwife and a team of nurses…. For the 70 some women in the big room, the 20
some women in the “waiting” labor room and me and the other lady in labor-
there was ONE midwife to care for us. She checked me and when she measured my
stomach her eyes bulged out. She checked again. And again… then she said she
was going to call the doctor. She could feel baby’s head but she measured my
stomach at 49 cm. It’s supposed to match the amount of weeks you are (for
example a 36 week pregnancy measures 36cm). A full term pregnancy is 40 weeks.
An overdue pregnancy is 42 or 43. I was measuring 49. She called the doctor
from the “other room” aka behind the curtain and she asked him to come and
check me. Mind you, he was at home snoozing. It was after 1 AM. He agreed.
When he got there I was, by then, pretty miserable. I still
had not had what I thought was any contraction (I suppose now that what I was
feeling for the past 5 hours was contractions, they were just not anything like
what anyone told me they would be. It was just waves of nausea and pain,
basically- not “contractions” or tighteningor anything like that. Never felt one.) He checked me and immediately
said I needed a c section.
Now, I want to explain. It is not common practice for men to
be any part of the labor/delivery process. We did everything in our power to
MAKE SURE that Sydney would be there with me throughout because the one thing
we both wanted more than anything was to meet our child together, as a family..
They complied, and he was there thus far but we knew c section was A.
dangerous. B. dangerous. C. surgery- dangerous. And D. he wouldn’t be there. We
begged but the doc said from what he could feel there was no way her body, at
the size it was, was coming out of my body, the size I was, naturally. He gave
us 5 hours to make progression, and if there wasn’t any then I was going in for
c section. So I got to lie there for 5 hours and wait. Oh I forgot to mention.
The bed Is just this awkward downward tilting plastic thing, and they make you
bring black plastic garbage bag material to lay on so you don’t mess up there
bed so you are sliding and sticking and its painful and awkward AND the bed is,
for some reason, 500 feet off the floor so you have to CLIMB STEPS to get in it
then balance yourself so you don’t slide off because you are downward tilting
plastic on plastic. The worst.
Halfway through the lady in the “stall” next to me started
going into full on “pushing time” labor so the midwife (still the only person
there- the doctor went back home to finish sleeping) CALLED THE JANITOR to
assist. The janitor came and set up the baby bed thing and the towels and
clothes the mom brought and then went and assisted. They made Sydney leave so
that he “wouldn’t get scared” hearing her give birth so I was alone. Around
that time either the pain, the horror of listening to that woman give birth or
just the irony of it all, I started to throw up so I had to climb up and down
off the plastic, in searing pain, on steps, no hospital gown, husband, nurse,
or dignity in sight and puke in a bucket on the floor.
So that was the next hour or so of my life. I was actually
thinking in my head. “This is happening. This is actually happening in your
life right now.” Those were my thoughts. Not “You’re gonna have a baby! A
little bundle of joy! Praise God!” No. No. I was thinking “There’s a garbage
back stuck to my back, I’m puking in a bucket in my bare feet on a dirty floor
in a hospital where BY THE WAY I haven’t been hooked up to a single machine or monitor.
Two people have poked around at my belly and said I need surgery. I have no
husband, I’ll likely die. Will my family come here or will they send my body
Finally Sydney came back. He was reading his kindle and I
wanted to shove it down his throat. He touched my leg and I just told him that
I really really didn’t want to murder him so he just sat back in the corner and
did nothing for the rest of the time. I love him for that. The doc came back,
my progress was minimal so I needed to go for Csection. They then had to call
the team, who was all still at home!! Surprise!
The midwife came to prep me for surgery and started hooking
me to IV’s and giving me injections. I asked what she was giving at some point
and she said “antibiotics and blah blah blah…” I said well…. I am deathly
allergic to amoxicillins so….” At that
point she put DOWN the needle full of amoxin in her hand and got me something
else. Awesome. I was barely able to move from the pain but I had to get out of
that bed and onto a wheely bed. That was a process- trying to maintain some dignity
by wrapping a cloth around myself, hooked to an iv and climbing up and down
steps to get in beds (WHAT IS WITH the jack and the beanstalk beds). They
wheeled me away from my husband and I suddenly got so angry. So so angry that
he was just left there. He wanted so badly to be a part of his childs birth and
in an instant he was told to go sit somewhere and miss everything. Angry that
this was how I was bringing my baby into the world.
The bed I was on didn’t fit through the door to the surgery
so I had to swap beds again (ready to give up on life at this point). They got
me into the surgery room FINALLY and…. I had to swap to the operating bed. I
just looked at the surgeon and he finally told everyone to help me and they
complied, all the while saying “she’s way too fat” “she’s so huge and heavy”.
There were sharp objects everywhere but somehow they all survived….
Around the time they got me on the bed and lying comfortably
they remembered I needed a spinal anesthetic so I had to sit up. It took three
tries, people. He jabbed me three times and finally got it in and said “It’s
just that you are so fat, it’s hard to find the right spot”. I GET IT. IM HUGE.
IM A COW. CALL A VET ALREADY IF YOU CANT MANAGE.
Anyway. From there all the pain stopped. It swept away like
dust in the wind and I was so thankful for that I didn’t care if he
accidentally chopped off my leg. And then I started puking. Yep. I was a
machine from day one to the last day apparently. He had to stop surgery twice
because I was moving internally. Gross.
After what seemed like forever, He held my baby up by the
foot and said “here’s your daughter”. I had a girl. A baby girl. I didn’t
actually get to see her because he held her upside down and the curtain was up
so I saw a purple thigh and foot. I became overwhelmed by the fact that Sydney
wasn’t there and broke down crying hysterically. It was then that I realized the
room was quiet. Wasn’t I supposed to hear a baby crying? Nothing. No noise from
anyone. I asked “Is she ok.” Silence. Louder. “Is she ok??” The doctor said
“Yes, she’s fine the nurse is just… working on her.” All of a sudden I heard a
WHACK and the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. Crying. Immediately, they
showed me her face for about 3 seconds and then took her to Sydney. I felt strange.
She didn’t look like what I imagined, and I didn’t feel what I thought I was
supposed to feel. I just wanted to sleep. No immediate connection, no “give me
my baby” reaction. Nothin.Finishing my
surgery took for. e. ver.Apparently
Sydney even thought something went wrong because they said it would take no
time and hours were passing.
When they wheeled me into the recovery room (providentially,
the c section patients don’t stay with the other ladies, there is a separate 5
bed “post op” room AND only one other girl had a csection the whole time we
were there AND there was a bathroom!There was no toilet seat or toilet paper or soapor light, actually- but it had a door.
Hallelujah. The nurses were great. They checked her blood sugar for two days because
they thought with her size she might be diabetic. Strangely they never checked
mine, despite calling me a baby beluga 900 times.
I think the worst part of the whole experience was that day.
That first day. I could see my baby. She was in a plastic cot a few feet from
my bed. Ladies had come to help but remained outside chatting at first. Sydney
went out to visit people who came to congratulate us but weren’t allowed in. I
laid in the bed alone and stared at my child through plastic. I couldn’t really
see her. I was still paralyzed from the drugs and couldn’t move. I hadn’t eaten
or drank since Monday at 5pm and it was Tuesday at 9 and I had 1000 drugs
flowing through my veins…. I just felt so alone. I have never felt more alone
than I felt right themn.
In my head, I had imagined this day for months and months.
Sydney and I would be sitting on the bed cradling our little bundle taking
about who’s nose she had…. But instead I was alone and I couldn’t move and I
couldnt see her. I hadn’t smelled her or kissed her. Little did I know the
worst was yet to come. I essentially did not touch her for the next 3 days. I
was not prepared for the culture shock of having a baby in Zambia. I don’t
really think I experienced culture shock like “what Zambian women do when a
baby is born” culture shock. In the US you have a baby shower and your mom
comes to help at the hospital and then people drop off meals at your house.
Here everybody is all
up in your business. And I mean in your business. I have no shame anymore, by
the way. None. I won’t even go into the details because there is just no
describing it. All the books say that breastfeeding is such a bond. Not when
people are grabbing you and pushing the babies head into you repeatedly and
screaming SUCK BABY! And telling you you aren’t producing milk and your baby is
going to die, and by the way the clothes you brought were “wrong” (they were
sent from the US and different to the ones here). And the diapers were wrong
and no matter what I was supposed to be breastfeeding 24/7 and why handn’t I
done this or brought that and … oh my goodness I don’t know how I managed. I
was always doing something worng and ironically- I wasn’t doing anything except
lay in a bed. I am actually cringing typing this. Hardest 4 days of my life. It
may be what people are used to here- women are very opinionated and offer a lot
of advice and basically- to put it bluntly- tell you what to do. I am used to
it for the most part but coming down of pregnancy hormones and in that much
pain, I was not having it. They were also telling Sydney what to do and shooed
him away every time he came in the room so I saw neither my husband nor my baby
The pain. Was horrifying. They kept changing shifts and
sometimes forgetting painkillers and some of the student nurses were afraid to
treat me I guess because I was white. Add on top of that that ALL the ladies/patients
in the ward kept filing in to see the white baby. They were touching her and
looking at her when I couldn’t and I wanted to just curl up and die.
I held it together til the day they gave her a bath. I was
told one of the ladies from church would do it, but it turned out she told the
nurses they could use El’Lyana as a demonstration for the class (it’s a
training hospital). I managed to walk to the room to watch. They put methalated
spirits in her eyes, she screamed, they told me I brought the wrong soap and
the wrong towel and the wrong clothes. I was so upset I felt like puking and
when we got back to the room I finally told Sydney I was at the verge of a
complete and total meltdown.
It saddens me The memory of that week is horrifying to me.
The second to last day the doctor finally came to check on
me. He asked what I had eaten and I said nothing- because the nurses told me I
couldn’t eat. Yes. 3 days of heavy pain killers, antibiotics, reeling off of a
spinal anesthesia and zero food for four days…. And trying to get milk to feed
my baby. He said I should have been
eating the whole time. All I wanted was water. Sydneygot me some stale bread from a shop across
the street, I wasn’t ready for Nshima and cold beans from the hospital. Sydney
ate lollipops for 4 days.
The nurses favorite things to say was “you whites like to do
this, but here in Zambia we do it this way”. Annoying. So annoying. At one
point I actually just turned and faced the wall while someone was telling me
something. Like a little child in a huff. I’m kinda ashamed of that, but it had
to be done. I literally bit my tounge a lot, til it bled. And repeated “you’re
the pastors wife” over and over in my head.
Supposed to be the best day of your life and everything that
could have gone wrong did, and then some. We were finally released (after they
prescribed me amoxin again and then the pharmacy closed for lunch and we had to
sit and wait for a new prescription)…. Then was the nightmare of driving home
holding her on bumpy pothole roads terrified we were going to crash and having
her bounce on my fresh incision (we were told it was not safe to put her in her
carseat- I had to hold her in my lap. Not in Kansas anymore, Toto.)
(That’s not even the half of it but it’s a taste. )
BABAY in the house
I finally got to change my babies diaper. I got to undress
her and see her toes and find her birthmarks and touch her hair and kiss her
everywhere. Bringing a baby home is so weird cause you really don’t know what
to do with it. You’re not yet aware that you don’t have to do anything with it
except feed it and change it’s diaper and you live in this perpetual anxiety.
We brought her inside and I sat on the couch and cried. And cried and cried and
cried. I was in so much pain. I couldn’t get up in the night to feed her
because I couldn’t sit up. I still felt lost. My body looked shockingly
differentthan it had the last time I
looked in the bedroom mirror. Life was just. Different. The exhaustion you feel
is like nothing you’ve ever felt before. I loved it and hated it. Both me and
Sydney agreed we were never going through that again. Ever. No more kids. (It
was yesterday- almost 4 months later, that Sydney finally mentioned having
another kid one day. Up til then we’ve both pretty much been confused as to how
anyone does this more than once.) We both still have our doubts.
She is the most awesome creature. She is off the charts for
weight and height- like--- WAY off. Shes at 6 month or higher levels at 3
months old. Shes wearing 6-12 month size clothes. She laughs all the time. ALL
the time. Shes just so cool. And so pretty. She is the best. She slept through
the night for a while but she bait and switched on us and the past two weeks
has been waking up at 1AM again. Not loving that so much. Sydney loves her with
every fiber of his being and it makes me love him more, if that’s even
visit from mom and dad
Birth of baby FINALLY brought family to Zambia! 6 years
later! It was hard for me because I have been imagining having family come
visit since- well since I moved here. I’ve been seeing Zambia through their
eyes and imagining what I’d cook and where we’d go and how we’d spend our time,
and how I’d play the lion king soundtrack when they got off the plane. Cause ya
As usual- it was
nothing. Nothing like what I imagined. I was still reeling from childbirth, our
bank account was empty and we had the commissioning to plan/prepare for which
meant we spent the whole time sweeping and baking 1000 cookies and running
errands and changing diapers. I am struggling not to feel disappointed. I feel
sometimes that I let them down. They came all the way here to scrape paint off
windows and eat ham and cheese sandwiches (if we had cheese). The lodges
weren’t what I expected, the power kept going out, the game drive was
disappointing and it turns out everything we own is broken. We haven’t really
noticed because it’s our life but when family comes to visit and all day every
day you are explaining how to open doors and use switches and wash clothes and
turn on faucets because everything is broken or breaking. There were also
things I wanted them to experience, to see. The stuff I’ve lived through and
done and seen- The real Africa- not our living room and the mall in Lusaka.
Then my incision came open. I started having some pain right
after the church commissioning. A little spot opened and it was clear
immediately that it was infected. We rushed to the hospital where Sydney waited
outside with the baby and mom came in with me. The doctor told mom to put down
my purse and put on gloves. He needed a nurse (not kidding people!) So that’s
how my mom assisted in a medical procedure in a rural hospital in Zambia.
(there was no pain killer by the way in sight) During the procedure, the baby
started to cry so while I was being worked on Sydney had to hold the baby
sideways to nurse awkwardly. I have learned that here, babies cant cry. Even if
you are being operated on, if the baby wimpers you better breastfeed right then
and there. Regardless of how unhygenic and just… not normal that is.
Apparently the dissolvable stitches are not so dissolvable.
He cut some of it out, packed the wound and we went home. The next day we went
back and he removed the packing and sent me on my way… 8 hours to Lusaka. When
we got back I realized the rest of the wound was opening up and bleeding so
back we went. This time he removed ALL the remaining stitching (coulda done
that the first time? Maybe? No? ok.) and again, sent me on my way. No
antibiotic. No pain killer, no bandage even. We went and got antibiotics from a
roadside chemist and I bandaged it up using then first aid kits sent by the
ladies at GCBC. That was a fun added disappointment to their trip!
Otherwise, it was awesome to have them here. It felt surreal
after waiting to have them here for so long, and no seeing them since our
wedding. It was the first time for me to host them in my home too, Like as a
grown up. And adult. A real person, not in a dorm or whatever but in my house. With
my husband. And kid. To see them meeting
people I’ve talked about for years now and even people they’ve connected with
on facebook was awesome.
The commissioning was also great- Tiring as it was it was
something we’ve waited for for so long and we just watched it unfold before our
eyes in complete disbelief (seriously- we have NO idea how that got done… it
was only by God’s grace because by our own means we would have maybbbbe put in
a door or something.) It was awesome to have people from our sending church in Lusaka
come, some led worship, Pr. Kalifungwa preached, some even came a day early and
pitched in helping to finish up! We had the honour of feeding some of them
twice in our home (it was like the feeding of the five thousand because between
the pain and the work for the commissioning and mom and dad visiting I was like
a chicken with my head cut off. I have no idea where the food came from or how
it got prepared. It just was there.)
I now finally feel back in my routine and wish they were
coming now- but it was so important to everyone to have them here for that
event. They are still talking about weekly, and people are already asking when
they are coming back and who’s coming next. (I’ll make more than sandwiches
Life’s been hectic. Everything’s broken in the house and
we’ve got so much on our plate we haven’t managed to do anything about it. The
rabbit cage is too small for 6 rabbits, the front door wont lock and is chained
shut with a dog chain, the sitting room light switches are both broken so every
day we put bulbs in and take them out respectively, the washing machine has to
be manually filled with buckets of water for each cycle, the vacuums broken,
the tires and battery in the car had to be replaced and now its making a weird
clicking sound and shuttering when you turn the wheel… the outlet in the
sitting rooms broken, the light in the entryway is broken and I twisted my
ankle in the hole on the bedroom floor yesterday. I also set a pot of oil on
fire in the kitchen and burn a ring on the floor and destroyed the pot. Also
Sydneys 3 month old phone fell and shattered and the REASON it fell was because
our car got broken into and the window was smashed so while we were having it
replaced the guy lost a bolt and Sydney leaned over to help him look and
el-smasho. Screen shattered. Also the kitchen sink has to be pushed and turned
at the exact angle to turn on and off. And it leaks. Water doesn’t come in the
master bathroom so we have to use the guest bathroom. All of our curtains are
shredded so some of them now have to be closed all the time just so people cant
see in. Its cold season and some of the windows don’t shut which wasn’t such an
issue for us but with a baby now it’s a problem and lets mosquitoes and cold
That’s a list of the negatives to get that out of the way.
On the OTHER HAND. I have a beautiful daughter and an amazing husband and we do
nothing but laugh and talk all day, and I am so, so happy. I have realized that
pushing a sink 37 degrees to the right to get water is not the end of the
world. Do I wish we could go to home depot and fix it all in one fell swoop.
Yea. Yea I do. Am I going to let myself be unhappy because of earthy
annoyances? No. I live better than A LOT of people. I am way more blessed than
I should be. We are so well taken care of by our mother church and we feel
loved and babied by them and it gives us even more motivation to work hard
We are also working on building our own house, to avoid
these renting issues and also take the burden off the church for paying our
rent so that those moneys can go elsewhere. It will take time. We’ve set goals
we probably wont reach but right now we take Sydneys paycheck and cut it right
down the middle. Half is for us, half is for the building. Right now we are on
a break while we save up for bricks and cement but we are almost to the roof
level. It takes some people years to get that far. It should have taken us
years to get that far. These are the mysteries of God.
I have a leaky sink but a loving husband. I have a beat up
failing car but a beautiful healthy daughter. I had a hard experience in
childbirth but I have my life. Not everyone can say the same. What I have far
outways the annoyance of what I don’t. I wouldn’t trade our holey socks and
hand me downs for a two story house in the US next to TJ Maxx and Micheals and
the beach and Ruth’s Chris and a closet full of fashionable clothes. I
wouldn’t. We have that choice. We could go to the states if we wanted. Sydney
could leave ministry for a more financially profitable profession. But that
would be for us. And when I became a Christian, and when we became missionaries,
we vowed to live for Him. Life is so short- it’s so so short, and I am doing
this for the glory of God. He has brought us this far by his Grace. He’ll get
us to the end.
I will attempt to get better at blogging. At least, ya know, when a baby is born or whatever :)
PS Here's how she looks now. A little browner, a whole lot bigger and so, so full of life.