Friday, 17 June 2016

What a difference a tiny year makes....

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 exsisted.

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 time.

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 curtains.

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 watching  tv 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 tightening  or 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 there or….”


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 soap  or 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 for days.


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. Sydney  got 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 different  than 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 possible.

Commisioning/fist 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 know. Africa.

 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 this time!)


House/Building the new house

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 drafts in.


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 here.

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.


  1. Miss you...thanks for coming "home" for a bit through this blog visit��

  2. In tears. And I'm only half way through!

  3. What a post. The honesty and disappointment giving way to confidence in the mysteries of God's provision is beautiful. Like a psalm of David. Keep writing, please!