Tuesday, June 18, 2013


In April we had a visit from some obstetric nurses named Michelle and Kelly who were in Zambia to spend time with one of our Peace Corps friends. They were a big help in teaching about maternal and baby health both at our orphanage and in the community as well.

I'm finally able to share their account with you:

Our first talk was with the group of nannies at [the] orphanage. We had a list of things we wanted to discuss in each class that we wanted to cover such as the importance of prenatal visits, diet, malaria prevention, hand washing, breastfeeding, safe sleeping for infants and how to care for someone having a seizure. We had heard that a child in the orphanage had recently had a seizure and we wanted to ensure that the nannies knew how to handle one if it ever happened again. Seizures are seen often where malaria is prevalent because that is how the body fights off fevers. Many cultures believe that the seizure is indicative of having evil spirits so it was also important for us to explain why it was really happening. 

We were very surprised at the quality of questions the nannies asked of us. We ended up going in depth on female anatomy and they had great questions on fertility, menstration and some questions we had to research and get back to them on! It was a neat experience getting to know the nannies while we are there and they felt comfortable asking us questions as the week went on which was great! [It's] a nice group of women there. I'm so glad they get to help care for [the] babies!

Our next talk happened before the Under 5 Clinic in the village. There were about 50 women there. We had an interpreter and talked about a few things that applied to children. We put a great emphasis on breastfeeding since it is what is best for your baby and is readily available! I am a breastfeeding educator back in the states and I was very surprised to learn about the low breastfeeding rate in Zambia. Many of these babies are getting fed water the day after birth and given solid foods way too early! This is definitely a topic I feel passionate about and it seems as though the clinic is teaching the same things I would recommend. We are all on the same page! I do believe it is hard to break habits especially when the information is passed on from the previous generations so that is something that will need to be taught in Kazembe for years to come.

We had a great time in the clinic. The people who work there are knowledgeable and passionate about their patients. Unfortunately, they are completely overwhelmed with responsibility. They need more resources and funds, but so does every other village clinic in Africa. I would love to see this one get nicer equipment and more help though!

We put on a couple more classes within the next few days. One to a group of about 20 pregnant women, another class for a group of 22 traditional midwives and one to a group of about 100 people in a nearby village. The talk with the midwives was fun! I love how these women commit their time to helping women birth babies. 

Now there are many things I love about my job, but one of them is how similar the labor process is. For those of you who don’t know, Kelly and I work as labor and delivery nurses at a hospital in Des Moines, Iowa that mostly serves the underprivileged and under-served. This includes families from all walks of life and all parts of the world. There are many cultural differences, but in the end we all have babies the same way and the bond between mother and child never ceases to amaze me. 

Where I am getting at here, is that our talk with the midwives was inspirational. They haven’t had formal education, they have learned it all through years of actually doing the work. They were all older and have probably seen more deliveries than I have, yet they only know what they have seen and when there are problems, people get infections or die. They are street smart, but lack some book knowledge. 

Our talk consisted of a lot of anatomy and just how things work in the female body, but we also wanted to discuss some things that result in death or injury. The leading cause of maternal death in Africa is postpartum hemorrhage. Immediately after delivery, mothers are at a greater risk of bleeding. The more babies you have, the more you bleed because your uterus does not go back to normal as quickly. We taught them some things that can be done to help decrease bleeding. By the end, they asked a lot of great questions and seemed to enjoy having us there.

Not only did we teach, but we were the students as well! Back home, we have all these tools to help us in healthcare including: fetal heart monitors, ultrasounds and dopplers. In Kazembe, they don’t have this luxury. They use their bare hands to feel the position and gestational age of the baby. They put their ear up to a wooden fetascope that is placed on the women’s abdomen to listen to heart tones. Kelly and I had the opportunity to work alongside these traditional midwives and learn some techniques that will make us better nurses in the end.

Thank you so much for allowing us to stay in your facility. We had a wonderful time and I got to spend my birthday there. I had offered to care for Samuel the night before to give Sarah a break and I can’t even express how awesome it was to wake up to his smiling face on my birthday!! 

At lunch, the kids surprised me with a party and by singing to me and Michael. It was Michael’s birthday in April too so I got to give him a cupcake and we got to share in the celebration. Thanks again!

Want to experience this 'high' for yourself? We'd love to welcome you for a visit or a volunteer stint!

(Almost) Exactly Three Years Ago: If Man Were Meant to Fly.... 


  1. Heather E.June 18, 2013

    What a great experience it sounds like you had. True that we all have babies the same way no matter where we are from and at least we as women can always bond in that respect :)

  2. Jessica MorrowJune 19, 2013

    Thank you for writing about your experiences! It's so great to hear from women like you who care so much about what they do and who share it locally and globally! Keep it up!


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