We are excited to return to Uganda in August, returning after being held back by the Covid outbreak, and enthused about going to teach in new places, namely the Western area of the country. We recently had a Zoom call with a stillbirth mom, Treasure. We would like you to hear her story, not only because it is impactful, but because it has solidified our goals and plans for August.
First though, some back story. Sue and I have always emphasized two areas of nursing in Uganda. The first one is prevention of maternal death, with our past focus being on postpartum hemorrhage. The other focus has been on bereavement care for families who have had stillborn babies, since most moms and families have not been given the opportunity to see and hold their baby after a loss. Mbale Regional Hospital, where we have a Birth with Dignity program, has seen a significant decrease in maternal death and an increase in families who receive bereavement care since the beginning of the program.
We were asked by the Ugandan nurses to focus our August teaching on pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) since many mothers die of this complication too. Prevention of preeclampsia would need to be addressed with teaching in the prenatal clinics if we want to have an impact. We decided that as we teach in prenatal clinics, we would also bring Fetal Movement Cards, as these cards emphasize prevention of stillbirth and are easily understandable with diagrams that can communicate regardless of language.
Now, back to Treasure’s story. Treasure, a beautiful and intelligent woman, had reached out to us, desiring to share her story and see if she could impact her country with her wish to take a devastating circumstance and find some good in it. Treasure and her husband Moses were expecting their baby in January of this year. They loved that Mwezi, their dear son, moved most when hearing Moses’ voice or after Treasure ate sugar. In early January, at 38+ weeks, Treasure noted that Mwezi’s movement had slowed down. No one had ever discussed fetal movement with Treasure and Uganda does not offer childbirth education classes, so she had no way of knowing that her instinct that something was not right had a foundation of truth related to decreased fetal movement. Treasure and Moses went to the biggest maternity hospital in Uganda, waiting close to 1 ½ hours to be seen, and was asked by each caregiver if this was her first baby, making Treasure feel like she was just an over-anxious first-time mom. When Treasure was finally evaluated Mwezi no longer had a heartbeat. After a three-day induction, Mwezi was delivered on January 6th into his parents’ arms.
Now in her grief, Treasure would like for Mwezi, whose name means moonlight, to be honored by her advocating and illuminating the need for mothers in Uganda to be aware of their baby’s movements and seek help if they are concerned. Treasure asked that we find a way to educate her people. When we told her about bringing the Fetal Movement Teaching Cards, Treasure was sure they could be read by mothers and result in saving babies in her country. Needless to say, we will be bringing many cards as now we believe that this education is needed. Treasure’s story, and Mwezi’s brief life will impact Uganda for good, and we are thankful that our paths have crossed. We look forward to meeting her in August.
Treasure’s story has impacted Sue and I as we realize how much work is still to be done, but we would also like to share an encouragement from this story. Three years ago we went to the school of nursing associated with the hospital where Mwezi was born. We taught 120 nursing students the importance of allowing mothers and families the right to see and hold their babies after stillbirth. We even suggested allowing photographs, extended time and privacy to the family. The students told us that the teaching was shocking, as no one in the country was allowing that level of bereavement care.
Much to our surprise, when Treasure delivered Mwesi she communicated to us that the midwife who did the delivery was kind, stayed past her shift to deliver Mwesi and gave Treasure and her husband all the time they needed to see, hold, and photograph Mwezi. Sue and I were blown away that this care was being given in a hospital other than Mbale, and we are thrilled that this midwife is making a huge difference in the lives of the families who have a stillborn baby. Treasure said that she is the only woman she knows who lost a baby and has been given the priceless experience of holding and spending time with her baby, but we are truly encouraged none the less.
Positive change has been slow in Uganda, but we continue to pray that this change will someday be offered to all. In that hope we look forward to August.
In honor of Mwezi, his short but significant life,
Lynn and Sue