When I came back and started working in Berlin, it was like a shock. Not only in a social and cultural way but also due to some professional issues. I needed some time to get used to the workload of a delivery section in a big hospital, dealing and working with students, coping with lots of high risk patients and some “first world problems”. On the other hand, I really appreciate the fully equipped delivery section with medical stuff and all the collaboration with other medical disciplines. The luxury of knowing that it’s safe for both; mother and child, with a good outcome. Besides, there is no need to worry about enough equipment, soap or disinfection.
Anyway, I profited very much from the time of working in Fatou’s clinic. I’ve learnt to be caring, patient, focussed and trust in myself. I’ve learnt to believe in the natural force that women can give birth by their own, dealing with pain without any pain killer like an epidural. I’ve understood the maternal intuitive power, what it means to be in labour and be on the move while having contractions. Women and patients were so thankful for the work of all nurses, midwifes and doctors. What also impressed me was the way the families took care of their dearest and how strong the social bond was.
The whole team of Fatou‘s clinic involved me from the beginning in a heartwarming and welcoming way. Mainly, I’ve monitored the antenatal visits and trained my Leopold-Manoeuvres (some manoeuvres to determine the baby‘s position from the outside by touching the mother‘s belly and estimate the progress of pregnancy). I saw women in different stages of pregnancy. I could join all consultations, watch the other staff when they did their work (f.i. wound dressing) and had the possibility to ask as many questions as I wanted. Although, I was a midwife from abroad and they didn‘t know me quite much, I was accepted as a proper midwife, from the first day. I led my own birth and sutured some injuries – something I was never able to do in Berlin. So, I’ve learnt to trust my know-how, my knowledge and my feelings.
The most important thing that I’ve learnt was – to improvise. For example, I had a baby which was not able to adapte immediately after birth. In Berlin, I would have called the pediatrician. In the Gambia, I had to improvise. We found the golden foil from a standard first-aid-kid, put it on the baby and the baby became warmer and better.
Now, back in Berlin, I think, I often use my new-found trust und believe in the normal birth. I‘m more tolerant and open-minded, towards people from other cultures and especially refugees or people from Africa. I really passed some stigmatization and I’m more understanding if women are not able to communicate, if they have no support, they seem not well-prepared or don‘t know the German structures.
Last week, I took care of a African woman expecting her third baby. She was very progressed in labour. She had strong contractions every few minutes and was nearly fully dilated, when I start my shift with my midwife student. In her history, she already had a still-birth and suffers by passive carrier of sickle cell anemia – some medical facts I was used to due to my time in the Gambia. The way she gave birth reminded me of the time in Fatou‘s clinic. I knew what she needed. On the contrary, my midwife student was sometimes a little bit confused (why I gave her a proper meal after birth immediately and I was very ok with that, because she didn’t have any attention for her baby and only wanted to rest on her own). Nevertheless, after she felt recovered, the mother was very in love with her daughter, started breastfeeding after 2 hours and it worked well. The woman was mobile after birth and not complaining at all. That made me very happy. I was able to realise a good birth experience. She was very proud of herself, especially as she welcomed her baby when she stood in front of the bed. This position is more typical Berlin/German than Nigerian.
I really loved that exchange and the combination of working as a midwife in a very busy hospital in Berlin and the small clinic of Fatou Gaye. I‘m very happy and thankful for this unforgettable experience.