My experience working in healthcare has been a journey of learning, helping, empowering, loving. I have discovered there are many reasons why some people have a hard time remaining healthy. These reasons include poverty, lack of medical care and education, harmful practices and beliefs, even hostile husbands or family members. As a healthcare worker, I try to help each individual resolve these issues with the assistance of the family and the community.
I currently minister as a midwife in a maternity ward in Nsawam, Ghana. Here, working with mothers, babies, families, young people, couples, and pregnant women to achieve their ultimate health has been fun, yet challenging. Being a part of the birthing process has always been an awesome experience. It is an opportunity for me to be a co-creator with God, and this is one of the most exciting things for me. I always marvel at the deep experience of being among the first to welcome a newborn into the world.
I feel a deeper sense of fulfillment and service to God as I accept the trust of the parents and take on the responsibility of caring, nurturing, supporting their babies. Even after they are discharged, our paths still cross. I am able to keep tabs on those who live nearby, at times attending their naming ceremonies / baptism. I see others when they come back for immunizations and checkups. As they grow, my heart leaps for joy every time I see them. I feel fulfilled, grateful and humbled to be part of God’s creation.
My time in the ward has taught me that no matter how knowledgeable the midwife is, she keeps learning more with different experiences. There are situations in which expert medical help is needed, when difficult decisions need to be made, when the woman needs to be referred for further care. Knowing how to assess the entire situation, and what calls need to be made, are all part of the midwife’s skills. Thus, I am committed to being a lifelong learner.
Helping with kindness and respect
From my experience, I have learned that scolding and blaming does not make people take better care of themselves. Rather, it frightens people from being able to share their needs and feelings, and pushes them into the wrong hands and fake health workers. This has taught me to be gentle and understanding when dealing with patients.
Much of my job, like any other midwife, is directed to meeting women’s healthcare needs. The most important thing anyone can do for someone’s health is listen to them, learn about their opinions, experiences, needs, questions, and worries. It requires talking with them, not at them, letting them know you care about them. Often a kind word, a gentle touch, or a respectful talk will do more than medicine. Showing a woman care and respect helps her to respect and care for herself.
Change takes time
It is also my experience that change takes time. It took me time, for example, to come to terms with what Covid-19 brought us. Everything went upside down, and many of us became scared. Yet, we had to continue to see all the people who needed our care and help. This time really strengthened our bond as a staff, and brought us together as a family. We needed each other’s shoulder to lean on. Knowing no one of us has it all together, we continue to fight this virus. In addition, I have learned that when a person works with others to build a strong unit or community, they do make a difference, even if the changes are not instantly visible. One’s presence and a little advice encourage others in ways one may not realize.
Practice what you teach
My few years in healthcare have made me realize that people I care for pay more attention to what I do, than to what I say. As a midwife, I have learned to be a good example to the women by the way I treat and handle them. For example, before I teach the women cleanliness, I make sure my hands and environment are clean first. The people we work with also look up to us with some expectations. So, we must remain honest and transparent in our dealings.
Work for the joy of it
It is important to enjoy what we do, and from my little experience, midwifery is fun. I have met different kinds of people and personalities, learned what they practice and believe, welcomed many babies into the world, and experienced how wonderfully God works in the stages of labor. If we love what we do, we will work better, and people will want to follow our example.
Another value I have seen and learned is to empower others. We empower mothers through the health education we give them every day. It helps them to make their own decisions and to change their lives for the better. When people feel empowered, they have the courage to use their own abilities; they know their own values and believe in themselves.
One day at a time
Each day comes with its own experience. So, I embrace my day with open hands, believing God will be with me in every encounter. Every day, as I leave the house for the clinic, I carry with me hope, love, trust, compassion, empathy — ready to do my part, knowing God will do the rest.
When the day is done, I gratefully bring all whom I have accompanied during the day to my personal and community prayers. It is my prayer that the children I have assisted in their birthing process grow up to be fully human, fully alive, responsible men and women wherever God desires them to be.
By Sister Esther Alaam, ssnd with Sister Frances Okafor, ssnd