Midwives: The unsung heroes of modern times

Mary Nderitu a midwife at Nairobi’s Avenue hospital -2

Mary Nderitu a midwife at Nairobi’s Avenue hospital

By Lilian Kaivilu

As the word marked the International Day of the Midwife yesterday, midwives with loads of years in midwifery shared their highs and lows, as they oversee the delivery process of millions of babies.

Mary Nderitu, a midwife at Nairobi’s Avenue hospital started her midwifery career in North Kinangop Catholic Mission hospital in January 1989. “From the start of my career, I enjoyed serving in the maternity department. After five years at the facility, Nderitu joined Thogoto Teachers College in Kikuyu as a college nurse.

Mary Nderitu a midwife at Nairobi’s Avenue hospital -2
Mary Nderitu a midwife at Nairobi’s Avenue hospital

The now in charge of antenatal clinic at Avenue Hospital says midwifery requires a lot of passion and dedication. “The joy of a midwife is when a baby is safely delivered. The highest moment in my career was in 2007 when I delivered a mother normally at a hospital’s waiting bay when all was set for a caesarian section.”

Her lowest moment, she says was the death of a child hours after delivery. The baby was the mother’s only son and had been delivered via a caesarian section. She advises upcoming midwives to find a comfortable department in the healthcare system and give their best as they attend to patients.

Growing up, Grace Wang’ombe admired the dress code by nurses in her area. As a child, she was once admitted at the then Nanyuki District Hospital. “Here, I liked the dress code and general mannerisms of the nurses,” she says. This, together with frequent career talks by experienced nurses in her high school, drove her to pursue a career in nursing.

Wang’ombe is now a midwife and the acting senior assistant chief nurse at Kenyatta National Hospital’s labour ward. Her career picked up in 1981 when a then Form Four student at Ndururumo High School in Nyahururu. “While in Form Four, a nurse came to talk to us. This affirmed my interest in the field and I filled a career form.”

She would later, in January 1983, join the then Medical Training College (today’s Kenya Medical Training College) in Nairobi for a course as a plain registered nurse in Kenya. She graduated in 1986 before doing a one-year course to become a Kenya registered midwife.

Boniface Mutisya , representative of midwives in the Nursing Council of Kenya
Boniface Mutisya , representative of midwives in the Nursing Council of Kenya

As the world marked the International Day of Midwife yesterday, the world celebrated millions of midwives globally who have seen mothers through the delivery process. “Midwifery is more than seeing a mother through the birthing process. A midwife is supposed to offer a comprehensive kind of care to the mother and ensure proper follow up for both the mother and the baby,” she advises.

With over 30 years of midwifery experience, Wang’ombe share low and high moments in a profession she calls her passion. My best times, she says, is when I deliver a healthy baby and discharge the mother in a stable state. “I once delivered a mother and she started bleeding because the uterus could not contract. I called other midwives and the mother was saved. This was a high moment for me,” she says. Wang’ombe adds that convincing a patient to heed to the right medical advice is a big win for any midwife.

But there are bad days as well. “My lowest moment is when we lose a mother.” Wang’ombe painfully shares an experience of a cardiac patient who died immediately after delivery.  “ The mother told me she felt she was about to die. I kept reassuring her that she can’t die. Immediately she delivered she died. It is my worst moment to date. Every time a mother dies, I feel like packing my bag and going,” she says.  “I imagine the mother has left new born and other children.”

In order to weather such devastating moments, Wang’ombe says she depends on the counsellors in the facility and colleagues who keep checking on each other. With a bout 400 deliveries every month, Wang’ombe says she would like to be remembered for the changes that she has made in the hospital’s labour department. “I started a prayer session in our department where staff members pray before start of work. That’s a legacy that I have at the labour ward.”

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