These are my nephews. Five year old Payton and seven month old Pharell. I love them to the ends of time and back. They are my brother’s children.
When Payton was born, we were ecstatic. He was the first grandchild for my mother and he is the one who gave me the title of Aunt (or auntie like he says it). I remember visiting the hospital the day after just in awe of that little creature. My brother’s wife was telling the story of how her husband hadn’t left her side since. In fact, he had to be forced to go back home and rest. He had held her hand even when in the throes of labour she had insisted that he leave her alone. He walked with her through the corridors of Nsambya hospital when the doctor advised that walking might help speed things up. It was the same story for Pharell; my brother became an expert in the quantities and prices of porridge at the hospital canteen. He even knew which food “nakawere” had to eat to heal faster.
This story easily gets ooohs and aaahs out of people because such things are not everyday occurences. It seems more common place for men to receive phone calls informing them that they have become fathers and congratulating them. So where do they stop being so involved? I am not saying we don’t appreciate them working hard to be able to cover that hospital bill, no. I am not a man basher. Why is it that not many men take pride in being by their wives’ side through the antenatal visits right to the moment the midwife announces the sex of the baby. Is this whole process a female thing? When does a man become a father?
This is Baby Klein Gold Kisakye (yes, baby is one of his names for now).
He is the first born child to my beautiful friend Joan and my long time friend Gideon. Baby Klein was born about 2 months ago. I found out about baby Klein’s birth about an hour after it had happened. This is because Gideon sent me a video of his new born baby along with pictures. He was there the whole time and among the first people to hold his child. When we went to visit Joan in the hospital, she told us how Gideon had bought hand sanitiser and did not allow anyone to just touch the baby anyhow. He only left the hospital when he really had to, for unavoidable things like seeing clients, but every chance he got, he was back by Joan’s side. You see Joan had a few issues with breast milk and couldn’t breastfeed at first. It is Gideon who mixed that first bottle of formula.
This morning I dared to bring this up on the show I co-host on 95.9 Touch Fm (@95n9) asking if men should be allowed into the delivery room. I was shocked to find that many times it is actually the doctors who deny these men entry. Strangely though, not every woman wants her man by her side during this time. Do men have a place in issues of pregnancy and delivery? Does their role stop at conception and resume after birth?
I recently attended a #midwives4All seminar organised by The Swedish Embassy in collaboration with Reach a Hand Uganda and I discovered that some men are discouraged from going for antenatal visits with their women by the nurses themselves. They say the women are bothering their men disturbing them with such “minor” things. However, women who show up with men get faster attention because it is presumed the man has to go back and work. In fact, women have been known to hire the boda-boda men who take them to hospital to sit with them and pretend to be their husbands so that they partake of this favourable treatment. Again I ask, when does a man become a father?
One of the most unfortunate things to happen in this world in my opinion is for a mother to die while giving life. Many times, both mother and child do not survive. There are parts of Uganda where it is not simply a matter of going to the hospital when it is your due date. Some women only go to hospital on the d-day because the health centres are too far and hardly accessible. Such health centres are also usually under staffed having midwives who are on an almost 24 hour call. Bringing a life into the world should be a beautiful thing but is currently a major killer in rural areas. The saddest part is it is usually the small things that cause these deaths. It is because the entire process is so fragile; a small thing can turn out to be fatal.
Limited male involvement is not the only issue pregnant mothers have to deal with when it comes to delivery day;in some places the midwives are simply not enough in number. It seems no one ever aspires to be a mid-wife or a nurse. Everyone wants to be a doctor or a pharmacist but how many primary school kids want to ensure that babies are delivered safely? Someone please point me in their direction.
I believe I went to one of the best schools in the country; not just because the students scored very high marks when it came to the National exams but because our teachers took time to talk us through the career options.However, I do not remember hearing about midwifery. I just found out recently that it takes three years for one to be a fully certified midwife; that is how long you have to be in school before you get papers to allow you to practice.
Is it something we always hope someone else will do? Isn’t it time we changed the way we think and speak about maternal health? Our young men should feel proud to know all there is to know about the process leading up to delivery. Our young people ought to know that midwifery shouldn’t be something you study as a last resort. That it is something you can choose for yourself and find great fulfillment in.
What would be your reaction if your child, friend, sister, brother, cousin et al came to you and told you they were considering pursuing a career in midwifery? Think about it. That is where we need to start from.