So, hello Philippines. You’re dusty, hot, noisy, busy, crowded and always trying to interest me in a bargain.
And yet right now I’m sitting in a clean, cool room at the Birthing Home trying to collect my thoughts after two days since landing. It’s been a whirlwind already, so much contrast between our quiet little life in New Zealand and the hustle and bustle of metro Philippines.
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The women here are so beautiful, humble and reserved. They birth quietly, trusting in their bodies and have wonderful physical support from their partners. They arrive for antenatal checkups in twos and threes, some with their partners, some without; walking or perched on the back of a motorbike. It’s hot and humid from early morning here, and everyone looks for a place beside the fan that is central in the lounge room.
I attended my first birth this morning, in an observational role – before we can be ‘hands on’ we must witness several births conducted by either the midwives or the more experienced interns. This birth is not as easy as the others of the past few days – two women arrived fully dilated and only just made it the birthing room before their babies slipped out easily. This mother spends several hours almost fully dilated, trying different positions to help the last piece of cervix dilate past the baby’s head. This swollen cervix just won’t budge but eventually the women can’t resist pushing and her new baby boy is born. After the birth, while baby is tucked up in bed with mum, the father quietly clears the stained newspapers that cover the floor under the birthing stool, and mops the floor with bleach. I’m busy writing up the birth notes when a quiet “please... excuse me” prompts me to lift me feet up from the floor as the father swishes the last bit of water in my corner of the room. He tucks back up beside his wife and new baby – his bright white smile cutting cherry path through his dark skin. He is clearly tired but proud of his wife as she latches baby on to suckle for the first time...
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Sleeping has been a struggle for me – its pretty hot over night and there is constant noise with stray dogs, chickens, cats making their way up and down the staircase that is just outside the window of our basement rooms. Beyond the staircase is TLC – The Little Children’s home. Every now and then little faces peer out towards us, occasionally calling out for attention. The noise from TLC starts early morning as the babies wake for the day, and it’s hard to sleep through their occasional early morning tears. We visited there for the first time tonight, it was heartbreaking to be in an orphanage and see all these little faces waiting for a ‘forever home’, but at the same time, wonderful to see the amazing work the founders and staff do for these unwanted children. Even this morning, a wee, unnamed boy was left at the home – a tiny, malnourished little soul, probably only a few weeks old at best. We stayed and cuddled little people for half an hour and felt such sorrow when we left...