In February the rest of our team here at the casa de espera arrived, which resulted in a lot more people and a lot more work. We had three patients during the month. The first was a patient with a history of two c-sections, which put her at a higher risk for complications such as uterine rupture (which would be devastating if it occurred during labor while living far away in her community). She stayed with us a few weeks before and about a week or so after her scheduled c-section.
The second was a woman who came to us after her c-section for twins when she was discharged from the hospital and had nowhere to stay until she could return to her community. The third was a woman with a history of eight pregnancies. Having given birth to so many children, she was at high risk for a fast labor and complications such as hemorrhage during her labor and birth, so we encouraged her and her husband to stay at the casa de espera so that she would be close enough to arrive in time at the Centro de Salud to deliver her baby. When she did go into labor it lasted only about two hours. Had she not been staying with us, she would not have been able to arrive in time. After being discharged from the hospital, the patient and her family stayed with us for a couple more days in which time we did some teaching on caring for herself and the baby, including umbilical cord care, infant bathing and breastfeeding. Even though she had so many other children, no one had ever really taken sufficient time to teach her and her husband these things, so they were grateful for the help. Thankfully, she and all of our patients and their babies went home healthy, having had uncomplicated, safe deliveries in the Centro de Salud.
In February, we also completed six educational sessions, two in neighborhoods within Atalaya and four in some of the native communities surrounding Atalaya. We had planned to do even more, but the rain and some flooding spoiled a few of our planned activities. The native communities we went to included Aerija, Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa de Laulate and Sepani. Getting out of Atalaya and into some of the rural communities without the noise and business of the city was a nice change. Along the way I saw a pineapple field, cows, a plethora of plant life, and some really neat, tranquil communities.
My work in promoting vertical birth progressed as well. We had our first two vertical births in the Centro de Salud. The first was a patient who heard about the vertical birth I attended in January and decided to come see me at the casa de espera to find out if I could attend her birth as well. She told me that she was scared she would end up with an episiotomy or c-section, as one of her care providers in the Centro de Salud told her that because she is petite and this was her first pregnancy, she would likely need one or the other to deliver her baby. She was really concerned about this and was hoping I could help her avoid such interventions. I talked to her about the reasons a c-section or episiotomy might be necessary for the health of her or her baby. We also discussed vertical birth and the benefits it offers. She really liked the idea of a vertical birth so I gave her my phone number to call me when she went into labor. In the very early morning a few days later she called. Later that same day, with the support of her husband and me, she delivered a healthy baby girl in vertical position without episiotomy or c-section. The second vertical birth was one of our patients at the casa de espera. She was pregnant with her ninth child and went into labor only about a week after coming to stay with us. She had a very fast labor (only about two hours) but we were able to get her to the Centro de Salud with a little time to spare for her delivery. Though I love attending births, the midwife at the hospital that morning wanted to attend a vertical birth, so I encouraged her and stayed close by to help out in any way she needed. The birth was fast and uncomplicated. Both patients were happy with their birthing experiences and, most importantly, they had safe, uncomplicated births needing little medical intervention. The other big event in February that I was able to partake in was Atalaya’s own carnaval. It was really neat to see and even more fun to join. It consisted of two days of celebration. The first day they had a parade with various groups participating, each with their own themed float.
Nearly every group’s theme represented one of the various communities/cultures of Peru (mostly from the Selva and the Sierra). I joined the group of people from the municipality walking and dancing in the parade. As we danced our way through the streets of Atalaya, the crowds greeted us and we greeted them in various ways. Many of them threw water at us with whatever they had, including water balloons, buckets and water guns. We greeted them with confetti and by dusting them with baby powder. Of course we probably got each other more than we did the crowd. At the end of the parade we made our way into the coliseum, where many of the groups participating in the parade performed traditional dances native to the communities of Peru they represented. The next day we celebrated the Umisha. This is an event where they bring large trees to an empty lot and decorate them with many prizes. Then they put the trees upright again with their decorations so that they can dance and celebrate around them all day. As the day progresses, each group proceeds to take turns with an axe to cut down the tree again so that people can retrieve the prizes (like a piñata). The groups from the Sierra tend to leave the tops of the trees big and place prizes consisting of blankets, clothes, pots, and other such goods. The groups from the Selva tend to arrange the tops of the trees in a design and then decorate them with fruits. The people from the Selva also have a tradition in which they drench each other and the dirt with water then go around grabbing other people and rolling them in the mud. Needless to say, by the end of the day I went home tired from dancing all day and covered from head to toe in mud. It was fun!