By CDR Protegenie (Genie) Reed
Navy Midwife, Pacific Partnership 2015
My first Pacific Partnership experience was in 2011 on the USS Cleveland (LPD 7). While it was a wonderful opportunity, being a part of Pacific Partnership 2015 aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) is proving to be just as exciting, especially with the added benefit of having inpatients and surgical capabilities.
During our second mission location in our first host nation, Fiji, I was the sole Navy Midwife representative on a Medical Subject Matter Expert Exchange team bound for Labasa Hospital. I was filled with excitement at the thought of meeting and collaborating with local midwives. I immediately began to brainstorm what I could share with the Fijian midwives and also what I could learn from them.
On arrival, I met with Matron Suraki, the head of nursing, who greeted me with such a welcoming smile, I felt right at home. She took me on a tour of the hospital, proudly showing the different wards and introducing me to several of the nurses, who were incredibly eager to meet the Navy Midwife. I was finally introduced to the midwives on the labor ward, where they welcomed me with open arms and with the most sincere smiles. The midwives showed me around the ward and they explained the hospital’s process of triage, labor, delivery, and postpartum.
There was one young local Fijian woman who was in active labor with her first child, and I was invited to work alongside the midwife who was caring for her. The young lady was so calm, despite having strong contractions, but with two midwives at her side she had the best support. Working side-by-side with the Fijian midwife allowed an opportunity to discuss both the Fijian and U.S. scope of practice and management styles. We reflected on some practice and cultural differences, but also embraced how the spirit of midwifery remained the same.
One difference was when we broke away from the young woman who was in labor so we could have “tea time,” which is truly a cultural tradition unique to the Fijians, and one that I recommend we adopt in the US; I would love to plan my day around “tea time” at noon. When I returned after “tea time” the young Fijian woman was still in labor, walking around, breathing, and just allowing her body to do just what it knows to do, naturally. I knew it would be a while before she would give birth, so I engaged the midwives in a discussion on postpartum hemorrhage since we were planning to have a training drill the next day. I set up my laptop in the delivery room and we began to review the lecture I had on postpartum hemorrhage management. Four midwives and three nursing students took part in the impromptu lecture.
About half way into the lecture, I heard the sound of our laboring woman who was ready to give birth. We quickly removed the laptop and mannequin from the delivery table. I was asked if I wanted to assist with the delivery by one of the midwives. I wanted to cry with joy, “Of course I want to assist!” What an honor. I was given a plastic apron, a gown to go over it, and sterile gloves. The other midwives assisted the young women on the delivery table as we prepared to welcome her baby into the world. The delivery cart was opened and ready for me. Now the set up was somewhat familiar, but you don’t need much for a normal delivery. I was handed some numbing medication for the anticipated episiotomy since it was her first baby, but I advised that, based on current literature, an episiotomy may not be necessary. With coaching and support from her two midwives, the young Fijian woman pushed well and delivered a healthy baby girl, weighing 6.6 lbs. No episiotomy was needed; mother and baby recovered well.
Now, I have to admit, I was secretly hoping the parents would name their new baby after me, but I think “Lelani” is a much better name.
After partnering with my Fijian brother and sister midwives, I realize there is so much more we can gain from each other that will maximize women’s opportunities to deliver healthy and safe babies around the world. I can’t begin to explain or describe the experience I had at Labasa Hospital, but it is a moment in my life that I will always cherish and never forget. And I am glad that I was able to be part of such a special event during Pacific Partnership 2015. Vinaka!