I wasn’t sure if I’d be lucky enough during my time on Lesvos, but I was able to witness a birth! I didn't know if I’d get the chance while I was here, because although many pregnant women come through Lesvos, they are only here for a few hours or at most a day.
While here on Lesvos, I have palpated pregnant bellies, listened to heart tones and given reassurance to mothers where I could. I have seen a few newly postpartum women, provided postnatal checkups for both mothers and babies, and worked a night shift in the Family Compound at the Moria camp.
We had a busy shift that night, working steadily all night. There was a 10 minute lull, just enough to shut our eyes, when the clinic door opened. I heard a woman making a very familiar sound, and watched her lean over and clutch her tightening belly. Needless to say, I shot up immediately and welcomed her- she was in active labor!
I knew we would need to relocate Anissa, the mother, quickly to the hospital, as her contractions were powerful and close. Despite our language barrier, we were able to communicate. I learned Anissa was from Afghanistan and that this was her second pregnancy. Anissa was stoic and yet I could tell she was well on her way.
We were able to call MSF and arrange for their Farsi translator to inform both Anissa and her husband Salam that their baby was coming, and we would take Anissa to the hospital, together with Dr. Clarissa, another volunteer.
The hospital is 20 minutes away, and while I sat in the back seat in case I needed to assist Anissa to deliver in the car, Dr. Clarissa drove. I was equipped with a few gloves, some towels, and a bulb syringe, which I rarely use but I grabbed it none the less. I honestly thought we might have a car birth, and I know Anissa was trying not to labor so we could make it to hospital in time.
We finally made it to the hospital and were told to sit and wait in the hallway. Anissa was working hard and laboring throughout this time, with contractions every 2 minutes. After 10 minutes, Anissa looked at me- she really LOOKED at me- and I asked “Is the baby coming?” Anissa nodded, and Clarissa grabbed a nurse as we walked down the hall to a room. Her water broke just then, and the baby indeed was on her way!
Anissa was holding onto our hands tightly, and even though the Greek staff wanted us to leave, we held on as long as we could. We saw her baby come! Anissa did amazingly and at that point Clarissa and I were shooed out of the room. Five minutes later, we saw Anissa shuffling down the hall, and we cheered and greeted her with huge smiles and hugs! She was so happy.
We tucked her into bed and went to find Salam, who was with their 2 year old son, and we made sure Salam had some time with Anissa. We waited almost 2 hours for mama and babe to be reunited, but it was a beautiful moment when they were. Both Anissa and her baby girl are HAPPY AND HEALTHY! Such a shining, stellar moment to be a part of.
Anissa and her family, now one larger, took the ferry the next day to Athens. Many amazing volunteers came together to get this family necessary resources, hotel stay, funds and the baby’s birth certificate to ease their passage. It was amazing to be a part of this safety net we cast around this lovely family.
When I came by to see them off, Anissa said she didn't want to leave without saying goodbye and thank you. She told me she would pray for me every day and that I was sent from God.
To me, all I did was hold her hand and show her kindness. Anyone would do the same and many did. While I was chatting with Anissa and a doctor that spoke Farsi, Anissa asked if she could take a photo with me and the baby because she didn't want to forget. She was happy to have our picture taken and since it was her idea, I am happy to have it!
Thanks to Maria, our lovely Greek doctor that helped with all the paperwork, and the many many translators that stepped in and to the doctors, nurses and midwives that gave money and support. As I walked the family out of camp, I could feel the gratitude, pride and hope this family felt, and I knew this was the beautiful side of humanity. Love wins, every time!