I gave birth at Moto’otua Hospital, and it was a good experience

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My daughter on her last day at Motootua Hospital, four days after she was born. She is in her car seat in the Maternity Ward, ready to go home.

This is my birth story, if you don’t like it, frankly my dear, I do not give a damn!

I was at a dinner party last week and I found myself yet again, the only Samoan at the table among expats, the conversation is interesting, for different perspectives lend itself to sometimes explosive but intelligent arguments. This is the reality of being married to an expat, the other half of my social life tends to be with expats. I enjoy these gatherings, for after living my whole entire life in Samoa, sometimes it’s nice to pretend for a few hours that the dinner party being hosted by Italian, Australian or Kiwi friends are indeed taking place in either Milan, Melbourne or Wellington. Of course after the dinner is over and I drive back, dodging the 12 half-naked toddlers who live in our neighborhood, I am once again brought back to the beautiful reality of living in what was recently a Least Developed Country.

My being here, 32 years after my birth at Motootua Hospital is by choice, I love my culture, am patriotic to the point of no return and will defend it to the very very last possible logical argument that I have. Yes, I admit it when there are faults in the Fa’aSamoa, especially one that is detrimental to anyone especially women and children, but I will defend every bit of it that I believe in. So that’s what happened Friday night, when the conversation turned to birth stories and one expat lady turned to me and said: “I had my third baby here, and I am never doing that again, it was hell.” This is the curse of hanging with expats, the conversation is usually lovely until they bitch and moan about Samoa, which is their right, they are humans and they have relocated from their homes to be here, but I don’t want to be at the table when it becomes a Samoan-bashing session, because news-flash, when you say things about the Fa’aSamoa, in Samoa while a Samoan is sitting there next to you, we become defensive, in the same exact way you would defend your family if someone was to say something bad about them in front of you.

So here, dear lady, is my defense of the Motootua Hospital and the maternity unit, surgery and pediatric care. I was born at Motootua Hospital, my mother did not die and I did not die or suffer any complications health or otherwise as a result. My six other siblings were born there too, they seem fine, well except for my brothers, who are a bit nutty at times, but that’s not the Hospitals fault.

My mother has 27 grandchildren, one was born in Oman, two in the US, three were born in New Zealand, two were born in Savaii and 19 were born at Motootua Hospital. My daughter is one of the 19, she was born at Motootua Hospital two years ago, without any problems.

By telling this story, I am not discrediting all the sad stories and experiences that other women have faced at Motootua, but we hear about the negative experiences at the Hospital all the time, so here is a positive story, based on my own personal experience.

All my pre-natal care was done in Samoa which included ultrasounds, tests and main prenatal checkups. I was a week late with my contractions, and they started at about 5:30am, on the same day that Cyclone Garry was predicted to hit Samoa in the evening. We went to the hospital, my sister, a nurse from New Zealand and my husband were with me. When we arrived at the hospital I handed over my file, and the Nurses attended to me, and advised that I still had a bit of time to go. I walked around, by this point, the contractions were averaging at three minutes apart. By six pm that evening, there was no progress, so a call was made by the doctor to induce labour, this intensified the pain but did not add to the progress of labour. All the while a Doctor was always present to monitor the heart rate of the baby and my progress. Yes, by this time several things had happened, like I pretty much banned my mother from the birthing room, after she reverted to her very very Samoan mothers role and started scolding me for ‘doing it wrong’. Luckily my sister was there to ease the situation. By this time, my husband who was pretty much strong throughout the whole process, almost fainted after the induction, so he too had to be excused from the room, leaving me and my sister in peace, just going through the motions. At 10pm the head of maternity came in and checked an after noting fluctuations in the babies heart rate made the immediate call for an emergency caesarian. I was saddened, as I had already gone through so many hours of contractions not to be given the opportunity to deliver her naturally, but I was also very relieved for the pain to go away but most importantly for my daughter to be safely delivered.

The appropriate papers were signed and within 30 minutes of the Doctor making the call, I was on the table and the operation was completed by 10:30 with the arrival of my fat baby girl. The surgery was flawless, the procedures seemed very professional and the room was spotless. There was never a point where I feared for my or my childs safety, I had full faith in the care of the local Doctors who were in the room carrying out the operation. What was more amazing was that a Cyclone was due and yet the Doctors and staff were ready and everything ran smoothly. Luckily the cyclone never hit.

After the operation I was taken to a recovery room, my daughter by this point was handed over to my family, and my husband took her and refused to give her over to the nurses to attend to her. This would become a family joke later on, how the Nurses begged with him to let the child go so they can weigh and check her, and to the point where my mother almost slapped the poor man for holding on to his daughter. His biggest and most unreasonable fear was that the child would be swapped, this notion was most amusing, as due mostly to his genetics our daughter was as white as snow and probably the whitest baby within a ten mile radius of the maternity ward, if she were to be taken, she would be easily tracked down. Needless to say, he only let go of the child for five minutes to let the Nurses do their work, but he stood very close by.

I was transferred to the maternity ward after several hours in observation and although the unit I was taken too was hot, it was otherwise fine. A lactating nurse who was a fa’afafine checked on me immediately to make sure everything was working fine. In the morning, I was taken to an air conditioned room for closer observation and I stayed there for four days so the Doctors could monitor my progress. All was fine, baby attended to and declared fit and healthy the next day. Nurses checked in on my three times a day, a Doctor came in twice a day. A regular supply of breakfast, lunch and dinner meal service including a snack round was served. When I needed pain killers they were supplied, when we had concerns, we were attended to.

Yes there were blood splatters on the ground, that were not mine, and I entertained myself by watching cockroaches criss-cross the ceiling, the toilet seat was broken and my sister had to bring water proof bandaging for the scar from NZ, but for a free surgery, round the clock health care by qualified professionals, a comfortable bed, full meal service at USD$2.00 a day in a LDCF, this here was top of the line service.

While in the delivery room there were seven babies born while I was going through labour, that’s seven additional mothers and babies in the maternity room every day. The maternity ward was full, not a single bed spared, and yet the rounds were prompt, the service was professional and medication was dispensed when needed.

Overall the birth cost SAT$21.00, about USD$10.00, if we had not ordered Panadol before the birth, it would have only cost us SAT$16.00. There is probably nowhere else in the world you can have this birth experience for this amount of money.

My labour was not easy and I had an emergency caesarian which went perfectly well, I have had no complications since, and my daughter has had her vaccinations on time, and two years later we are in perfectly good health.

There were elements to my experience that perhaps made it what it was, I won’t deny that. I had three advocates who knew their stuff.

My mother, who knew when to step in (although I did tell her to step out), my husband who was methodical and would not let anyone get away with a decision without analyzing every aspect of it, and most importantly my sister, a nurse for over 15 years, a mother of four, and a former Motootua Hospital nurse, who had my best interests in mind, but also understood and respected the role of the maternity staff and nurses. Perhaps my best decision which implicated my birth in a very positive light was my pre-natal doctors, Dr. Malama Tafunai up until 7 months and Dr. Francis Maru from 8 months onwards and he did the surgery himself.

I have heard many nightmarish stories from the maternity ward and women who delivered there, and this is not to discredit their stories, I’m sure they are true, and it is unfortunate and something needs to be done that such experiences no longer happen, but everyone has their own story, and mine is what it is, and I am proud to share it, for with every negative story there is a positive. I have no relations in the maternity ward, nor friends. This is just shedding the light on the fact that one could have a positive birth experience at Motootua and indeed one did.

So thank you to the nurses and doctors who do listen, who do respond and who are professional, it is them we never hear of, for it’s the work of the unprofessional and inconsiderate that tend to dominate mainstream media. So here’s to you, the good ones, for aiding in the arrival of my daughter, one of many many many many babies you welcome to the world on a daily if not hourly basis.

Malo le onosai, malo le tautua atunu’u. I hope you received the chocolates and the treats we dropped off a month after the birth of Storm.

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