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Barbara and I just came back from dinner at the house of a foreign friend who lives near by; after dinner we sat with the lights off in the living room, eating a mountain of lychees to keep cool. I complimented her on her beautiful Peruvian wall tapestries, and was then distracted by the concept of a place as inconceivably distant from the Valley as Peru — it might as well be a fairy tale. I spent the rest of the evening staring out the window of her home, overlooking the skeleton of a small, ruined power station in which villagers now grow corn in tight rows.
Tomorrow morning we meet with two local women to prepare a training for village women on life-saving skills relating to pregnancy, the postpartum period, and newborn health. One of the ways I know that my Mandarin skills have improved since we moved to China is that the prospect of this kind of activity only makes me a little nervous, as opposed to paralyzingly nervous in a manner that requires closed eyes and deep breathing.
Now I always do pretty well in these situations, if I do say so myself. She seemed to have improved somewhat from the day before, but as we stood by her bedside I looked at the woman lying in the bed next to her — and then I looked again. When we had visited the day before, she had just arrived at the hospital in labor, with her water already broken. This is not a well-founded fear when there is very little amniotic fluid, so Barbara encouraged this woman to walk the hospital corridor and to stay well hydrated.
The whole thing was hopeless. Let me explain the issues. The Problems of Hospital Birth for Azu Women 1 This woman had been hooked up to an IV of oxytocin, to make her contractions stronger — this IV bag hangs from a runner attached to the ceiling. It is not mobile. So if she wants to walk the halls which the staff do not want her to do anyway , they have to unhook the IV from the ceiling and someone in her family has to trail around behind her, holding the bag over their head.
This gets tiring, so they do it for 5 minutes, drop their arm, and then the staff tell her to get back in bed. The maternity ward does encourage women to use bedpans, but they had run out of bedpans by the time this particular woman arrived. Not gonna happen if they can help it — so they drink as little as possible. She had waited so long to come in for numerous reasons, including: a Azu women tend to minimize their pregnancies and labors as long as possible.