Memories of a Midwife


“I am a proud mother of three and I am also proud to be a midwife. Midwifery is so important to me personally because I have had serious complications during my pregnancies. I had preeclampsia and all three of my babies were born premature. But I know that my children and I are alive today because of the expertise of the people who were looking after us, the midwives.”

Petrinah Thistle is a 45 year old midwife from Chinhoyi, currently working as a Midwifery Tutor at Karanda Mission Hospital, Mashonaland Central Province in Zimbabwe. She has been a nurse for 23 years starting off as a general nurse and specialising in midwifery after her own personal experience inspired her to save the lives of other mothers and babies in Zimbabwe. She is now a midwifery tutor and enjoys teaching others.

“I thought it was important for me to share the knowledge and expertise that I had with other people so that I can at least help make a difference to the lives of women. I really find it rewarding to notice the difference from when the pupils start training, when they don’t know much about maternity care or anything at all, to see when they have the ‘Ah-ha’ moments when they have got it right.”

Petrinah said her most memorable experience working as a midwife was also the most tragic.

 “I remember very vividly while I was still training in 2003 I was managing a woman, she was a teenager actually, who had started convulsing while trying to deliver at home. 

Her family took her to prophets; they took her to everywhere else for help before coming to the hospital. By the time she came to us she was critically ill, she was brain dead. She was a young mother with one child at home and she died with her pregnancy. It was incredibly sad. 

She died because of hypertension during pregnancy that could have been managed at the hospital. Her death could have been prevented had she been in the right hands at the right time. And I think if her family had the knowledge, if only they knew she could be assisted in a hospital it would have made a difference. “

Petrinah says that she comes across this kind of situation often at Karanda Mission Hospital; many of the expectant mothers she treats are merely teenagers and many belong to the Apostolic sect who marry their girls off young and are not allowed to seek medical care.

“You see it every day, early in the morning you see these young girls with a baby on their back, pregnant with a baby in their front and a basket of vegetables on their head, fending for their family. 

Seeing this I feel that we still have a lot of work to do, there is still a lot to do to accomplish our goals as midwives. What we have done to try to remedy this is open the hospital on Saturdays to cater for the Apostolic women because their husbands think the hospital is only open Monday to Friday so if they are around the hospital on a Saturday there is no suspicion from their husbands that they will be coming for health care. Our role as midwives and health care workers goes beyond the clinical, you just need to figure out ways to get around these kinds of barriers and reach the women who need our help the most.”

The theme of this year’s International Day of the Midwife was “Midwifes for a Better Tomorrow”. The day is commemorated on 5 May every year. As a message for the midwives of tomorrow, Petrinah advises them to be trustworthy and compassionate.

“Women need to trust us so they can come to us for services and support. As midwives we need to continue learning, to continue building upon our knowledge bases. We also need to engage in research and get involved in everyday best practice so that when women come to us we can rationalise everything that we are doing for them.

“We also need as midwives to be culturally sensitive, while we give out care there is need for midwives to improve upon our communication skills, our decision making skills and the way we interact with women in general. We should foster relationships with the women we treat.”

“There is nothing special about us except for the fact that we have a service to offer and we should not take advantage of the people we are serving. 

The women should come first always; if it wasn’t for them then we would have no job. We are there to serve them and we should serve them well and do our best.”

“Midwifery is a humane profession, you have to be passionate and you have to have love for people or else it doesn’t work.” – UNFPA Zimbabwe

May 2015
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