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Saturday, March 16, 2013

No baby? Sometimes things are not as they appear to be.

In early February 2013 I was approached by a Social Welfare officer as well as a Social Worker at a local hospital and they asked me to please hold space at the El Roi Baby home for a newborn who was due to arrive around February 23rd.  They told me a very sad story of a 14-year old girl who had been violently raped and her family did not want the baby. The girl desperately wanted to go back to school and get an education and a baby would prevent that from happening.  I agreed to hold a spot for this new baby and then went and met with the 14-year old (whom I will call “Precious” for this blog) and her mother to hear her story first hand. 

Precious is very young, very quiet and had little to say.  I heard the same story from the mother as I had heard from the Social Workers and I agreed to serve as their “driver” from the rural community they live in when Precious went in to labor, somewhere at the end of February. 

February came and went and I wondered if they had decided to keep the baby?  I contacted Precious’ mother to see if everyone was okay and she told me the baby was late, but was now expected on March 14th.  Sure enough, on the evening of March 14th I got a call saying that Precious was sick.  Could we come and get her and take them to the hospital to deliver the baby. 

Now, I am not going to lie here. I was sitting on the patio of our house with Ian enjoying the view at the end of a long day.  The last thing I wanted to do was get dressed properly and drive 70 minutes to go take a young girl and her mother to the hospital.  But I knew that I was to go and both Ian and Chloe offered to come with me so it was a strange “road trip” of sorts. 

Precious had a 30-minute walk from her hillside hut to the road where we would meet her. It was well after dark (no street lights) when we pulled around a corner on the dirt road and our headlights revealed them standing and waiting for us.  Precious got in to the back seat and her mother handed her a big fluffy blanket and a thermos of coffee.  Then she waved good-bye.  What?  I asked the mother if she wasn’t going with her 14-YEAR OLD DAUGHTER to the hospital and she said no, she had other Great Grandchildren that she must care for.  I knew then that we were in for a long night.

We got to the hospital and took her to the labor room to get checked out.  I explained to the nurse the “situation” and she agreed that we would work together to help this young girl through labor and delivery.  She tried to examine Precious and came back and told me that the girl didn’t want to be examined (I understand that!) and that she was not in active labor so I should take her to the “Birthing Hut”.  The what?  The “Birthing Hut” – an old run down building outside the hospital, but still within the hospital compound, where women go when they are in labor.  So off we went to find a Birthing Hut.

Before the events of the following day I was going to write a whole blog called “Go to the Birthing Hut”, but I will have to shorten this part to get to the events of Friday.

The Birthing Hut is no doubt a long-standing cultural place where women have gone for generations when they are in labor.  In this case it is an old building with three small rooms. Each room is approximately 12’ x 12’ (2 meters square) and two of the three rooms had a low watt light bulb dangling from the ceiling.  There was a small bathroom with a broken down piece of wood that you lift and move by hand to enter the bathroom, which has with no light. The wood is about 3 feet high so doesn’t really provide privacy. 

As we walked in to the room we were stared at my no less than 30 women who were in various stages of labor.  Not the happiest group of women I have ever met. They were all lying like sardines on old pieces of thin foam.  Their underwear were hanging on nails on the wall and their clothes were neatly folded at their feet. Their naked bodies were wrapped (or not) in the fuzzy blanket that they arrived at the hospital with.  None of them were particularly pleased to see Chloe and I walk in with this young Swazi girl, especially not when we asked one of them to squeeze a little tighter to the woman beside her so that Precious could have 10 inches of dirty foam to lie on.  There was nothing I could do, nowhere else for me to take her and I was clearly not to stay there with her … so we left, and we prayed for Precious and for them all.

Early on Friday Chloe and I got up and headed to the hospital. We went to the labor ward thinking she might be in active labor. She was not there.  We went to the delivery ward and spoke with the nurses (who all know us by now) and they had not seen her.  We went back to the Birthing Hut and she was there, awake, quiet and not visibly in labor.  We fed her then took her to the labor ward to be examined.  After an unusually long time passed the nurse came out to speak with me.  She said that Precious had not dilated at all and asked about her due date and the circumstances.  In this case we knew that she had been raped on June 4th 2012 and we were certain of that because it had been reported to the police, the man was charged and currently serving 15 year in prison!!  So there was no question of the date of conception.

The clinic had calculated her delivery date to be February 23rd (a friend of mine who is a labor and delivery nurse said would have been calculated in the US to be March 1st), but either way, it was now March 15th and she was either two weeks or three weeks past her delivery date and could be heading in to a critical time.  The nurse asked us to go in, get the girl registered, see a gynecologist and get an ultrasound because the baby likely needed to be induced.

Four hours later Precious’ mother and Grandmother arrived at the hospital just as we got the ultrasound report and were in the Doctor’s office discussing the situation.  Here is where the story turns.

The Doctor told us that the ultrasound showed us that the baby was only 32 weeks old.  I assured him that was not possible because we knew the date of her rape – June 4th 2012, there was a police report, the man was in prison, yadda, yadda, yadda.  The doctor is a Swazi Doctor and very graciously explained why he believed the conception date could not be June 4th.  (In hindsight I am sure he was thinking, “Lady, I have seen and heard it all – sometimes things are not as they appear to be”).  He said the baby is only 1.9 KG (4.1 LB), has lots of fluid around it and for other reasons he explained he said the baby is not yet ready to come out. 

It was an awkward moment.  Precious just stared at the floor. My brain was short-circuiting and frantically trying to interpret what code the Doctor was speaking to me in.  He then asked the mother if there was any chance she was raped a second time.  The mother shook her head slowly to say “no”.  He then asked if she had been sexually active?  Again, slowly the mother shook her head “no”.  I asked the mother how/when she knew that Precious was pregnant?  She said she noticed her round belly in November and asked Precious when she had last menstruated.  Precious told her “May”, which was in line with the June rape. 

The Doctor then asked if she had gone to the hospital after the rape and they said yes. He asked if she had been given treatment for the prevention of pregnancy and contracting HIV (70% effective for pregnancy) and they said “yes”.   He then asked Precious to get up on the examining table and he pulled up her dress to examine her abdomen. He called me over and showed me something that He found interesting. He had his thumb and index fingers on her belly and said, “See?  This is the baby’s head.  There is lots of fluid around it. It is still very small. I do not believe that this is a full term baby.”

Silence.  A long, awkward silence.  The doctor and I looked at each other, but Precious and her mother seem to become invisible in the room (or they wanted to be). 

I want to be clear with something here. There is confusion in this case.  The doctor is not saying for sure that the baby is only 32 weeks, but at the same time he is saying that he believes that to be the case and does not want to risk inducing the baby.  We were all visibly confused and left scratching our heads.

I thanked the doctor and we went out of his office, only to be greeted by Precious’ Aunts who were there to celebrate the arrival of a new baby, even if the baby wasn’t staying in the family.  I gave them both a hug, told them I needed to get going, but would continue to pray for them, and to call if there were any complications.  If not, we would meet again in eight to ten more weeks.  (!)

I just called Precious’ mom (while writing this part of the blog) to see how everyone is doing.  My biggest fear is that Precious would be beaten by her Stepfather.  Her mother appears to be very kind, but no one knows what happens behind closed doors and in this culture it would be a “beatable offense”.   The mother said that she had sat down with Precious and had a long talk.  Precious assures her that the rape was the only time that she could have been impregnated and her mother believes her.  She said Precious is still complaining of some pain so they will go to a clinic on Monday.  We will stay in close contact with her this weekend and go see her on Monday with the Nurses from Project Canaan. 

Please pray for Precious, her mother and the baby who is either 32-weeks old or 42+ weeks old.  El Roi, the God Who Sees, sees them all and He knows exactly when the baby was conceived. He knew the baby even before he/she was in Precious’ womb. 

On a much lighter and happier note, while Chloe and I were at the hospital the cornerstone for the Labakhetsiwe* Toddler Home (*means “Chosen Ones” in siSwati) was being poured at Project Canaan.  A Children’s Bible was placed in the cornerstone while the building team and El Roi Aunties gathered to pray over the building and the children who will call it home.  It was a happy day at Project Canaan.

Building team, Aunties and babies join to give thanks for this building.

Helen and Peter Muli place the Bible in the Cornerstone.
Live from Swaziland … praying to see things clearly.



  1. Another very interesting story to follow. We will continue to pray for this young girl...Precious. May God continue ot protect her and her unborn baby.
    Praise God for laying the foundation of the new toddler home. How very exciting to see all that God is doing through this incredible ministry.

  2. wow Janine, almost time for book #3 !!you'll soon be a midwife yourself!
    How upsetting and confusing for poor Precious and her mother, and as you say..God will bring ALL things together for good.
    Keep up the good work,I shall keep praying <3