Friday, September 6, 2013

Giving Birth in Ghana

I found out I was expecting my first child right before we moved to the field for the first time. 
What little I thought I knew about having a baby did not get packed in our luggage.
And so, everything I know about carrying a child and giving birth was learned outside my home culture.

In Ghana, we don't announce pregnancies. In fact, we don't discuss them much.
When people begin to notice your growing girth, they'll ask if you are "eating too much fufu" or if you've "become an old lady."
No belly-rubbing; no squealing; no asking what you're having; no wanting to know a name.
Things are pretty low-key at the doctor's office, too.
Due dates are estimates with about a month's leeway.
Simple checks are made to make sure mom and baby are progressing well.
If you are using a better quality hospital, they will have a small scan machine and the doctor will even check for gender, if you wish. 
If you do find out gender, it will not be counted on, and you certainly won't tell anybody ~ no gender reveal parties or baby showers here!
Labor and delivery are considered a natural thing.
Scheduled inductions, epidurals, and planned C-sections are just not a part of the birthing process here. 
If a woman has to have surgery, it is usually in an emergency situation, and often ends her ability to have any more children.
Names are very important here, but they are not given right away. 
Each baby is simply called by the day he/she is born. 
The earliest a name will be given is at the eight-day mark, but most people do not share the baby's name until the 40-day mark when the baby can officially be taken out of the house.

While these things are very different than how it is done in America, I get it.
Infant mortality rates are still quite high here, though they are slowly going down.
The majority of children that die in Ghana die before their fifth birthday.
People still fear curses and evil being inflicted on their helpless babies.
We have sicknesses and diseases that kill quickly.
And we have limited health care.
It is the way it is.

I've come to accept that these things are part of my life here.
In fact, I've learned to appreciate the simplicity of having a baby in Ghana.
But I've also learned that it requires a bit more of me than if I was in my home culture.
There is a time of pulling-away ~ a focusing of my mind on those nearest to me, our home, and the preparations that must be done before a new one joins us.
There is no Wal-Mart to pick up forgotten items at, no Babies-R-Us to register at, no McDonalds for hubby to run to to get a quick meal while Mama can't cook.
In fact, meals aren't even provided at the hospital. That also has to be looked after by me.
Everything the baby could need must be brought to the hospital, including soap, towels, and most importantly, a hat!
So I prepare.

There is a time of waiting, too.
So I {try to} wait calmly, quietly, doing the little things here and there.
Finishing a baby blanket....
Packing the bags....
Making food for my family....
Finding a comfortable rhythm of school and home life before the little one comes to throw everything into chaos again....
Just spending time being......
a child of God,
a wife,
a mama of three,
and not quite yet.....
a woman in labor,
and delivery,
and mama of a newborn.

Your prayers would be much appreciated for us during this time.
As my day draws closer, the time has come for this thinking space of mine to become quiet for a while.
And when it's time, I'll be back.
If you'd like to get more updates, you are welcome to "friend" me on facebook ~ JohnandPatty Sommer.


  1. I'll keep you on my prayer list as your delivery day approaches. Praying for a safe, healthy delivery and am looking forward to the pictures of your precious blessing!

  2. l love this post, it makes me feel like I am right there with you. Wishing you all the best and definitely praying!

  3. This is beautifully and sensitively written. I will pray for you--and friend you--and rejoice with you when your new little named child appears. God is even in Ghana. :o)

  4. praying for you and your family that everything goes smooth

  5. praying for you and wishing I could be next door to help with your other girlies! Many things you mentioned are the same as in Jamaica. If a small child dies here there isn't even a funeral unless the parents are very wealthy. I can't help myself, the "American" in me still loves getting excited about new babies. Love, Maria

  6. So glad God is in control no matter where you are. I'll keep an eye on your fb to keep the prayer requests current. Excited for the gift God is giving & looking forward to pictures! Love, Bonnie Foster

  7. Praying for you, friend! Hope you can find some peace and calm in the midst of the waiting and preparing...can't wait to hear when you have your precious new bundle in your arms...may God bless your time now, delivery, recovery, and give you a healthy peanut!! :)

  8. Praying for you, my sister! We pray for a safe delivery for all, a healthy baby and for peace of mind and heart! I cannot wait to hear if the baby is a boy or a girl, the name, etc. :) We love you and miss you lots!

  9. Will be praying for you and this precious life God has given you. Would love to see a little boy carry out the Summers name. Blessed to be a part.