Friday, January 20

{An American Missionary Births In Africa} Jenny's Story:

I am so thrilled to share this story with you guys today. One of the hottest pregnant ladies who has ever walked the planet (I can say that because she's my friend.....) is sharing her birth story today! It's pretty entertaining & unique. Enjoy! 
I found out I was pregs at a crazy time in our life. We had been married two years, and yet we were already “parents” to seventeen middle and high school girls. Let me back it up. My husband John and I both grew up overseas. My parents were missionaries in Hong Kong, and John’s Dad worked for an air-conditioning company in Malaysia. We met in the sixth grade when I started going to boarding school there to get an American education. Don’t you fret, it was an awesome experience. Better than awesome. I can’t imagine not going to the school we did. We were surrounded by loving dorm parents and teachers, and best of all, we got to live with our friends 24/7. It was like summer camp on crack. Amazing. But ANYWAY, after re-meeting in college, and eventually getting married and moving to Vegas, we never expected God to call us to WORK in a boarding school in West Africa. But…in God’s crazy way, he did…and we jumped at the chance! 
Nothing could have prepared us for being dorm parents. Even though I spent 6th-12th grade in the boarding program, being on the other side of the fence was completely different. We had great girls (for the most part), but like kids anywhere, they had their drama, their issues, and their needs, and we struggled through our first year learning how to meet them. So you can IMAGINE our surprise when we found out we were going to have a newborn on top of having seventeen teenagers! As you can guess, little Levi wasn’t “planned” (by us anyway), but obviously, he was a huge surprise and the girls were just as excited as if they were his real older sisters. We were excited to have seventeen babysitters on hand at a moment’s notice =0)
Our doctor was a wonderful Senegalese woman, named Dr. Ba. I was so happy she was a woman- I’ve just always been more comfortable with women doctors, especially when it has a lot to do with my vajay-jay…which giving birth does. =0)  Our biggest concern was the language barrier and Dr. Ba kept insisting that her English was poor. So for our first few visits to her office, we brought our French-speaking friends along to translate- not the most ideal situation, but you gotta do what you gotta do. When we finally braved it and went alone, we realized that Dr. Ba actually spoke much more English than she let on. Most of our sessions were done in a mix of English, French, and lots of body language. I know it may seem crazy to a lot of people, but somehow, we made it work.
People always ask me what it was like to give birth in Africa, and I always tell them, “It was great- and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!” Sure I had to drive down a dirt road filled with potholes to get an ultra-sound (I actually thought I was going to go into labor near the end just driving down that road!). Sure I had to get monthly blood tests because of all the diseases and things that comes along with living in West Africa. Sure I couldn’t take a single birthing class because there weren’t any in English. 

In many ways, though, not having all of the fancy equipment and all of the fuss, made the whole birthing experience really…simple.  
A week after my due date, after lots of walking and everything else pregnant woman try to do to get their baby out! ha!, I finally got contractions one afternoon. They came on throughout the day, and by supper time, surrounded by all of our dorm girls, I finally was getting to the point where I was uncomfortable and wanted to be alone. Around 8:30, with my nerdy (gotta love him) husband was graphing, yes graphing, how far apart my contractions were, we finally called up our friends and let them know we were on our way to the hospital. I quickly finished putting up some birthday decorations for one of our dorm girls, resting in between contractions. All of the girls were at the school play, so we texted them, left a note on the white board, and headed out. We drove down the bumpy, dirt roads (yes, ouch by this point) and made it to the hospital by 9:30 pm. When we went inside, there wasn’t a soul around. My husband actually had to go searching for a doctor, a nurse, a security guard…anyone! He finally found a couple of nurses and they took me to the delivery room. By this point I was in some major pain, so you can imagine how pissed I was when they told me I was only dilated 3 cm! “You’ve got to be f’ing joking me!” I think I said…or at least thought. (Even though I wasn't where I hoped I would have been in labor, I was still very glad to have gotten to labor comfortably at home, with my husband.) 
The next hour or so is a little bit of a blur. I know I was doubled over with contractions and that the doctor came in to give me the epidural I wanted. However, after giving it to me, I rolled over, making the medicine go only to one side. It’s weird to explain, but half my body was numb, and the other half was feeling everything! Bizarre! While there were a couple of nurses around, my doctor still hadn’t show up, and ended up getting there just in time.
As I said before, I hadn’t had any birthing classes, and very little preparation for the big day. Like many first time births, I kind of went into it with a lot of fear and questions, but at the same time knowing that I could do it. Honestly, the one thing that kept me going was thinking, “African women have babies all the time in little dirt huts with no medical help, no doctors, no pain killers…look how cushy I have it! You can DO this! Billions of women have done this!” I picked a focal point in the room (the air conditioner) and when Dr. Ba said push, push I did. I know at one point I turned to my husband and said, “I can’t do this, “  and then to my doctor, “The epidural is NOT working!!!!!” Deep inside though, I knew I COULD do it, and I knew I HAD to do it. Levi’s head ended up getting stuck in the birth canal, and not only did they have to use forceps, one of the nurses actually got ON TOP OF ME AND PUSHED ON MY STOMACH with her entire body weight to get him out. Oh, and did I mention that I was laying naked by open windows on the second floor, with a myriad of fruit vendors and phone card guys hanging out on the street below. So yeah…everyone got a show from the crazy, screaming white lady that night.  My mother (who is a nurse), told me she had never seen anything like it. I screamed my lungs out, not so much from pain, but from not being able to breathe! That was a crazy moment…but in a matter of seconds, Levi was resting on my tummy, his skin on mine, and I was looking at the most beautiful, little blessing.
I could not believe that I got to the hospital at 9:30 pm and by 11:15 pm, I had a baby! I had heard that it normally took hours and hours for a first time birth, but somehow, I got really lucky! My husband had to run across to the pharmacy and buy me some of the gigantic pads, because in Senegal, they don’t provide anything for you- you bring your pads, diapers for the baby,…everything. My time at the hospital was really great. I seriously wanted to stay there forever. The staff were amazing, the food was amazing (no lie), and we had electricity 24 hours a day! I did not want to go home! One of my fondest memories is when the “milk nurse” came in and asked me if my milk had come in yet. “I don’t think so,” I said cluelessly. Squeezing my boobs as hard as she could, she exclaimed, “YES! You have!”
Now maybe to some of you, this does kind of sound like a crazy birth story, but it honestly went so much more smoothly than I expected. Now that I’ve learned a lot more about natural birth, it is definitely something I will try next time around (i.e.- the end of July when our next baby is due). I honestly went into my first birth SO clueless, but I think it just goes to show that birth is so natural.  Your body was created to do this! So even though birthing classes and books and websites are super helpful, even the most unprepared of women can have a healthy birth- I’m living proof! 
{Announcing pregnancy #2} 


  1. what a wonderful story! :)

    i had the same deal with my epidural. i was numb everywhere....except my vagina.

  2. Jenn, WHAT a beautiful journey the Lord has had you guys on! What an amazing memory to share with Levi one day! ;) I am so glad that you shared this story with all of us. It was really fun to read, and you're right, we fuss over birth way too much here in America with all of our fancy equipment! One of my favorite things about your story is that even though life was interesting being in another country-and communicating with your doctor wasn't always super easy, you guys made it work! I love that you were at home laboring for as long as you could until you went to the hospital. That's one thing I always try to encourage friends to do. I loved that you and Levi were skin to skin, EVEN if the window was open and everyone saw the crazy white lady having her baby!

    Also, my epidural with conrad didn't take to one side of my body as well. It was exactly like you described, strange. Feeling EVERYTHING with the contractions and then feeling NOTHING on the other side. Very strange. They had to re-insert my epidural and do it over again. It was sort of extremely miserable.

    Your labor was so short! Baby #2 is going to just SLIDE right out! (kidding!) but seriously! ;) Are you guys going to find out the sex?
    i am super excited for your family! Levi is going to be the best big bro!

    love you girl. Praying for a healthy baby & a safe, enjoyable delivery!

  3. Thank you, Chelsea for posting stories like these. Makes me less scared about birth. Jenny and Levi are adorable.

    I read your blog often but don't comment as often as I should to tell you to keep up the good work you're doing for woman about birth.
    -April Scott

  4. What an amazing story!! And beautiful beautiful lady. I adored reading this.