Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Birth of Stefanie, My Liberian-Born Baby

Our middle daughter, Stefanie Leigh, was married ten days ago. 

So thankful that God allowed us the pleasure and YES, even the challenge of raising this incredible young woman...full of hope, dreams, gifts, and purpose!!

Stef with her best friend and new hubby, Jason

(The following abridged excerpt is from my first missionary memoir, IN THIS PLACE)

          The day I was due to deliver baby Stefanie, our missionary nurse slipped and fell in the mud, breaking her wrist as she was walking to Wednesday market. She had to be flown to Monrovia to have it set properly, and several of the missionaries thought that I should have gone with her. Thankfully, God had already shown us His will concerning the birth of our second child, and even with our nurse Rachel out of the picture, I was still content and at peace to deliver my second baby with the
Liberian midwives in Tappi, a town nearly two hundred miles away from the capital city, Monrovia. Though always up for adventure, I was not willing to play carelessly with the birth of one of my children! God just gave absolute peace: there is no other explanation.

          Stefanie Leigh Abernethy came exactly in God’s time. God was merciful to the little American mommy who had only lived

in the unfamiliar African jungle for ten months. I went to sleep on the eve of October 6 with tinges of hope, awaking around 1:00 a.m., filled with more than just hope, but also with a strong assurance that it was time. From that point, I never thought about being afraid nor did it stress me to realize that I would be able to have absolutely nothing for pain, no matter how hard the labor might become.

         The jungle was pitch black and quiet except for the soft breathing of Jeff as he slept. Whispering my longings and petitions to my Heavenly Father who I knew was there with me, I tiptoed around, getting things ready, laying out clothes for the baby, making some hot tea for myself, making sure for the twelfth time that the bedroom where I would deliver was clean and orderly. I reveled in the exclusiveness of the early morning quietness, but was starkly aware that all would change very soon. When I could no longer delay the pointed breathing through the contractions, I woke Jeff. When he realized that it was still very dark outside but heard the urgency in my voice, his face became a mural of excitement in the flickering amber light of the kerosene lantern.

          By 3:30 a.m. Jeff had gone for one of the missionary ladies who wanted to be there for the birth, mainly, in case our 3 year old Michelle were to wake up during the process. He also rode to the clinic and informed the two midwives that I had chosen to help with my delivery. One of them, Emma, arrived a few minutes later seeming very nervous and concerned. She told us that she had just delivered a baby about three hours earlier and that the baby had been macerated, black, and rotting as it came out of the mother’s womb. Emma felt that she should not be in the room with me because she might “jinx” our  baby.

          Even in the evidence of my labor cranking up, it was a wonderful time for us to talk to her, using Scripture and prayer to help release her from those fears. Nothing like getting your mind off your own situation (like labor pains) than by investing in the lives of others! Though the labor pains increased rapidly, I was still able to be involved in the teaching process with Emma, and thankfully she soon agreed to help deliver our baby. 

          Stefanie was born at 6:30 a.m., with the humming of the generator and about 100 curious bystanders waiting on our piazza for the news. That, unfortunately, was as close as they were getting to the delivery room, though it might have been different. When I first decided to have Stefanie in Tappita, I considered delivering at the OB clinic just as the African women did. Incredulously, I soon got wind that a couple of the midwives were going to sell a few tickets for entry into the delivery room to watch the white woman have her baby. That was enough to persuade me to deliver in the most controlled environment I knew: my house.

          However, there was no way to stop the throng of people waiting on our piazza and what made it more interesting, was that none of our windows had glass in them. Only a thin metal screen was between those waiting for the baby to be born and the sounds a woman makes while in labor. I have no idea what they heard and at the time, I am sure that I did not care. When Emma cut Stefanie’s umbilical cord, that was the last I saw of my new baby girl for almost an hour. Jeff and my Liberian midwife friend Mary swept her away to be weighed, cleaned up, and shown off. I heard clapping, singing, and shouting on the piazza, and knew that Jeff must have gone out there with our little baby. I heard later that he went out the door holding her up above his head and was praising God for a second beautiful little girl.