Fear and childbirth in Uganda

November 12, 2015

It’s morning and the sun is up, shining on the mud, and Zak, the dog, has left his bright orange ball to chase Tiblets.

Tibs, as Liz is fond of calling him, is the poor cat who just took off into the bush.

There is another way, though, and one of our cats, Mister Bubbles, (a female cat), seems to have figured it out. Even though Bubs, as I affectionately call her, has all the expected features of a cat, namely having an innate fear of large dogs, she doesn’t show it.

Faithful Reader might recall Bubs, in fact, gave birth in a cardboard box located just a few feet from Zak’s nose one night.

So Zak chases Tibs like he chases monkeys, just like the cats chase their own prey – birds and mice and flying ants and such.

Just like fear chases anyone who gives it a chance.

But Zac does not chase Bubs.

Because Bubs refuses to run.


From the last post, Dorothy is the dear Ugandan friend who we’ve known from the very first day we arrived in Uganda all those years ago.

And today is not only a muddy day, but the day we’d hoped she would deliver her first child with an organized and professionally-planned C-section.

A first child is never an easy trip when you’re 40, even less so when you’re in a place like Uganda, even less when you have other complications, which, from the last post, you know of.

But we all have our choices – this is the muddy nature of life since Eden – even as we have our fears. And Dorothy has chosen to forego the advice of several doctors and will, instead, simply wait for “God’s will.”

This is fear hiding behind religious language.

Harsh words, these are, but ones that have been shared to Dorothy by several people, including her famly, and shared in love.

Because the truth is that He, (that is Almighty God who is Almighty Mom too), has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of love and peace and a sound mind.


Yes, Uganda does have a hyper-religious culture where it’s often hard to separate the nourishment of spiritual wheat from the chaff of religious nonsense.

Which is why you might hear over here that any woman who has a C-section is cursed.  Or, in the least, she’s just not strong.

So, in their fear of being shamed, Ugandan women will often forego the treatment they need, even – disturbingly enough – when it’s right in front of them.

Then, often enough, they die. Or their children die. Or they both die.

They die as part of those 800 women who die every day, in rates more than just about any place on Earth.


Dorothy is “term” now, that is 38 weeks. Granted, it’s “early term,” and a C-section can have its own issues. The advice from several doctors here, though, including Jean, was to go ahead today with this organized surgery to avoid larger complications later when the baby is larger.

Instead of being at the delivery to help, Jean, who has delivered thousands of children, will now get on a plane for that all-important gala where she will see, maybe, you.

And Dorothy, in her fears, will deliver later sometime with the help of, mainly, Ugandan midwives in a Kampala hospital.

The poignant irony.

Yes, educating and saving vulnerable women is the very reason why my wife has made all this her life work, why she’s gotten the ear of prime ministers and princesses alike, why we all as a family have lived and moved and had our being in Uganda for over a decade now.

We’re here to help take mothers and their children get out of harm’s way, so they don’t, like a toddler, wander into the deadly traffic.

And if they choose to?




It was the other evening and Dorothy and her husband sat in our living room for the second time in a week – she preferred the floor, she is so large now – and the children were nearby to give hugs and all that.

The next day it was Hannah who said, “We should pray for Dorothy.”




Several notes have come from Canada. One was from a woman who visits her stillborn child’s tombstone every week. She’s done this for 25 years.

Like Dorothy, she was 40 when she delivered. Like Dorothy, she needed a C-section. But things at that time unfolded all too late and the child then died.

She asked me to share all this with Dorothy, which I did the other evening.

“Go now. Don’t wait,” is how this woman put it.

Dorothy sat on the floor and drank her coffee and listened and waited and then, with her silent husband, went home.


God’s will.


Listening to dreams is one way people interpret life in various parts of the world, including in Africa.

And there was a dream.

“In the dream, I was holding her, the little girl,” Dorothy explained to Jean and me. “So we knew the baby was there. We just didn’t know how it all came about.”

“Well, I can tell you exactly how it came about,” I said.


Thank God for dreams.


And humour on muddy days.

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November 12, 2015 • Posted in
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2 thoughts on “Fear and childbirth in Uganda”

  1. I so appreciate your post and the work you and your wife have chosen to do. I have been somewhat informed of the “hyper religious’ beliefs that influence so much of that culture….never thought of it in the maternal health field but of course that’s my ignorance…..pervasive and invasive I’m sure. I worked in the perinatal bereavement field in Ontario {1992-2001]..founded a charity PBSO which has since been re named and tweeked to meet present day issues,so this Save The Mothers Charity pulls at my heart. I will be supporting your work in the future.

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