28 March 2013

Two Babies: A Congo Birth Story

Mupwa has two babies now.

Remember Mupwa?

His two little girls were born on Monday:  Miriam and Katherine.

They look exactly alike, except that Katherine has a small mark on her left cheek.  I told Mupwa he was lucky - some parents of identical twins resort to toenail polish and color coded clothing.  For months, Mupwa believed he was going to have two boys.  He has known their names for months.  Three ultrasounds declared each time that his wife was growing " Les Deux Gar├žons."   So, when two tiny girls appeared, it was a shock.

The thing is, right now, those little babies are at one hospital while their mother is stuck in another.

Though their birth month was to have been March, these babies are so tiny.  Just under 2 kilograms, or 4ish pounds, each.  They needed special care and were immediately taken to a fancy downtown hospital, where a neonatologist practices.  Their mama is still sitting in the hospital where she gave birth, somewhat of a hostage. They simply won't let her leave until Mupwa coughs up $300.

That's a lot of money for a jardinier and this situation is very common at cash-strapped clinics and hospitals in developing countries. (Read about Loretta's story here.)

Lorette (Photo: Cindy Shiner)
Loretta.  From PRI's The World.

Sometimes, they let the mom go, but keep the baby until the bill is paid.  True story.

This afternoon, Mupwa's head was covered in flour.  He explained - a bit sheepishly - that Mama Vida, Mamitscho, and Mama YouYou threw flour on him to celebrate the babies being born.  They are happy for him - two babies!

He said he wished he felt like celebrating.

However, the reality of crushing hospital bills, the confusion of a makeshift NICU, and knowing a little bit what it takes to raise two babies on a gardener's salary in Kinshasa sours the excitement.  As we talked in the afternoon sun, and I saw sweat caking the flour on his brow.

1 comment:

  1. Update: We tend to figure things out around here. And this situation is no different. Mupwa's wife was released/freed from the hospital yesterday morning. She's able to visit the babies every morning to give them breastmilk and hold their hands. Theoretically, I'll go visit on Monday if the doctor agrees. Both babies are apparently feisty!


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