Dad's experience in Papua New Guinea - Rebecca & Brandon's Story
Updated: Apr 24
Rebecca and Brandon live in Papua New Guinea and they have kindly shared Brandon's experience of their son, Tobiah's birth.
Tobiah Carl Zimmerman was born at 11:45 pm on 11/11. Baby weighed 3.7 kg = 8 lbs, 2 ounces. Tobiah is the main character of the book of Tobit, found in the Catholic Bible, but not in the Protestant Bible. Rebecca and I enjoyed reading Tobit together while we were dating and we had Tobit 8:4-8 read at our wedding. Carl is the name of Rebecca’s deceased grandfather on her father’s side, who was a man of great faith and the original owner of the farm we lived on in New York before we came to PNG. Here are the details of the birth.
Rebecca and I drove for an hour on beautiful mountain roads to reach the hospital. One of our biggest worries was having to drive the bumpy road to the hospital in the middle of the night in the rain (we never drive after dark otherwise). On the night of the 10th, Rebecca started having contractions, but they were sporadic and not heavy, so she went to bed. Light contractions continued the next morning so we decided it was time. I furiously finished some grading, turned in my marks for the semester, and we hit the road! We arrived at the hospital around 11:30 am. A midwife named Joy came out to meet us, lead us to the private room that we had reserved, and served us fried egg sandwiches. Joy was very friendly and dedicated to making sure that our stay was comfortable.
In Papua New Guinea much of the health care is provided by church run hospitals and health centers that are financially supported by the government. Unfortunately due challenges with funding, the hospital was open only for births. On the good side for us, this meant that we were free to walk around outside to help the labor progress. Rebecca was not really settling into active labor, so we went for a walk through the main station, and we went part of the way down the hillside that Mingende is perched upon. Many of the locals were very confused why two white skins were wandering aimlessly around and walking down the road to the cow paddock.
As night fell, Rebecca was having stronger contractions, but not settling into a good rhythm. We decided to take it easy. We took showers and laid down to sleep. I was sure that the baby would not come until the next morning. Around 11:00 pm, Rebecca was sleeping, when she was awoken by a contraction and her water breaking! We alerted the nurses and told them to contact Joy (who lived nearby) and went to the labor and delivery room. There a well-meaning, but somewhat overwhelmed nurse checked Rebecca and said that she was only 4 cm dilated. However, the nurse also said that the baby could come at any moment, which greatly confused us! Rebecca felt like pushing, disregarded the nurse who wanted her to get in the traditional lying on your back position, and got in a good hands + knees position (which was how our daughter was delivered). We found it interesting that the PNG women, in the ward, did not moan during contractions. They made high, singing noises while they were laboring while we were there. Luckily Joy the midwife suddenly arrived and guided everyone through a surprisingly quick birth. Tobiah was almost a kilogram heavier than Tabitha, but the delivery was without complications – no tearing!
Soon Rebecca was wheeled back to our room. Tobiah picked up nursing rather quickly. I swaddled him and he and I slept together on a mattress on the floor. The three of us rested in our room the next morning. Wanting something else for dinner, we decided to return to the seminary, where Rebecca’s parents were taking care of our older children. Rebecca was also doing quite well, less tired and in less pain than the other two deliveries. On the way out, the bishop of Chimbu blessed Tobiah!
We are very grateful that the delivery went so well, and that we have a big, beautiful, and healthy baby boy!
Advice for new mums
Rebecca's top recommendation for pregnant women is to eat dates daily during the last month of their pregnancy. I can't give this the full midwifery seal of approval, as I've not had a chance to evaluate the research, but she reports that the two births where she had done this, lead to her being tear free!