Interview Date: February 25, 2020
Interview Location: Phebe Rehabilitation Center, Bong County
Interviewer: Kathy Beth Stavinoha
Assisted by: Emma K. Katakpah
Mary Padmore is from Bopolu. She has four brothers and two sisters. She has two daughters who were staying with her at the Rehab Center. Their names are Neema (5 years) and Yassa (3 years). Her husband left her while she was pregnant. She speaks Kpelle. I asked her to say something in Kpelle. She told me that her name is Mary, she is from Bopolu and her mother’s name is Kuma.
When it was time for Mary to deliver her baby, her mother wasn’t there to help, so she went to her uncle who is who is married to a midwife (a tribal birth attendant with no medical training). The tribal birth attendant (TBA) tried to force delivery by bouncing on the child. The baby was stuck (possibly because bouncing on the belly causes the cervix to swell, which does not allow for the baby to exit). She was in pain [in labor] for 3 days, after which the TBA then took her to the clinic.
After an examination, the doctor told her she couldn’t give birth without assistance and called an ambulance to take her to the hospital for a C-section (“operate on me.”). When the ambulance came, the doctor got vexed [angry]. He acknowledged that the TBA was trying to help, but she was doing the wrong thing and hurting the baby (she was “going to kill the poor child”).
They first took Mary to Phebe Hospital, but there was no space available, so, they took her to Nimba (a three-hour drive). They did the operation for the child (C-section) but the baby was stillborn. The baby probably died during the trip to Nimba. After 2 or 3 days, her stomach started swelling. They took her back for a second operation where they removed her womb. After that operation, she came down with fistula.
Mary had her fistula for 7 months. She had one fistula repair operation and is now dry. While at the Rehab Center, she learned how to bake bread and make soap. Once she graduates from Rehab, she plans to teach her family the skills she has learned. She will also sell things at the market to help her family.
When I asked her what advice she would give other girls, she replied that she would tell her friends with fistula to come to the Rehab Center where people will come and help them. She added that she would tell her pregnant friends to go to the hospital to give birth, to avoid getting fistula.
She feels less of a woman because she can no longer have children. She will take care of herself. However, if she meets a man who is interested in marriage, she will explain her problem [that she’s had a hysterectomy and cannot provide children] and if he accepts that, she will know he loves her and doesn’t just want her to provide offspring.