Katerina Holeckova
MSF midwife at maternity unit in Domiz

On our way to the Domiz camp we pass through the city, we see people rushing to work, children fooling around in school buses on their way to school. It’s busy in front of the camp, cars going there and back, people crossing the way. Just behind the gate, there is a small market, empty (for the moment), just a few salesmen are unpacking vegetables. We turn to the middle of the camp on a muddy road lined by various shops with wedding dresses, cell phones, candy store, shawarma stores. There is also a “pet shop” with budgerigars.
Today there are mostly brick houses in the camp, most of the inhabitants got a building permission. Tents slowly disappear, there are only a few. Most of the doorsteps are swept, or somebody is just sweeping, for even in such difficult conditions people try to keep their homes in order.
We stop in front of the MSF maternity unit. At the MSF maternity unit in the Domiz camp around 100 children are born every month. We also offer pre-natal and post-natal consultations (free of charge). Our patients are mostly displaced Syrian women who currently live in the camp.
My day begins at the triage department, where are waiting pregnant women or mothers after delivery with their children. They all have pressure measured and then they continue to a corresponding consulting room. There is a line of prams parked in front of the triage which means we have post-natal consultations today, vaccination and breastfeeding. The waiting room in the main building is full of people.
In the post-natal consultation room there is a newborn baby screaming loud. We woke him up so that we could weight and measure him. His mum starts breastfeeding and the baby sucks contentedly. In the other part of the corridor, there is a space for vaccination, newborn registry and a breastfeeding corner. I’m heading to the delivery room while nurses give a health education about the MSF services. I enter the delivery room, where a midwife called Abla is sitting already. She just returned from her maternity leave. Together we go through the plan for today and we check what happened last night. The delivery room is calm for the moment. A woman with her newborn baby is having a rest in the post-natal room.
A peaceful morning is passing quickly, we finish some statistics, but most of the time the local midwives and I take care of pregnant women.
It’s time for lunch. We move to a small kitchen with several plastic tables. Everybody is unpacking their lunch, we share. Nobody eats alone, we offer our food to each other.
After lunch we admit a woman who is going to give birth to her third baby to the delivery room. The delivery is already in an advanced stage. She took advantage of our pre-natal consultations, so we already have her data. We move her from the examination room to the pre-labor room. We fill her health care card and keep waiting for the delivery to come. Meanwhile she tells us that she came to Domiz from Syria together with her and her husband’s whole family. She got used to the life in the camp, she considers it her home now. Contractions become stronger and she starts pushing. We move her to the delivery room. Zayna, our young midwife, is preparing a delivery table. After few more contractions a beautiful boy is born. It’s the second one this woman delivered at our maternity unit. She is not sure about the name yet. After the delivery she is returned to the patient room, and two hours later she goes home.
Mothers here are incredibly brave. They don’t complain about anything, they thank for everything.
After a while another woman is brought to the delivery room. This time it’s a woman, who gave birth via a C-section before. She is in pain, coming on a wheelchair. We are quickly examining her, checking the baby’s heartbeat and preparing her for transport. She must be transferred to the city hospital. We call the ambulance to get ready and fill the transport papers, prepare our emergency box with all the necessary equipment in case the baby decides not to wait anymore and to be born on the way to the hospital. Everything is ready and one of our midwives is accompanying the woman to the hospital.
Another woman is coming to the delivery room…
In the afternoon the delivery room is filled with more and more women in labour, who are mostly accompanied by other women. Men wait outside. Mothers-to-be walk around the room waiting for the delivery to come, their escorts are lying down the beds, and everything is peaceful. Midwives listen to babies’ heartbeat every thirty minutes and ensure that expectant mothers are all right.
In the late afternoon I come back to the base. Consultation hours are over today. Only the nightshift colleagues stay at the delivery room, so that the care at the unit can be provided 24/7.
We are going back to the base. The camp is busy. We meet children from the local school, we pass by a pet shop with budgerigars in swinging cages, a cell phone store, a hairdresser, several restaurants… It’s busy and cheerful all around. A formerly empty market is now full of life, it offers almost everything, ranging from fresh fish to money exchange. We drive out of the camp, the sun is sinking behind surrounding hills. After returning to the city I go to the office to finish some papers, to write a report about this day. Then it’s time to go home. (March 2017)