Friday, April 10, 2009

Monique and the Mango Rains

Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway-Bidwell is the true story of the life and death of a remarkable West African midwife, seen through the eyes of a young Peace Corps Volunteer who worked side-by-side with her, birthing babies and caring for mothers, in a remote, impoverished village. It is a rare tale of friendship that reaches beyond borders to vividly and irrevocably unite another woman’s world with our own.

Unfortunately, Monique, who undoubtedly saved hundreds of lives, fell victim to the maternal mortality statistics of Mali. She died giving birth to her fifth child. However, this is an incredibly inspirational story that lives on. A clinic that holds Monique's name is under construction in Mali. Kris and John Bidwell have established a non-profit organization to help fund the construction of the clinic. They are still in need of donations to finish construction and equip this health and birthing center that undoubtedly will contribute to the saving of many, many lives.

Click HERE to know more about this inspirational effort

Click HERE to buy the book

Click HERE to make a donation

Monique and the Mango Rains
Excerpt from Chapter One

Monique's face was calm, her eyes focused. She began talking Kadjatou through each contraction, with Alima repeating her words in a whispered echo. "Akanyi...I be se, I be can do it, you can do it." Monique's tone and Kadjatou's pushing were in sync, building up and falling down like surf stroking a beach. Her voice seemed the only connection between them and the outside world. Finally, Kadjatou bore down as if pulled by an invisible force. Monique's voice grew stronger and louder, the words stretching out as Kadjatou's body surged forward and birthed the head. A big, slimy globe covered in dark, wavy hair. It hung there. I held my breath. We waited. Another contraction came, and another, each revealing more of the baby's body, until finally the whole child slipped out. I exhaled deeply and stared at the ginger-colored newborn.

Monique quickly took the baby boy and cradled him in her long, muscled arm. She gently massaged his chest with the palm of her hand, leathery fingers sliding over his fragile skin. Finally he opened his mouth, took his first gasp of air, and wailed. Monique cut the blue umbilical cord and began washing him as he sputtered loud protests. Monique's son Basil awoke on her back and began howling, a fine baritone to accompany the new arrival's soprano. Monique wrapped the baby in a towel and placed him beside the medical kit. As Kadjatou pushed out her placenta, Monique caught it in the plastic tub and began inspecting it to make sure that nothing was left inside the new mother. The babies continued their deafening duet. My mouth hung open. I didn't know what to say or think. My dress stuck to my back, wet with perspiration.

Like smoke, I drifted to the corner of the room and down to my knees. I felt overcome with awe and fatigue. I couldn't believe we all got here this way. I couldn't believe that here, in this dilapidated box, Monique, with a sixth-grade education and nine months of medical training, was birthing babies. Lots of babies. She was responsible for the future of this village. No electricity, no running water, no safety net of ambulances and emergency rooms. I knew that Mali had one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world. I'd read a sobering statistic that placed a Malian woman's lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth around one in twelve, compared to a U.S. woman's risk of one in over three thousand. Even if one accounts for the fact that Malian women have many more children than American women, and thus are at risk for more years, the difference in the death rate is still huge. Monique was constantly battling the odds. It was so awful, so miraculous. I wanted to get up and help out, but I couldn't do a thing....