The birth center where I’m volunteering is a pretty busy place, especially given that we only have 5 beds in the labor and delivery room and another 5 in the postpartum room. (Families stay at the clinic a minimum of 6 hours after the birth – more if the baby was born in the early evening or if the mother or baby have health issues that need to be monitored.) Each day is broken into 3 eight hour shifts during which the birth room is staffed by a supervisor and a team of three or four other midwives. While some shifts are quiet, others are very busy.
Year in and year out, the babies keep coming. When I came to Davao for the first time in 2oo9, there had already been over 14400 babies born at the birth center. And when we arrived again this year, everyone was busily counting down to baby number 20000 — less than 100 births away. There was a lovely gift for the family of baby number 20000 on display in the prenatal room and the clinic staff had each chosen their “guess date.” I didn’t get to play the guessing game because I didn’t get to Davao before the deadline, but I was lucky enough to be on shift today when little Mr. 20000 made his entrance.
For several days now – ever since there have been less than 15 births to go – there’s been an air of anticipation in the birth room. A very busy day at the clinic can see 12 or more babies arrive in 24 hours, but sometimes we go several days in a row with only 2 or 3 babies a day. When I came on shift this morning, baby number 19998 was less than an hour old. Number 19999 arrived less than two hours later. And right around lunchtime, we got to meet lucky Mr. Lucky Number!
One of the Filipina midwives jokingly took the “grand prize” sign off the family’s gift (a baby bed filled with diapers, clothing, and other baby items) and put it on the baby for a picture.
The best part of the story is that the family didn’t even know about the prize beforehand. The birth center offers monthly “outreach clinics” in several of the poorer neighborhoods of the city to make prenatal care more accessible for mothers who might have a difficult time coming to the birth center regularly. This mother had had all her prenatal care in her neighborhood at an outreach clinic so she did not know about the countdown to birth #20000 and had never seen the prize on display in the prenatal room. She had no diapers and only one set of clothes for the baby so the prize will certainly be put to good use!