The male nurse who is a midwife

The male nurse who is a midwife

Rose Moremoholo

MORIJA

He has faced fierce criticism from disapproving husbands who charge that he sees their wives’ nakedness.

Some have accused him of being gay.

But LetšabaSebatli, 29, has taken all the criticism on the chin. He remains determined to be one of the best midwifes in Lesotho.

Sebatli’s choice of career has often put him on a collision course with raw cultural attitudes among Basotho men. That is to be expected because he is a man in a field that is largely seen as the preserve of women.

The result is that he is often viewed as queer.

In Sesotho culture, it is sacrilegious for a man to be close to a house where a woman is giving birth, let alone assist in the delivery of the baby.

To even mingle with women at a social level is seen as below a man’s dignity.

So Sebatli was really pushing the envelope when he chose to be a midwife.

He says he had always wanted to be in the medical field, which is still seen as a glamorous career in Lesotho, because there was no one in his family who was in that profession.

“There was no one who could help my family with medical advice, that is why I have always wanted to follow a career in the medical field,” Sebatli says.

So in 2007, Sebatli enrolled for a Bachelor of Science degree at the National University of Lesotho and majored in General Nursing.

When he was first exposed to midwifery, Sebatli says he was excited.

But that excitement was soon enveloped in “embarrassment” as he came face-to-face with the challenges of helping babies come into the world.

“I was very scared at first but I had to get used to the fact that was my job and I loved it,” he says.

“I realised that if I were to do it perfectly I would have to shake off all fear and embarrassment that comes with the delivery process.”

He says he gradually shook off the embarrassment. In its place, he found joy and true satisfaction, especially after every successful delivery.

“It is through the many deliveries I oversaw that I realised the strength I had and how it was possible to do this work without any fear,” he says.

Sebatli has helped deliverat least 150 babies over the past six years with none dying in his hands.

“It is only through God that I have never had a baby fight for its life in my hands. I am grateful that I have seen such favour,” Sebatli says.

Yet, despite such sterling achievements over the years, there is still pockets of resistance in the minds of certain Basotho who find it difficult to come to terms with a man helping deliver babies.

Sebatli says this job knows no gender.

He says those who still have problems with his choice of a career are old cultural relics who have failed to move with the times.

“It is the strong cultural background that Basotho have that makes them think it is a woman’s job to deliver babies,” he says.

“I thought we had passed that stage but some people are still holding on to norms and traditions of the past.”

“Midwifery does not make me less of a man.

“I am doing my job, I am saving lives and welcoming new beings in the world,” he says.

He says he gives women patients an option to choose if they would like their babies to be delivered by a male nurse.

“Some patients do not like their babies to be delivered by a male nurse because of feelings of shame of being seen by a male other than their partners,” he says.

“Others however say we make the delivery process simple.”

While Sebatli has helped hundreds of women deliver, he still does not feel comfortable that he can be able to deliver his own baby.

“I fear that I could be too attached to this particular patient more than any other patient. I can make a lot of mistakesthat I am not supposed to do in the delivery room. I wouldn’t know how to tell (my wife) to push and would not want to see her go through the pain,” he says.

Sebatlisays the biggest challenge was when he had to deliver a patient who was diagnosed with CephalopelvicDisproportion (CPD) disease.

CPD occurs when a baby’s head or body is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis. It is believed that true CPD is rare, but many cases of “failure to progress” during labour are given a diagnosis of CPD.

“This is the most stressful delivery for me. A patient needs to be rushed to the theatre for a Caesarean section,” he says.

Sebatlisays his ultimate dream is to be an anaesthetist.

“Midwifery comes second but being an anaesthetist is very close to my heart because it is a very unique skill. It can also keep me close to the delivery of babies.”

He says his most scary experience was when he had to drive a woman in labour pains from Morija to Mafeteng, a distance of over 20km.

While on the way, at Ha-Ramohapi, the woman could no longer hold on and had to deliver the baby right on the roadside. She gave birth to twins.

“I had to stop my car, lay her on the ground and deliver the baby on the roadside. Fortunately it was dark and there wasn’t much traffic,” he says.

“Unfortunately, one of the babies was stillborn while the other survived and was quickly rushed to Mafeteng Hospital and survived.”

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