Regular readers will know that Juli and her pregnancy have been on our minds a lot. She first came 2 months ago saying she was overdue and was concerned. We were expecting a baby any time around Christmas and remember hoping that Gerdine wasn’t called away for midwife duty on Christmas day.

On Friday Juli came to see us again for a checkup and said “I’ve decided to hike to town to give birth in the hospital.” Better late than never, so we were happy and encouraged her to follow through on her plan. “Good idea, don’t wait – go tomorrow!” She didn’t in the end, and perhaps that was for the best.

After a crazy, busy supply flight day (Welcome Graham and CarolTownley.. I would love to chat to our visitors, but today is hectic!) Juli’s waters broke at about 6 pm. Of course, that’s not something to mention or let us know about and we only found out when we went to visit on Tuesday 🙂 She was definitely in labour now. There have been many times before where we were wondering if labour had started or not, but this was a clear change. Finally, it was time for the baby.

Gerdine was very glad to have Carol on hand to assist (take the lead) in midwife duties (well, there’s not much we can do really). Gerdine and Carol headed out at 9pm to check on things and established labour was going on, and Gerdine didn’t get back till midnight. Carol stayed all night long with Juli in her little jungle lean-to.

Carol’s 1st full day in Kovol and she’s got the stethoscope out!

At 8 am the next day with more than 12 hours of established labour, a check revealed that things didn’t look good. The cervix seemed to be opening, but the baby’s head didn’t seem engaged. Juli’s last full-term pregnancy ended with a c-section in town because it was a long labour with no progress. Now we were worried, and now it was an emergency. We were thinking that either the baby was in an undeliverable position, or that it wouldn’t fit through the pelvis. Juli was exhausted, and did the whole thing without pain relief!

So now we give the local level government (LLG) health department a ring. After we explained what was happening and the history of a previous C-section they immediately agreed that she needed to get out and that they would arrange a helicopter medevac!


After a few hours of waiting on the specifics, we were contacted by a helicopter company from Mt Hagen for a weather report and coordinates. The weather looked good for now and we gave our current coordinates according to our GPS satellite communicator.

45 mins later we fetch Juli from our birth shelter and get her to hike up to the soccer field for a nerve-wracking wait. We heard the helicopter on the wind, it was getting close… and then we didn’t hear it any more. Over the next hour we heard it in different directions, but we never saw it. I had to go inside for a bit because the wait was driving me crazy.

We call the helicopter company and they tell us that the coordinates we gave are off. The pilot has landed in 3 different places already and he can’t find us! I get in touch with our own pilot who routinely visits and get the coordinates from him which are in a different format and send those. Meanwhile I’m describing our area and relative position to stations in our area.

I head over to Juli to explain things and remind her to keep drinking (one major thing we can do is remind women to eat and drink, providing water, juices and snacks. It’s not a Kovol thing to do and women don’t eat or drink for the entirety of their labour. If it’s a long one they don’t have the fuel in the tank to keep going!) and she lets me know that she feels like she needs to push. That’s new, and it’s a good sign.

I head back home and tell Gerdine (while telling people demanding my attention to sell them soap to wait), when the phone rings again. It’s the LLG leader calling about the helicopter not being able to find us. I tell him that we’ve given new coordinates which our own pilots use (and if that doesn’t work I don’t know what to do!). While I’m talking, a woman out of breath runs up to me saying “the baby has come!” It’s 1pm.

side of the road baby

I rush down and see. Yes indeed. Juli has given birth on the side of the road waiting for the helicopter. Baby is breathing; the placenta is still to be delivered. Suddenly I remember I’m a man and I shouldn’t (culturally) really be around for all this blood and lady stuff – but I’m juggling a lot. I run home and burst in the door “Gerdine, the baby has come. Get out there!”
I take over the baking with Oscar that’s going on while Gerdine runs over. I’m not really able to get into it, as there’s a lot on my mind. I don’t know what we’re making! I ask Oscar “so, are we going to bake this, or what is it?” “What are all these colours?” “We’re making patterns” he replies.

Meanwhile, my mind is racing: do we need that helicopter any more? I apologise to Oscar and tell him that I need to make some phone calls and explain things… only to find that Digicel has cut out – we can’t make any calls.

I have to leave Oscar to it. “Can we play with the kittens?” he asks. “Sure, later!” I say as I run out the door with our satellite communicator. I need to find out if we still need that medevac, and if not I need to call it off. Gerdine and Carol are with Juli and everything is looking good. There’s a very tired mum, there’s a baby hanging up in a bilum (string bag, no skin to skin or first feed in Kovol), there’s a husband digging a hole for the placenta and there’s a bit of calm.

So now I get to work sending 69-character texts by satellite to call off the helicopter. Then I start sending messages to apologise and explain that this morning things looked really bad, and sorry for the coordinate confusion and thank you so much for responding. We don’t want to have a bad relationship with the health department! The first time we’re organising a medevac they can’t find us and we call it off just as the helicopter is in the area!!

Ok next thing I’ve got to see someone with a suspected STD and figure out what’s up with that. It’s a medical day so I do a quick round and figure out that there are 3 people to see us for that and we’ve been busy with the labour all morning.

This guy’s face needed stiri strips

I head inside to grab a medical book only to find cats everywhere. In the 20 minutes I’ve been gone Oscar has decided to take things into his own hands (I did say “sure later” to the kittens after all). We’ve got six 3-week-old kittens around the house. Oscar has also taken it on himself to open up Alice and Millie’s bedroom during nap time. I find Alice still fast asleep, but Oscar and Millie sitting in her bed with 2 kittens 😀 I have to laugh to myself. It’s hilarious! It is nap time though so out we go and take the kittens away so I can carry on with the medical day, again apologising to Oscar for not having time for him today.

Suddenly kittens! Just keeping us on our toes

Replies come in from the helicopter company and the LLG. The helicopter is RTB and they’re not mad with us. “Better safe than sorry” one message says.

The rest of the afternoon is spent catching up with the other medical cases and trying to settle down. Later on I find out that the baking activity was for home school, they were working on patterns, and the dough was to be baked. The cupcakes we got… weren’t really patterns.

“pattern” cupcakes

Mum and baby are doing well though. What an answer to prayer!

It’s a boy!


Mandy Caley · 19/01/2023 at 6:37 pm

What a day! Good that Townleys are there!! Crazy life. Thank you God.

Lois S. · 19/01/2023 at 11:48 pm

So thankful that all went as well as it did! Thankful that Juli had a safe (though long and painful) birth after her former C-section.

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