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I’m ready to be a mother now

By Emily Gorton


Susan Ayam beams over her beautiful baby girl Fortunate, who is just two months old.

It’s a grateful smile because Fortunate has truly earned her name. When she was only six months pregnant, Susan’s baby literally ‘fell out’. 

Thanks to quick advice from a local health worker, the family were rushed to hospital on a long and painful motorbike journey. 

VSO / Peter Caton

They stayed at the neonatal intensive care unit in Lira Regional Referral Hospital in Uganda

Despite the odds, the tiny premature baby survived. The NICU was built with support from VSO, and is now being improved by a VSO volunteer. 

Susan is adamant that without it she wouldn’t have Fortunate in her arms today.

The baby was very small – like a rat

“When I found I was pregnant I was really surprised. I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I wanted to go to school and get my diploma in teaching like my husband. 

“But I didn’t reach the nine months of pregnancy. About six months in, I went outside to the toilet in the middle of the night. I was kneeling when I felt something coming. That something just fell down."

When she realised that something was a baby, Susan raised the alarm, unable to move as the umbilical cord was still attached.

“The baby was very, very small- like a rat.”

VSO / Peter Caton

Rushed to hospital

Susan was helped by a member of a Village Health Team, who managed to cut the cord, but tried to remove the placenta without success. 

“They told me I had to go straight to Lira Regional Referral Hospital- not even to the local health centre but right to the hospital." 

Susan reached the hospital at 4am after an hour’s journey on a boda boda (motorbike) with her baby and the VHT member. 

She travelled alone as she had no family at the school where she was based.

VSO / Peter Caton

Fighting for survival

“I was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t even walk.

“The nurses here didn’t know if my baby was going to survive. 

“I told them ‘God will do something – but you just continue with your work’.” 

Susan was placed in a ward for four days before going to the neonative intensive care unit, where her daughter stayed for a whole month whilst she recovered. 

“I know that if this unit wasn’t here, my baby wasn’t going to survive. 

“When she was born, she was on the toilet floor for about 30 minutes. It was cold and really dirty. She was scrambling around. 

“When I brought her to the hospital, she was covered in mud and grass. She was in a bad condition.”

Susan has been telling other mothers to save money in case they get into a similar situation and need to travel to the hospital at night, or need emergency supplies.

“When you are pregnant you don’t know what could happen.”

VSO / Peter Caton

A new born baby at Lira Regional Referral Hospital, Uganda.

Getting stronger

Now two months old, Fortunate is growing fast. Susan brings her to the hospital each month for a review, where staff take her weight and temperature and provide medicine.

“I’m so happy! I’m ready to be a mother now.”

Support our work

In Uganda,  women are 38 times more likely to die in childbirth than women in the UK. 

Many lives are needlessly lost. With simple equipment and the right training, midwives could save more lives during childbirth

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