April 2023 Sarah Masson-Mkandawire Update
After being back on the field for only 15 months, my family flew to Canada in December 2022 to prepare and give birth to our second child. On January 25, 2023, we welcomed Emma Esther Anna Mkandawire into our lives. We are now the joy-filled (and tired) parents of 2 little ones. Through a lot of ups and downs in the pregnancy, we were blessed and protected throughout.
Pregnancy in a rural village is no joke. I often found myself praying for the unborn and 'to be born' in our district of Malawi, where healthcare workers make an amazing effort, but are often disappointed to not be able to save the wee little ones due to a lack of resources. For example, I found myself bleeding early in my pregnancy, but I had a lifeline - I was able to WhatsApp message our baby doctor (Gynaecologist) in Blantyre. She advised us to come to Blantyre (which is the closest developed city 3 hours away) and get a scan as soon as humanly possible. Overnight, I waited and prayed for morning to come quickly and for our baby to be kept safe. As soon as morning came, we loaded up our car and drove straight to the clinic, where they have an ultrasound machine that works (at least when the clinic has electricity!). We made it to town safely, and after jumping through a few medical insurance hoops, we got the scan and found our baby was doing just fine. I had a condition called placenta previa. After receiving this news, I was told to be on bed rest. Your next question may be, 'how can you be on bed rest while you have a family to care for, while on the mission field where others are also waiting on you for help?' If you find a good answer anywhere, please let me know! Ha! I was not able to even lift a laundry bucket or my 2-year-old son or do the dishes (no dishwashers). Asking me to lay still is almost impossible. It took a lot of restraint, but I mostly followed through!
We had access to so much: a phone, a gynecologist, a car, an ultrasound clinic, a way to get to the city, and money to be able to pay for all of these services and things needed just to be able to get some of the most basic medical assistance. It became all too real to me that most women who live in rural Malawi just have to bleed, and wonder for several months if their baby is okay, if they had a miscarriage, or if their health is in jeopardy.
I have lived in Bangula for 13 years and have known about many of these issues for a long time. I've heard many stories of unfortunate circumstances that have led to several unnecessary deaths. I can think of at least five people right now that could still be alive today if there had been access to the correct healthcare.
I don’t want to diminish the efforts of those who have given up their lives to be in the medical field in Bangula and our Nsanje District. They have accomplished saving many lives without being given the right kinds of equipment and infrastructures to be able to rescue many more lives that are lost just due to lack of resources and unfortunate circumstances. It is worth mentioning how little access to life-saving measures there is in Bangula and many other even more remote areas in Malawi and other countries.
I have difficulty reconciling these two very different worlds that I find myself straddled between. On one hand, I was born where I was born, and I can’t change it. On the other hand, I feel tremendous guilt just being able to fly to a place that has access to healthcare (notice I didn’t say better place).
Once we landed in Canada, we quickly learned from the medical community that it's not normal to fly with placenta previa and/or a breech baby. We do see God’s hand in this, and we are grateful that He brought our family safely back to Canada, especially as it did turn out to be a scheduled c-section birth.
During this season in Canada, I have continued meeting/talking with our post-secondary on the phone. God provided the best people to help care for our son while my husband continued to work (and added several home duties to his daily list). I’m so thankful for the students who continued to come in Malawi and offer help outside of their paid hours. I’m so thankful to those who helped me to be able to rest and keep our baby safe. These few young people will forever be in my heart and in my gratitude for stepping up to help us!
Before leaving Malawi I saw the Lord used our family on the base in new ways. We were able to hire students to help us, and I was able to job train and advise them for their futures. We had many conversations about life and became closer in new ways. I am so proud of everyone who helped us get through a difficult season on the field and believe that even if I was there just to help one young person this past year, it was worth it because God had us protected and kept us safe all along the way.
I was able to have deeper and more meaningful conversations with our young adults and the post-secondary students who were planning what schools to attend. I eventually started teaching a weekly class again to our post-secondary group. We dove into studying our true identity and how we were made. I used the Meyers-Briggs questionnaire to lead us into the discussion. In these classes, the youth get an idea of who they are and who they could become with their future jobs and careers. It's still one of my favourite times with our young people. I am privileged to see the hope and excitement restored to their dreaming! God did not make any mistakes.
I was born in Toronto and those who call me mom were born in rural Malawi. God did not make any mistakes based on where we were born. What are we going to do with the gift of life that he has given to each one of us?
I wish I had all the money in the world to educate all the children of Iris Malawi, who are going to change the world for the better. I do not doubt it! It’s where I put my time and calling to work. If I also had the money, that’s where I’d spend it.