The midwife’s return

For the last 16 years, Koumba has been serving in her village, bringing new life into the world as a midwife.

The thirty-nine-year-old estimates that in the years she’s been working, she’s helped to birth over 100 babies — some of whom she’s watched grow up and leave the village in search of higher education and job opportunities.

Her journey began when Guinean doctors from bigger cities came to her village with the goal of passing on medical training to several locals. She, along with two other women, received free training in the art of midwifery — a gift that she says changed the direction of her life. She went on to run a clinic, the only one in her village, where she became the go-to woman for all childbirth-related issues.

Koumba takes great pride and fulfillment in her role, and in her ability to pass on her training to the next generation of midwives. With six children of her own, it’s easy to tell that Koumba’s love for others runs deep and that she wears her compassionate heart on her sleeve.

“I don’t really make any money, but I’m given a better gift. I help mothers give birth,” Koumba said. “When I see a mother holding her healthy baby, it’s a very big blessing for me.”

But about five years ago, Koumba’s future took an unexpected shift when she noticed a lump starting to develop on her neck. It continued to grow, eventually evolving into a large goitre and constricting her airways.

Even with her years of medical experience, Koumba couldn’t access the surgical care she needed. Without an operation, she was fearful that she might be forced to face an early death. Her growing goitre made it more difficult for Koumba to do the work she loved as she grew tired and breathless more easily.

She remained endlessly positive in the face of her fear, a feat that she mainly credits to her husband.

‘He would always tell me, ‘We’re going to be all right. God will help us. Don’t be afraid,’ she said.

When they heard that Mercy Ships was coming to Guinea, Koumba was confident that this was the answer to her family’s long-time prayer.

While waiting on the dock to board the Africa Mercy, Koumba was thrilled — but her joy revolved not around herself, but her fellow villagers back home.

‘My whole village is praying for me — they all want me to get help here so that I can keep helping them,’ she said. ‘I want to be able to keep doing this work. There is nothing like it.’

After receiving surgery to remove her goitre, Koumba was given a hand mirror and was able to see the reflection of a woman freed from fear.

‘When I see myself in the mirror, I see peace. I’m so beautiful,’ she said.

During her time in the wards, Koumba would get up from her bed and dance — laughing and celebrating. The dancing never really stopped and her joy continued to shine throughout her time on the ship, culminating in a thank you speech on her last day.

‘This surgery has brought me so much happiness,’ she said. ‘I can move without pain now. When I go back to the village, I’ll be able to work more than before… I gave help, and I received help. This is happiness.’

Her whole village is waiting for her return, and Koumba’s not going to disappoint them. She’d planned her homecoming even before walking up the gangway. Koumba plans on buying a new dress and surprising everyone.

Once the dust settles around her big return, Koumba is looking forward to returning to her calling. She wants to continue bringing new life into the world, and while she works, Koumba says she’ll never tire of telling her story.

Written by Rose Talbot