“Just One Baby”: Access to Reproductive Health

Ajete’s Story

I met Ajete while working at Sister Aklesia Memorial Hospital in Adama, Ethiopia.

She looked into my eyes from across the crowded waiting room. She knew exactly what she wanted and she told me in no uncertain terms, “just one baby.”

Ajete was unsure of her age, but she knew that she and her husband had been trying to get pregnant for twelve years.


The Journey

I met Ajete while working in Adama, Ethiopia in 2007. She arrived at Sister Aklesia Memorial General Hospital SAMGH) before the Registration lady and before the custodians. She came with the hope of medical treatment to cure her infertility.

During the week, the local radio announcer kept repeating that Dr. Sharon, a visiting American Obstetrician/Gynecologist, provided cervical cancer screening and general care for women at SAMH.

The sunny waiting room filled up quickly with women of all ages. They sat patiently and seemed alert with expectation. Their soft voices filled the waiting room and mixed with the morning sounds of Adama waking up. Through the hospital’s open doors, we saw glimpses of people walking to work. Some young women and men carried trays laden with carafes of bunna (coffee) and pastries. The Sunrise Bakery filled the air with the scent of breakfast. 

The women dressed in colorful scarves, shawls, and white cotton shawlcalled a gabi (traditional Ethiopian handwoven cotton wrap) because the morning air was chilly. 

One woman seemed particularly alert; each time I passed through the waiting room, her eyes met mine. I smiled, and so did she.

Selam, the nurse, escorted Ajete into the exam room. I listened as their conversation in Amharic flowed back and forth in the question/answer of getting Ajete’s history. Selam turned to me and began by introducing Ajete. She pointed to the folder of papers Ajete carried and told me that she wanted to get pregnant. She married twelve years ago and has never been pregnant. Her search for answers had led her from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to South Africa, and then to Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The papers in her thick folder contained correspondences from Tikur Anbessa Hospital (Black Lion Hospital) in Addis Ababa with lab results and her husband’s semen analysis. There were surgical notes from South Africa, her diagnosis, severe endometriosis that damaged her Fallopian tubes. Another surgery performed in Adama was an attempt to repair damaged tubes.

To be continued…