Friday, October 5, 2012

A Stranger in a Strange Land

This birth I was just at was a friends.  They are immigrants here, but settled and with papers.  The worry behind them.

They have two other children.  As we worked through the preparations for this baby, I asked her to tell me about those births.  I thought I would have little teaching to do - after all, this is a third baby.

The first was in her first country she fled to out of her own country.  She grew up there, knew the language, and was comfortable.  But am immigrant still.  Her labor started and she was alone, the family gone to a wedding.  Girls are never given teaching, so she was hours into the labor and had no clue what was wrong.  Not until bleeding began did she wake her husband and ask to go to the doctor thinking she was dying.  First they had to go to neighbors and beg for a loan of money so they could be seen.  When they arrived at the hospital, the doctor yelled at her for waiting so long and told her the baby probably had died and it was all her fault.  Her husband was left outside and she went in alone.  Then they tied her down to the bed and pushed pitocin into her to rush the labor and two nurses pushed on her belly to "help" the contractions.  (I've seen it done, believe me.)  Her belly was bruised black and blue for two weeks after the birth.  The child was born, and taken straight out of the room.  She only saw it hours later.

( I also saw this happen once , and actually stopped the doctor and told her to show the baby to the mom.  I remember her look of confusion as she asked me, "Why?" and then took the baby to the relatives.  I followed, took the baby away from the aunts and uncles, and walked it right back in the room and showed the mom and let her kiss it before it was taken away again.  The baby belongs to the family in that culture, not the mom.)

 For hours, my friend didn't know if her baby was alive or dead.  After they returned the baby to her, no one helped her. She was sore after 23 hours of labor and asked a nurse to help her with a diaper change.  The nurse looked at her and said, "What?  Do you expect me to go home with you, too, and do this?  Get up and do it yourself, no one is going to do your work for you!"

The second birth was in a transient country.  But they were refugees with no papers.  Her labor started and they rushed to the hospital after dropping their child with a friend.  Again the husband was not allowed in the door.  She was put in a ward with twenty other women in labor, no curtains or anything between them.  A room full of yelling women all alone in pain.  She delivered there, and again they took the baby away.  After an hour, they brought the baby back, handed him to her and told her the baby was fine and she needed to leave.  She had no money, no papers; and she needed to get out.  She phoned her husband, but he was not home, so they handed her her bag and told her to go downstairs and call a taxi.  The elevator was broken, so one hour after she gave birth, she struggled down two flights of stairs carrying her baby and her bag.  Halfway down, she started to pass out and fall, so she grabbed the rail and yelled.  A helpful security guard came and half carried her down the rest of the way and called a taxi.

When she got home, the door was locked and her husband gone and she had no key.  She sat on the step and phoned him.  Now, forgive him - the man had never seen labor or delivery before nor been taught about it.  He was happy she was back and told her he'd been home in an hour or so, so why didn't she go get their daughter.  So carrying her bag and baby, she walked over to the friends and picked up her daughter and walked back.  Then she sat on the step and waiting for another hour before her husband got home.  Mind you, this was after a delivery that took 25 stitches to repair a tear.  It was a big baby.

I sat stunned.  Then I opened my books and began teaching at the beginning - this is what is happening in labor.  These are the stages.  This is what we will do in each one to help you out.  I reassured her about the hospital and the nurses.  Told her I would be with her every step of the way.

When we went in, I told her nurses about her other deliveries.  Their eyes went wide.  I told them that this birth, we were going to spoil her rotten.  Everything she wanted, she got.  She kept asking, "what do you want me to do?" and "Am I allowed to go to the toilet?" and "Am I allowed to walk?"  We just repeated, "don't ask permission.  You are the boss right now.  You can do anything you want."

When the baby was born, they put her immediately on her belly.  She looked down at her baby and began to cry.  Her husband was there, and he cried too - hugging his wife and crying.

Later she talked on and on about the baby's first minutes.  "She looked so funny."  "She looked at me"  "I never saw my babies when they were like that"  "I never knew they were even alive or not at first."

I stayed for two days.  I changed diapers.  I rocked the baby.  I helped her nurse.  I supported her to the toilet and taught her how to care for herself.  I helped her take a shower, wash her back, and dry her hair.  I stayed with the two other kids so the husband could have the first night alone with them.  The baby slept that first night.  The next night, the dad wanted to go home and sleep.  The baby cried all that second night.  She and I walked and walked so the mom could get a little sleep.

In the morning, we sat and ate breakfast and talked over the birth.  We laughed and laughed at what people had said.  She said she wanted to hit me if I told her to breathe one more time.  I laughed and said that is why I stayed behind her!  She wanted to hold her breath through the pain because making noise is not ok in her culture.  We held our sides and howled at my "translation" of what she was saying during transition.  She reverted to her mother tongue and was yelling.  The nurse looked at me several times and said, "What is she saying?"  I said, "um, nothing really... her back is sore."  I thought she hadn't heard me, but she did, and we giggled through our morning tea and bread.

It was special to see the love and care of her husband towards her.  All of a sudden, he had an understanding of what birthing takes, and with that a strong desire to do everything for his wife.  No more, "why don't you go pick up the kid?" but a "sit, and let me do that for you".

It was so good to be there.  To leave her with one birth where her memories are not of being alone in pain and treated with contempt.  To not be a "refugee" and given no care.  Her stories really made me think....  God chose to send His Son to be born of a refugee in a much less than ideal setting.  At least there was room in the hospital for my friend at least for the birth, even if she was kicked out one hour later...  Mary had no room at all.  Really made me think.

But it was good to be there.  To be able to love in the way I do best - by serving.  They were in tears when I left, so thankful to have had someone there.  To not be frightened, to not be alone.

Tonight, I soak my sore muscles in the tub and sleep.  But I'm happy.

I delivered my second baby, my daughter who had died, alone in a strange land.  You can't change the past, but you can change the future, and being able to change it for this special family was worth every aching muscle I own.


Joyful said...

This is a poignant story and beautifully written. It brought tears to my eyes. I'm so glad you were there for this woman and her husband and children. Blessings. xx

karen said...

Oh, those stories are heartbreaking. God bless you and your gift of love and service to women.