Thursday, August 22, 2013

As I remain.

Its 6 oclock. I shift in the chair. Maybe it was a squirm. I couldn't quite tell. I place a nervous hand on her shoulder, breath surprisingly steady. Be calm, my heart. Something has clicked in me, the excitement, the butterflies, tell me this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I let go. These are the moment that make me feel alive.
I start a conversation, and she keeps it rolling, bless her. Every time the door opens a new face enters, doing something necessary. We laugh about that. We wait, triage 3, and the hours pass. The contractions come every 5 minutes, and she breaths through them like a pro. Its just us in that room, my hand in her hand, the other on her shoulder. I explain the forms, we talk about what ifs, we talk about Africa, we talk about America. We talk about family. In that space, she opens...she says what if it was not for you, what would I do? How would I get here, would I wait for the bus? Would they send me home? She tells me about coming here. About life, and being a refugee. For eighteen years, this woman wore this title like a scarlet A branded across her chest, and it owned her. Forced from her home country, and rejected by another...considered with no more thought than one gives to the dried dirt on the carpet. Without identity. And now...American woman...what does that mean? And who are you, we don't know each other, and you do more than my family ever has. How can I thank you for that? How can this be? It is she who teaches me...We are the same, I tell her. This is how it should always be. A tear slips down her cheek...I will show them, we will take a picture and send it back, they will see what they said could not be done. They will see me. 
Finally, we move to a room, around 9 pm. She tells me to rest. That she'll wake me with a scream. I smile, and tell her to rest. I stay by her side, and watch the drip of the IV, and the antibiotics, and the pit. Nobody tells you that birth in a hospital is like being an unlucky bug, caught in a spiderweb, and ever time you look up, the predator is ever closer, beady eyes bearing down, eight limbs twitching.
We fall into a rhythm, every three minutes our hands meet, we squeeze and breath out the contraction. In between she falls back, eyes closed, and I apply cold cloths to her forehead and chest. How long, Brenda? I cannot know that. Guess, she says. 11. 12. 1. 2. I think two, I say. She hisses, distastefully. I smile, and pray to god I am right. I was being generous.
Every time I look at the clock, it seems an hour has passed. I keep one eye on her face and the other checking the monitor. We are every two and a half minutes apart. Every two minutes apart. The nurse comes in to check. Finally, eight centimeters. Its 1 am. Now is the hardest part, I tell her. Think of your family, you are bringing home a sister. And breathe. Breathe it out. Good breaths, good job. You can do it. I know I can, I know I can, I know I can. She prays to God, she says she is suffering. She looks me in the eyes and tells me that its never been like this before, its never been like this. This hurts. I know I say, breathe it out. We struggle through the next two hours. There is a midwife who comes in, and helps keep her calm. She has a commanding way about her, and I learn so much in those brief visits. She checks again. We are still 8 cm. It is a lot to ask, in that moment, to turn to a woman who is out of her mind, who is in and out, and say, work harder. 2 more centimeters. This thing has lost all meaning, where are we, she says why me?

The nurses get ready. We push. We breathe. Repeat. They say there might be a shoulder. There might be an odd position. Its a full moon, and the unit is full. These women are in and out, souls are entering this world, safe under their careful watch. I am so grateful for their presence. I cannot feel anything. My experience pales in comparison to hers. I am secondary.
I know what they're doing. They mess with the tools on the table, and I look away. They teach us to say something here. But I can't. It's a decision I don't regret. This had to happen, and she would have fought it. But I cannot watch. Every so often she opens her eyes to find mine, and says baby? I am here. One hand on her shoulder, and I have been all night. Again I say not yet. So close.
You were born at 5:36 am. Little body, big cone head. Big head. Ten fingers, ten toes. She's perfect, I say, look what you made. But its bad over here. Repairs are tough. She begs. It is hard to be here. I look her in the eyes and say I am here. I am here. It is hard to watch this. So much beauty on my right, so much pain on my left. She surrenders then. She says yes to meds, and slips away before she sees her baby, before she can hold her close and take her to the breast. Before she goes, she looks my way and whispers, I love you.

And then there is me. I sit. I breathe.
There is no plan. There cannot be. You cannot know. Accept that.
For one sweet hour, she slept. I let her have it. And as the sun rose over Georgia, I hold you, because I know your mother would have wanted you to be held...I feed you your first meal, from a bottle, and hold you close to my heart. Look into your eyes and tell you that you are loved. I have no right. I am not your mother...but she would have wanted you to know love in these early hours. Would have wanted you to feel safe. The nurse asks me if I am related to her. I want to say yes. We are sisters. Just as you an I are sisters. But to do so would be presumptuous. So I smile, and shake my head.

Sometimes being a doula is about relief. Sometimes it's about knowing when to say no, or when to surrender, and say yes. I have found that sometimes, its about bearing witness to the great suffering, the great magic, that are coupled together this way, and the greatness of the people who you are lucky enough to stand beside, if only for a split second in the expanse of the universe...suffering and magic, in birth, as in life. I was not in control, but I saw. I was there. I fought alongside her, into the wee hours of the morning, I counted the minutes. I prayed by her bedside. I felt her frustration. So clear, I learned again that we are not always called to understand, to internalize, to sympathize or alleviate. Just to be present.

So I remained. And I always will.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What it seems.

I don't think I want to have fun anymore.

We are so different. I have a preoccupation with the past and dying

you have a death wish and a habit of living in the moment. " ".

22 didn't look like this yesterday. What it means for me isn't what it means for you.

Its abundantly clear that you don't have my best interests at heart. In the quiet clarity of that morning light, we went back to being us. Life between 3am and 7am doesn't really count. You're a good time, but you're not really mine, and I think I'm over that. I don't want to have fun anymore.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Big Leagues.

I call you a liar and say get off my front porch. Somehow, two hours later, your kiss lands on my shoulder. This is a language I speak. I am surprised, that of all things, you are a man who keeps promises? you make so few. We were terrible communicators, tight lipped and at the mercy of our own convictions. You're keeping me up, figurative turns to literal. You say all the wrong things, strung out, pieces flailing. Quit coming over here, just to go mad and fall apart. It's disarming. 

I think I'm starting to get it. You're so god damn mean to yourself. We meet some girl on the patio of some bar in some place in the city. You say she's an old friend. I think that means you fucked, albeit a long time ago. She's nice but she calls me a poor little cotton swaddle or something. You laugh, but you look at me to see if I caught it. Her, calling me a baby. I did, but I let it go. I jump on the back of your bike and we go.

Everyone's always so apt to point that out. They say it like it's an insult and tell me it's a compliment. Maybe I am a baby. But like I said, I don't know you. I just know 42.