I am a mother three times over. My offspring are away at college, and I try hard to release my hold on them and not hover like a mama bear. But it is an undeniable truth that they are a physical part of me, each one, with all of their idiosyncrasies and troubles and joys. I feel them, like they are appendage, even when they are miles away.
Before I had my first child, I never thought I would be changed because of the experience. I had grand plans to return to work after a respectable six weeks off, only to hold my firstborn son Ben in my arms and sob uncontrollably, knowing that my decision making was altered for life. Everything, everything, began to be centered around what is best for this child. My own desires seemed lofty and were suddenly not so important.
My first pregnancy progressed well, and I ballooned a 60+ pounds. I was proud of my spindly legs carrying such an enormous belly. People stopped to stare when I was only in my seventh month, thinking I was about to deliver any minute. I soaked up that attention and felt like a queen everywhere I went. Doors were opened, chairs were offered. The whole while, I felt glorious, never sick or weak, only blissfully content as a felt each kick.
Ben announced his entry into this world almost exactly on his due date, and all seemed fine at first. Then, after laboring for 17 hours and pushing for 3 hours, it was determined that he was in extreme stress and he simply could not fit through my birth canal. A whopping 9 lbs 11 oz of a baby he was! He also broke the hospital’s record for being their longest baby at 23 1/2 inches long. I was proud of my Big Ben.
I reflect on this now, as I watch a mother suffering her labor after walking miles to get to Mota Hospital. Had I lived here, I would surely have died during childbirth. I would never have come to know my three children. I would not have seen Ben write his first magazine article, or Aaron develop his love of the electric bass, or Brynn fly effortlessly on her feet while she danced. I would not have settled countless arguments or worried late at night when they did not come home or cry when they said they hated something I did.
I am now in the birthing room, and I watch Adele suffer. She repeatedly pulls on her ragged dress in pain, and I see that the baby is not easily coming. The midwives scurry to get the vacuum and swiftly adhere it to the baby’s head. With mighty force, they begin to pull, as she writhes in pain. They pull harder. They yell at Adele. Two people pull even harder together. They must cut her to widen the opening, determining she does not need a C-section. They pull with all of their might. Dr. Philippa steps in, and tells them to alter their angle: lift up, not down. Finally, after much screaming and fierce pulling, the baby is out. Adele stares at the ceiling, her eyes not searching for the baby at all. I can’t fathom what she is thinking. I watch her, and slowly she turns her head in search of her first born child.
The midwives ask her to get down from the table, and she walks over to the door where her mother and grandmother wait for her. They will assume post care, feeding her, keeping her warm.
I am in complete awe of the midwives here at Mota Hospital, and it is a true honor to even be in their presence. Tedele is quiet as I acknowledge his skill. He looks away, then down at his bloodied hands. I am sure that not all of these situations resolve so easily. He knows that I am only seeing one small aspect of his job.
Tedele turns to the buckets of water and silently washes his hands.