Neena was shivering from both pain and fear. She had never been away from home before; never without her mother. Yet here, some 12000 km from the woman who held her hand and wiped her tears for 20 years, she was. Due to the war in her country, she arrived to Houston just one week before. As she lay in the hospital bed, nurses poking and prodding in areas where she had rarely been touched, I held her hand and spoke to her about what would happen next and what the doctor would ask of her. Once the Pitocin has been administered, the waves of pain came upon her quickly, her body convulsing and crying out against the frame of the small birthing bed. She cried. She wanted her husband. She wanted her mother. When the time was right, the Anesthesiologist came in and helped her into position to receive the epidural. At sight of the needle, Neena refused the dose. With some cajoling and a lot of comforting after another contraction took over her body, she gave in and leaned against her pillow in an upright position. According to the nurse, she was ready. They would be back soon with the doctor. The epidural calmed Neena and I encouraged her to close her eyes and try to relax then went to the waiting room to speak to her husband. He only a kid himself, had a look of nausea and uneasiness that made me a little nervous. I couldn’t watch over him and be there for his bride. He sipped some juice and listened as I gave him an update. Neena was doing fine. She was resting and not in as much pain but she was scared and needed him. In his country the men do not stand bedside as their wives squeezed out bundles of joy wrapped in fluid and mucus. He shook his head defiantly. It wasn’t going to happen. His friends would laugh at him. I convinced him to come in and visit Neena to at least wish her well.
Within a few minutes of arriving in the room, the doctor came in and confirmed that Neena was in fact ready to begin. She was more worried about her husband seeing the wonders of the female body than pushing the baby out. He was a bit trapped and couldn’t really leave unless the doctor stepped aside so I asked him to just stay at the head of the bed and hold her hand. Just then Neena squeezed his hand causing his face to wince. As I held her hand and told her good job and that she was doing great, her young husband lay his hand on her forehead. There it was! The tenderness she needed in that moment caused her to smile and they looked so full of hope.
Quicker than I expected, their new little baby girl had welcomed the world with a loud cry and was laid on mommy’s stomach for her to marvel. Neena looked away in uncertainty. She hadn’t gone through proper prenatal care and had not been given books by adoring friends, colleagues and neighbors. She didn’t know what to expect while she was expecting. The baby- wrinkled, bloody, bright red from exhaustion looked foreign to her inexperienced eyes. Neena looked at me asking what was wrong with her baby. I told her she was perfect and a beautiful baby girl. The nurses took baby J away and brought her back looking much more like her young mother expected. As Neena cradled the sweet pink baby with a wave of black hair, she kissed the scrunched-up tiny forehead much like I’m sure her mother had done to her the first time she was cradled. ❤