If I were product-focused, I would have missed the process.
Around 2:15 this morning, we heard some moans and then a newborn’s cry joined his mother’s quieting sobs. A boy. Weighing 2.9 kgs or 6 lbs, 4 oz. Another triumph.
Two other expecting mothers and I sat outside the Labour Ward, waiting to hear- was it a boy, like Ncamsile guessed? How was our friend, Happiness? Was everyone healthy?
Last week, when I offered myself to some women to be their doula, only one bit. Ncamsile. Middle aged, expecting twins, healing from a traumatic last birth. I had prayed God connect me to women who really needed the presence and care I may share with them. ok great! One mom I’ll doula for.
If I were too hell-bent on my schedule for the day – I surely would have missed it. Her request. Happiness’s request, “I want Mbali to help me. Do you think she will accompany me to the ward?” So Ncamsile came to me on Wednesday to ‘forward’ her request. [*P.S. a few months back, some friends from the Waiting House, gave me my Swazi name. Mbali meaning “flower” or “rose” or “beautiful”, who was I to complain? 😉 I thought for my sure my Swazi name would be “loud one” or “horrible speaker” hah!]
I knew Happiness. Last week we all played volleyball, using a ball she made of plastic, and our net was the razor-wired topped fence. You have never seen a woman a week out from her due date DIVE and MOVE. The girl can hustle. She had a spunk, charisma, and bright enough eyes offering her hope to the world. When her contractions started Wednesday, I only saw fear. The straight up raw fear I’ve come to recognize with first-time, young moms.
With 2 meetings that night, and tasks piling up and a stack of dishes needing washed at home – I said, “Yebo. Ngitokusita.” Yes, I will help.
And because I knew I wouldn’t be able to accompany her inside, it was our job to make sure she was ready to push and push well when she left me.
We were not alone. No. Precious, a woman staying at the hospital with her premature baby girl, spent time with us, prayed over Happiness’s baby and translated the some things Happiness said that I didn’t understand. A blessing to us both. Then Ncamsile, our friend, checked in on us repeatedly- bringing laughter, and conversation that was something I couldn’t offer with ease (in siSwati). Other women carried her bags, so I could just go home at 3:00. They cleaned up the amniotic fluid. Then encouraged her when her water broke.
She labored for 7 hours with minimal progress. No surprise, those first babies take a while. From 2-4 centimeters with no water broken, all the women at the WH worried. I told them, no, it’s okay, it’s normal for the water to break during contractions, later on. Sure enough. 1am, just having been sent by the nurses to “go and sleep” it broke. And everyone screamed. Even Happiness. She started saying, “the baby is coming. It’s coming.” And I thought ah ha! We have head-to-cervix-engagement everyone else thought, Oh no! She can’t push this baby out. I had to all but YELL at everyone to CALM DOWN. It’s okay. And the. Refocus Happiness and get HER to focus and then me what she was feeling. One shoeless walk (who remembers your shoes when you feel like pushing!), a stop midway to get her breathing and focused, calm and present with us again, a wheel chair ride, and one determined mama running into the Labour Ward. And then running back out because we forgot to hand her the bag!
How raw and real the process God gave us for the time that builds to bringing life- specifically those hours of labor. If I’d been too focused on getting that baby out, I might have missed it. Happiness’s utter trust in what I said. Her arms draped over my neck, eyes rolling, then finding mine. She searched my soul with her eyes all night. Asking, “Am I safe?”, “Am I doing a good job?”, “When will this be over?” and “Is all this normal?”
My eyes responded, my hands rubbed her back, and we would sway like dancers and I’d said, “you’re doing great, this is a good place to deliver your baby. And sometimes it takes a long time, but that’s normal.”
She was desperate. Grabbing my hands and forcing them onto her back when I wasn’t fast enough on the draw! Desperate for her water to break, so the nurses would take her labor more seriously.
Ya, I was thinking It’s 8, then 10, then 12… Let’s get her moving and get this baby out! but because I knew the Product wasn’t part of my story, I got to focus on the Process. how gorgeous the work of people and process- focused hearts!! How marvelous a God who instills in woman an innate desire that’s never more raw than when she’s giving birth. She’s unashamed for the NEED she has to not be alone. She knows that she needs help and will not do it alone! How similar are we all? That our great need comes for each others as we struggle, face fear, tremble, find hope, overcome teeny hurdles. I don’t need YOU at the end, when I’m dead. Or I’ve come through the fire. I need you now while I’m floundering, thinking of giving up, worried I’m doing a bad job. And I mean all of us. Each one.
Sometimes we are the hand desperately searching, we’re the voice calling, “oh Father… Mbali!”
Sometimes we get to be the hand reassuring with touch, or the voice affirming, “I’m here. Don’t be afraid. We are working together, and you’re doing great.”