Today I watched a father sing prayers into the ears of his new baby girl ” Allahu Akbar..” All day I had followed the progression of their labor, and while the ending of this story is a happy song, it did not start out as such.
The day started out as days typically have for me these past three years: struggling to wake up. I stumbled my way into hospital scrubs and an ex-ex-ex boyfriend’s comfy sweatshirt. I rushed to work and said my morning prayers in my car after quickly scanning through my daily bible verse on my iPhone.
I felt a bit guilty about that, especially because then I proceeded to get a good stern talking-to from the radio preacher the Black R and B station plays on sunday mornings when only God and hospitals are awake. Apparently a spiritual life that is not worked on very hard, day and night, with all of your everything is one that God requires more of. “Well God needs to give me some more sleep/coffee/hours in my day” I thought to myself…and proceeded to change the station to country music because even I can’t listen to whoever the heck they are playing on hip-hop stations these days on the Sabbath.
It took a while for me to finish that sentence because I really wanted to insert an Artist’s name in there but I couldn’t think of an artist that I can listen to on normal days either…Come on- Trinidad James? 2-chains? I’m getting old.
Either way as luck would have it my patient had left Against Medial Advice last night so I had time for the hallowed brew that is coffee when I got in that morning. And so fortified, I was prepared for the large-print sign outside a new patient’s door that said No Male Providers. As a female, you might wonder why this would provoke an almost sphincter-like reflex in me–but patient’s dictating their own care is rarely something I look forward to- especially in Obstetrics. And I know that’s not very Leftist, autonomy- ethics, new world blah blah of me but there it is. If you want to come in with all types of instructions of how I need to do my job…and you haven’t taken a biology class since it was called “Science 10”- I am of the mindset that you can stay at home and put in your own IVs as well. Add that to the fact that this was a midwife patient and I had halfway convinced myself that I’d be helping along a water-birth delivery trying not to look as grossed out as I felt the whole time.
As it turned out, the family was Muslim and deeply religious. After introducing myself and cashing in on my Arabic Name I did a quick Jesus shout out for small miracles. Throughout the day I returned for cervical exams, to check in with the midwife, to meet the whole family- who were all exitedly buzzing in and out of the room and to stand in respect and in awe as her mother, her husband, her sister, and her in-laws took turns praying in the direction of Mecca on prayer mats in the room.
The delivery itself was not hugely exciting, for me at least. Everyone around us was so happy and clapping and squealing and had the whole cheerleading squad thing going on. I think we forget that, this exciting moment of new life- just as easily as we forget the pain of old death after being here for so long. And so I am especially grateful for families like these that bless me with the reminder. Momma pushed well, breathed well. Daddy held hands and legs well, cut the cord well. He counted to ten for all he was worth. And wiped her brow, and made sure we cleaned her, and asked questions, and more questions, and more questions. He was truly present. After the delivery, the midwife took pictures of him cutting the cord with my gloves strategically placed over body parts. He then asked for some quiet time please to whisper something in his daughter’s ear. And he sang.
Amidst a flurry of thank you’s afterward and more pictures I felt the need, which is becoming exceedingly rare, to say thank you in return. It was, it is, an honor.
Moments like these remind me, when I’m running on nothing but calories, caffeine, and cortisol; when I’m screaming at God and anyone else near enough or strong enough to take it, why I am meant to be exactly where I am. Help me Lord to be still.