Random Act of Kindness

October 27, 2011

As a midwife, I am often privileged to witness displays of human emotion that seem to occur exclusively within the context of birth. There are few other transitions of life that elicit the sort of emotion, be it positive or negative, that childbirth does. At every birth I attend there is always a memorable moment, often subtle and intimate, little insights into human nature that I tuck away in my subconscious.

As a midwife, I am often privileged to witness displays of human emotion that seem to occur exclusively within the context of birth. There are few other transitions of life that elicit the sort of emotion, be it positive or negative, that childbirth does. At every birth I attend there is always a memorable moment, often subtle and intimate, little insights into human nature that I tuck away in my subconscious. Occasionally though, something happens that is larger than life, something grand. Something that deserves telling. Such is the story you are about to hear.

It was the birth of a first baby to a sweet, married young couple. The mother to be had a lovely laid back labor supported by her best friend, her husband and both grandmothers. The grandfather, a handsome man of about 50 or 60, a Baptist preacher, waited in the hall praying. They had beautiful music playing, the lights were dim and there was a peaceful secure feeling in the birthing suite.

At one point I noticed a chart at the nurses desk of a young girl I knew from when I worked in a neighborhood clinic. I knew this young African American girl was pregnant again because she had been coming to see the perinatologist that I share an office with. She had had serious complications in her early pregnancy and she now required serial ultrasounds for surveillance of her baby. Here she was, in labor.....in the room next to my patient. I went in to see her. She was in the bed, she was all alone. Having contractions every 2-3 minutes that were pretty intense. The nurse had told me she was 5 cm and the CRNA was on her way to place an epidural. I greeted her and touched her hand. I said "Are you all alone?" She began to cry. Tore me up. In spite of what I knew of her lifestyle and some unwise choices she had made, it disturbed me to see her lying there having this baby without a soul there to hold her hand or just be with her. But it was the contrast of what was going on in the room next door that overwhelmed me.

I told her I would come and see her in a little bit. My patient was approaching second stage and was getting pretty noisy. She commented on that by saying "Why is your patient making so much noise?" I told her she was having her baby "natural" and she said "Ms. Deborah, you is mean...not lettin' that girl have no epidural!". The fact that anyone would *choose* natural was not a concept this woman/child could comprehend. She just thought that "Ms. Deborah" was "mean".

I went back to my room to assess the situation there. In an unguarded moment I shared a little about the girl next door. Guess it had really gotten to me. They were visibly moved by the story. The best friend said in horror "That child has no one with her?!".

My little couple proceeded to have a gorgeous birth, her husband behind her on the bed, best friend at her side. The two new grandmothers holding hands. . She reached down and lifted her new son to her chest. He was touched and held by the entwined arms and hands of his mother and father. Not a dry eye in the room.

Later that day I heard the 'rest of the story'. Evidently, my patients family had asked this girl if they could be with her. They stayed with her for her birth. The nurses said it was really something. Black girl, street wise, surrounded by small town, white, Baptist folks......holding her hand and supporting her. "Just wasn't right for that child to be alone" they had said.

I was blown away. My departure from the clinical site where I had cared for the young girl happened more than one year ago. I miss those women. My time there taught me about inequality and greed and disadvantage. Have some regrets that I am no longer there. But here we were……brought back together? What were the odds of this happening? Astronomical?

I laugh when I envision the girl telling the story from *her* Perspective: "And then, there was all these white foke in my room......". I bet she will tell that story to the kid she just had.....if she keeps custody of her long enough. Maybe, somehow, some sort of seed was planted.

Talk about a random act of kindness, huh?