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My friend Ingrid is having a baby and I feel so helpless. I sit outside in the livingroom among the women, her mother-in-law, her sister-in-law, the mid-wife who peacefully goes in and out of the bedroom where she is giving birth. It is quiet except for the sound of the bubbling water in the fish tank, the cat meowing, the tea kettle which boils over with water, whispering and the utter agony of her cries of pain. Gity, her Iranian mother-in-law is praying in Arabic from a small book which she reads with her dark glasses, bending her entire body into her prayer at one corner of the dark sofa, she emanates tranquility.
“This only happens once in our lifetimes,” Gity reminds me and her daughter. “It is truly a gift that Ingrid gave us.”
I thought I would come here like a photographer, a professional gig for a friend, but it’s more right now and while my instinct is to document, my heart tells me to be empathetic and to respect her privacy.
The mid-wife comes out and we hang on every word. “She’s at 8 or 9 cm, but something is holding her back.” She needs her comfort zone back.
We empty the livingroom, it is her home again, quiet and safe without the pressure of anyone expecting her to perform on their terms. I flee to the dark corners of the baby room and write. From time to time I hear the creaking of the bed and the door. The midwife pokes her head in from time to time with the nicest, warmest smile.
When I asked Gity, who has had four children, two of them twins, and the midwife about the amount of pain she’s in and what the experience of labor is they tell me this:
It’s like things are happening in your body, like your body is stretching and things are happening inside you that you can’t control, you feel what the baby feels, like you’re going to die, like your bones are going to break, you can’t say anything, you become like a child, language is gone. The first one you’re lost because you don’t know if it’s the beginning or the end. Every moment you think it’s the most intense. It feels like your baby is going to come out of your ass, like it’s the size of cantaloupe and there’s no way out.
I cringe, I cannot fathom my body stretching into another dimension. Gity looks at me intensely and then she says “It’s like a difficult exam you cannot fail. You just have to get through it.”
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