Blind Date

It's been a while since I've posted, due to the fact that the last couple months and particularly the last couple weeks have been insane. I've used the word "overstretched" to describe how I feel to people. Stretched is a nice word, implying challenge; overstretched is not. But I have an hour right now to write, and something that I need to write about and to understand better by writing it. I got a call on Friday from an OB caseworker at a clinic that I'd offered to volunteer with. She had a couple set to be induced this weekend, both immigrants, he speaks English, she doesn't. Her induction is tonight, though I just found out that there are some early signs of labor happening. It's exciting, it's a little scary, it's a lot of things.

The one thing on my mind right now is: how do I prepare to step into this incredibly intimate experience with two strangers? How do I enter an intimate experiential space with a woman who doesn't share my language? Does it matter that we don't speak the same language--will other, alternative, languages present themselves? There's the language of context, where we assume what we're communicating based on where we are, what's happening, what happens in that place. There's a language of sympathy, read in facial expressions, in a touch, a laugh. Then there's translation; presumably her husband will be translating everything for her. What will that feel like? What will the dynamic be?

And, strangers. For the last birth I attended, I knew her as well as I could know someone that I'd been meeting with a handful of times, sessions where she'd describe what was happening between her and her OB, what she'd been practicing in classes, laughing about her husband setting up a crib, things like that. I didn't really feel that I knew her until I stepped into the delivery room and witnessed a wide range of intense emotions and deep, deep sensations, with zero social niceties. It was about as real as real gets. It was awesome. There was a moment of strange fusion during the birth where I felt connected, to her, to the baby, to God, to other women, to other children, even to myself in the future and any children I might have (insh'Allah). I don't know how to describe it in any other way. And maybe it didn't even matter that we'd met a few times before, because it wasn't me as a personality that she needed, it was companionship through fire itself.

I can do that, again, and again, and again. I think. I hope. And maybe it's easier that they don't know me as me. To them, I'm likely another in a set of characters they're interacting with around the birth--caseworker, midwife, doula. They don't need to know me, or that I'm a volunteer full of my own fears about experience and inexperience, or fears about my capacity for witnessing good and bad, joy and suffering alike. I can just be what they need, when they need it. Which is in about six hours...


The Morning After

In the Times