Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Beginning and End (04/16/09)
TITLE: In charge of her body?
By Sharon Kane
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Maybe it had to be a foreigner who broke the taboo. She laid a hand on the swollen belly, and the almost-grown baby's kick gave it a voice that called from the womb with desperate urgency, “Remember me!”
“...Your daughter's life is drawing to a close. She is beyond help.” (Oh, why do I have to be the one to deliver this damning message?) “There is another life though, that we may yet save. The baby is strong enough to survive, but the mother is too weak to deliver. To give the baby a chance of life requires us to do a Caesarean Section. Since the mother is unconscious, we would need your consent for the operation.” (Could this be any more cruel if I tried? Is there no softening it?) “This must be your own decision. We realise the burden of raising the child will not fall on us but upon you, the family. We know times are hard and help is scarce, and you have other mouths to feed. Remember too that the baby may be infected with the disease that has ravaged the mother, and may become very sick. We will understand if you choose to leave things as they are, choose to let the baby's life end along with... to go no further.” The halting explanation died on the doctor's lips as suppressed rage at life's injustices squeezed the breath from her and knotted her throat.
Across the passage babies cried, nursed, slept again. Across the passage new mothers, united in that mysterious way that comes of sharing in the common bond of childbirth, laughed and chatted. In the office mother, aunt, sister sat benumbed by grief. The stark decision lay like a granite boulder in their breasts. They sat huddled together, as if in doing so the separate burdens they each carried might be persuaded to merge into one infinitely lighter load. And perhaps it was so, for though each was lost for a while in her own thoughts yet the common grief that bound them, the shared pain that lay in all their hearts, wove those thoughts together. When the decision came, it came to them all. They would take the orphan child. They would give it the chance of life. They would play their part and trust God to make provision for them day by day.
Even through her foggy sleep, she groaned and her limbs flailed under the white bed-sheet. Her vigilant sister's eyes brightened – would she yet confound them all? But she slept again, leaving her sister to smooth the sheets and wipe her face. The scene repeated itself, her moans became louder, her fingernails clawed at the mattress before she sank each time into oblivion.
The nurse on her night round felt the swollen belly and detected the unmistakable tightening of birth pangs. “Heaven be praised! The Lord has confirmed the decision and taken the timing out of our hands!”
The surgeon's hand lifted the gasping infant from the emaciated mother's body. Wide-eyed family members received the tiny form, and with it the enormous responsibility to care for a child who would never taste its mother's milk. The mother's spirit put off its worn out tent. Its job was ended. It had delivered a new life to its faltering beginning.
Each year around 500 000 women die during or shortly after a pregnancy. Less than 1% of these deaths occur in the developed world. The leading causes of maternal deaths are: haemorrhage, infection, unsafe abortions, eclampsia, and obstructed labour. In addition indirect causes such as malaria, anaemia, HIV/AIDS and cardiovascular disease are responsible for around 20% of all maternal deaths.
(Source: Wikipedia, “Maternal Death”)
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