By Volunteer Olivia Herrington
Birth is miraculous. You know this before you see it, but seeing it makes you certain. This birth, the first I had ever observed, was by C-section because the baby was breech and because the mother had previously had a C-section—there was concern her tissue was therefore more likely to tear if she delivered vaginally. So the doctor took the baby out feet-first, and, with only her head left inside, Hosiana, one of the nurses, exclaimed, “She is crying inside the womb.” She was, indeed.
When she fully emerged, she was pink and smeared all over with cream-colored paste—the vernix caseosa—and beautiful. Hosiana told me that all babies are born pink, that any other hue is a concerning sign. This baby tried very hard to shut her eyes against Hosiana’s tetracycline ointment, which it is government-required protocol to squeeze into all newborns’ eyes. But her eyes were beautiful, too, a very deep brown.
The next birth was to a young woman who cried out to Jesus as the agony of labor overcame her. Her sister-in-law left the room and wept for the woman’s pain. She had lost her first baby, so terror, if this was what she felt, would have been entirely understandable. From the moment her daughter became visible, delivery was smooth, instantaneous—faster than I could crack open the tiny vial of oxytocin and draw up the liquid with a syringe.
The baby’s head was large and elongated, and her emergence into the world was exhilarating. Her color was more purple than the first but not unusual enough to alarm anyone. She opened her eyes for the first time in my arms. “Mrembo sana,” I murmured, holding her warm body, “very beautiful.”
“Mrembo sana,” Lydia, another nurse, agreed, “kama wewe—like you.” I laughed. Outside, I congratulated the new mother’s own mother. She, in turn, congratulated me.