A Bad Mother.
“Her situation is unfortunate! A stillbirth born at 8 or 9 months. Huh? was it 9?”
She asked turning to me. I mopped at her as though none of her words were comprehendible. She returned her attention to the attentive quietness of the room and continued:
“That’s her for you. She would not talk unless…she is so helpless, not even a companion to stay with her. Her husband comes during the visiting hours, sometimes with her little flowery son. I heard they came from a distant land to seek better opportunities. Well, I pity her, but she doesn’t pity herself. She has access to the best health care but her obstinacy and ignorance put her in this sorry case.” She declared as the women; mostly sick, sighed and braced themselves up for comments.
One of the elderly patients said.
“Doesn’t she understand our language?”
A slim woman who was recovering from post partum hemorrhage asked.
“Why not? She understands well but keeps mum all of the time. She talks only when answering a call or rejecting food.” She replied in her characteristic way of instigating a newer question with her replies.
Inquired another woman who had been discharged and was packing her bags.
“She has diabetes but eats nothing but rice. She would claim the soup is sour and leave the chicken untouched. Who does that? When you live with a people, you learn to eat their foods. Huuuuuh”
She concluded as the floor became open for discussion and opinions. It is unimaginable how sick/convalescing mothers could have such energy to debate and rattle. This was a ward of a hospital; not a bazaar.
Our ward; the biggest in the section spaciously contains ten beds. The room was usually assigned to new mothers who were about to be discharged or required little medical attention. Each patient was entitled to a company usually, a sister, a mother or another female relative. There was a plastic chair beside every patient’s bed and a sofa bed for each relative which could only be unfolded at nights. Curtains had been fixed to shield the bed sections from one another and ensure privacy. But the women were probably too healthy to let the curtains down. Add about ten relatives to the ten convalescing patients and the room was as busy as can be. They were all talking at the same time but none of that mattered to me.
In a minute or two, this woman had summarized my 34 weeks of woes. This woman; one of the few elderly cleaners in the section, had narrated the whole and total of my loss, my pain, my unfortunate situation to strangers. I was going to tell her how unfortunate I feel myself.
She had judged me and worst of all, she had told my story to total strangers who were only fellow patients at the post delivery section of a hospital.
There was the lump in my throat to deal with. And a body that had begun to vibrate. A heart pumping hard was making my existence difficult.
If she had said so much, how much more does she know? Six months into my pregnancy, I had encountered her a couple of times while I was on admission for gestational diabetes. She was a cleaner assigned to the post delivery and high risk mothers sections of the hospital. She had familiarized but I was too stressed to welcome her niceness. When I returned to the hospital to birth my child, she had been one of those numerous others who had greeted me with the annoying “you’re back again?”. Really, it had been an extended hospital admission.
Her nosiness had obviously been well done for her to have gathered so much information about me. I wondered how much more she knew. Is she also aware of my struggles with nausea? Does she know how hard I am trying to survive in a city in which my only relations are my husband and son? Is she aware of my silent prayers, hopes and fears after tests confirmed I had anemia. Does she understand what it takes to carry an active baby in the tummy only to birth him frigid and shrunk? What does she know about my tastes, and my battles with salivating which keeps my mouth shut all the time? If she doesn’t know, I would make her know.
“You! Please come.” I pleaded sounding surprisingly calm.
She made two steps closer to my bed as she replied:
‘Dear’ one of the many overused words in this city. Everyone is referred to as a dear; family members, taxi drivers, supermarket attendants and just about anyone, even one whose existence you can’t endure. I was in no mood to be ‘deared’.
I struggled to sit up as I pointed my index finger at her.
And I burst out:
“You’re bad…you! You’re bad…”
The words were too heavy as my breathing was becoming difficult. I had no energy to talk but was surprised as I wailed like the bereaved that I was. Some of the patients had rose from their beds and moved closer to us.
My wailings had attracted two nurses from the nurse station nearby. They were alarmed to find me in such a state.
“Happiness Dear! What happened?”
I continued crying from the very depth of my soul as fellow patients murmured SORRY, SORRY and more SORRY. She was sorry too but it was too late.
One of the nurses dashed out and returned with Marzieh; the Australian trained nurse who had become my favorite caregiver and confidant among the medical staffs.
“Dearest Happiness! What happened?”
She took my hands in hers and sat on the bed beside me.
In between wails, I heard me saying:
“This woman… this…woman she said that my obstinacy…obstinacy…nacy killed my child…she…she is bad.. She is a bad mother..she …”
And my strength failed me as everything blacked out.
My right knee felt like a box ready to shatter from constant ringing bells. Two weeks before now, vaginally birthing a 1.8 kilo stillbirth hadn’t been this painful. It hurts so much I wanted to scream but there was no energy left in me. I twitched my waist and moan as hot tears ran down my bony cheeks.
Mummy mi! Where are you? I was thinking.
The ringing pains was gradually spreading to every part of my body as I laid rigid on the bed.
A nurse was scribbling on the patient’s progress report as the doctor, almost silently said:
He was handed the stethoscope with which he examined my chest as he softly called my name; Happiness. I made no sound but looked him in the eye and he continued checking for my pulse rate.
For a moment, my mind was withdrawn from the excruciating pain on my leg as the doctor’s words reminded me of the incident that had resulted in my collapse. He said he was sorry for what had happened and assured me it wouldn’t repeat itself. He asked how I felt at the moment and I replied that I had pains allover my joints.
The doctor gave instructions that I be changed to a private ward and prepared for another sonography on the said leg. He made some jottings on a medical sheet which he handed over to Nurse Marzieh.
My new room was a cozy, warm enclave away from the peering eyes of nosy patients and disturbing movements of their relatives. I was just relishing the painless state of relaxation when my husband came in. I had text him that I had been moved to another ward; a private one. He had enquired why and I had been economical with the truth because I didn’t want him to return to the hospital few hours after he had left. He came anyway and I could hide the truth no more.
He was enraged! How dare anyone talk to his wife in such a manner? He had left me in good spirit despite the pain in my leg. He had hoped I would be discharged the following day since the examinations, ultrasound and lab tests proved everything was well with me. The Doctor had only advised that I get checked by a team of Medical Consultants who would be visiting the next day. How dare she make my condition worse? Does she know what we’ve been through and how we’ve been coping? He was going to ask the woman to repeat everything she had said. He was going to file a case against her.
I heard my husband talking loud at the nurse. They booked him for an immediate appointment with the Senior Resident doctor. The doctor assured him I was not only in good condition but was also in capable hands. He said he regretted the unbridled conduct of the woman and begged my husband to allow the hospital management take up the necessary disciplinary course.
The ringing pain resumed and continued into a greater part of the night when a nurse came and injected me. I slept peacefully for the first time in three days.
The Baby Died!
“Two week ago, she was delivered of a stillbirth at 34 weeks gestation. She was neither operated nor stitched up. Her glucose levels had normalized after delivery which confirms that her diabetic condition was gestational. Yesterday, she complained of ringing pains in her right knee and was subsequently admitted. The pains was put in check with mild painkillers as all examinations proved she was fine. Her condition had only worsened following the encounter with the said cleaner.”
The ob-gyn explained to the team which consisted of herself, the midwives who attended to me during labor, the Senior Resident Doctor, a Neurologist, and the Pathologist. They were having a sort of interdisciplinary consultation on my case and had decided to visit me for a joint observation. As the Neurologist handed the Ob-gyn a note, he looked at me in the eye asking:
“Madam Happiness! Are you sad?”
Sad? Is my condition sadness or misfortune? I couldn’t fathom but I replied:
“No. I am not, but I have pains allover my body. Please tell them to give me another suppository.”
“You will be given.”
He declared as he walked out of the room, followed closely by the others.
The day was a busy one. I was transferred from the post delivery section to the orthopedic ward on the 5th floor of the hospital. Here, The nurses were lavish with painkillers as they gave me at every request.
Ibuprofen was also given to me in larger doses and my hands were free from strips of drips.
My husband had arrived earlier and was directed to the section. He had brought me fish stew and beans, some fruits and my toothbrush and clean undies. The pencil drawing from my toddler son hadn’t been much artistic but had arose in me a hope fresher than the morning dew. An A4 paper had been halved and unpainted drawings of trees and flowers had been scribbled on one while the other was bearing the drawing of 3 big headed, earless people with legs like a long drawn letter L. I knew these people were me, his father and himself.
Before lunch, a nurse and two men from the lab had separately came to take blood samples for God-knows-what sake. My fingers had been pricked a couple of times to check my glucose level and I had been wheeled to the x ray dept. to reexamine my knee which had slightly become swollen.
At 4pm, I was wheeled to the ground floor and accompanied by my husband and a nurse to the ambulance which took us to the MRI center in the heart of the city. I was in a lively mood throughout the process but as we awaited the results, the ringing pains retraced its steps. To my pleasurable surprise, my husband handed me a dose of suppository. Probably one of the few extras I had collected and kept in my drawer.
The next day, my ob-gyn visited and made some revelations. Like its predecessors, the report was interpreted as normal except for evidences of muscle inflammations here and there. The medical team concluded that I was obviously suffering from neurological disorder which must have been triggered by the rigorous stress of my high risk pregnancy coupled with the reality of living in a city where there was not enough family support. Then, the baby died just before it could survive and that compounded my woes. And the woman’s words were enough to disrupt my emotions so that the pains filtered through every part of my body.
Today, to the glory of Almighty God; who burdens not a soul beyond that which it can bear, I am as healthy as the sun! Though my recovery; physical and emotional wise was a lengthy process, yet, I am a mother again. It is my sincere wish that people (especially fellow women) be more supportive and receptive of mothers; whether pregnant, laboring or nursing their children. We can never know how much they are going through. If we can’t help with a nice word or hug, it is more supportive to keep our opinions and judgements to ourselves.