by ZI YING SU
Based on a true story. The following events, too terrifying to be repeated until today, occurred one night on the labour ward.
- You convince the midwives that you are worthy of entering their domain. Now they demand your utmost respect. You are prepared to eat humble pie for the rest of your shift. At least it keeps you full.
- There are no women giving birth. You worry about the ageing population and the economic ramifications this has for the country.
- You fall asleep standing at the midwives’ station. You are woken up by the screams of a woman in labour. You don’t know how many years have passed. The midwives don’t make eye contact with you.
- The midwives don’t know your name. You are grateful for this.
- All the rooms are full; there is a woman in each bed. There are women at the midwives’ station. There are women in the staff kitchen. There are women in the hallways, the corridors, in all the chairs. There are no chairs left. You wonder if all the chairs have been turned into women.
- There is a paper butterfly on the door of one of the rooms. You are told that there is a stillbirth behind the door.
- You hear wailing. You don’t know if it’s a woman or a baby. You are not prepared to find out.
- The midwives are like ancient gods to you. Vengeful, unforgiving, never sleeping, and they know exactly when new life springs forth. You bring your new sleepless life before them. They approve.
- You try to convince the woman not to name her child after the hospital. She does so anyway. You don’t know what to say.
- The baby refuses to cry. You are told to irritate it. You recite the Kreb’s cycle. The baby cries. You cry.
- The baby refuses to cry. You are told to irritate it. You reach out to grab her foot but she turns to look at you sternly. She has done this before and she is not amused. You don’t touch her foot.
- The doctor tells you to examine the placenta. It looks like steak to you. You would be hungry, but the pie you have been eating the whole shift keeps you full. You are grateful for the wisdom of the midwives.
- You leave to use the bathroom. All the women give birth simultaneously. They know.
- You refer to a c-section as the surgical removal of a foreign body. The midwives remove you from the ward.
- “Giving birth is a natural thing that my body knows how to do,” says the woman refusing a c-section. You wonder if you should remind her that dying is a natural thing most bodies know as well.
- The code blue alarm beeps. You run to its source. The room is empty. There is no patient. There is only fear.
- The woman and her family asks you how long before the baby comes. You don’t know. You are waiting too. The baby holds all the answers. The baby remains silent.
- The doctor buys you a coffee near the end of your shift. You accept gratefully. It does not taste like coffee. It tastes like 36 hours of sleeplessness. You comment that you are so tired, you might as well be dead. The midwives show no indication of having heard you. Maybe you are.