“Vicky, would you please call my boyfriend and tell him he has a son?” 17-year old Tayeesha asks.
Tayeesha and I had plenty of time to talk during her early labor. “My mother died of AIDS when I was seven. Then I went into foster care, but my foster mom kicked me out last year. I moved in with an aunt, and that’s how I met Darren. Two months ago, he got caught trying to steal a car, now he’s in Sing Sing. I don’t know when he’s getting out.”
I am with Tayeesha because I am a volunteer doula, a woman who provides physical and emotional comfort to laboring women. I trained to be a doula because childbirth has always felt to me like the ultimate affirmation of life, and although I can’t know what any baby’s life will be like, I believe in one thing absolutely. I believe that every child should arrive in this world in an atmosphere of hope and love. It is one thing I as a doula can strive for, and I do my best to make sure it happens.
Like most of my clients, Tayeesha was born poor and grew up undereducated and needy. Her own mother had a childhood like Tayeesha’s and believed a baby could make up for a life of pain. But somewhere along the way, the grueling details of caring for a child proved to be too much, and Tayeesha’s mother abandoned those dreams and turned to drugs.
The present intrudes as Tayeesha groans. The midwife checks her.
“You’re fully dilated, Tayeesha. You’re ready to push your baby into the world.” Tayeesha locks her eyes on mine and as the midwife counts to ten, she draws in the deep breaths we practiced earlier and bears down with all her might. For the next 30 minutes, our eyes remain fastened on each other as she demonstrates why what she is doing is called labor.
“Look at me, Tayeesha, I can see your baby’s hair,” I say. With two strong pushes, the head emerges, two more and a slippery little body shoots out. The midwife quickly suctions the baby’s nose and mouth, and then he takes his first breath and lets out a wail. As always, that first cry sounds beautiful to me. For this brief period, it is all the affirmation I need.
Tayeesha manages a grin. “Thank you, Vicky. I don’t know what I would have done without you,” she says.
“Tayeesha, being with you was a gift,” I reply. Both of us have tears in our eyes. I hear another wail and for a moment I feel jubilant because that cry is so obviously a herald call that announces with pure and unambiguous clarity, “Here I am world. Make room for me!”
“Okay, little guy,” I say to myself. “Go to town!” And I wrap Tayeesha and her newborn son in a big hug.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.