I thought it was just a typical Monday until I got a call from Janice around noon. She asked me to make a postpartum visit to an inmate who had given birth the day before. Part of me wanted to make my life easy and just say no, but I knew that wasn't really what I was about to do.
So, I agreed and got the details. I headed out later that afternoon, ready for whatever lay before me. I knew this was definitely one of those "Oh Lord, what did I get myself into this time?" kind of experiences.
When I arrived at the hospital room, I was greeted by a friendly, young face, and the aroma of lasagna. I soaked it in quickly, decided right then and there that any preconceived notions I had were most likely incorrect, and chose to be in the moment and accept whatever unfolded before me as a chance to "be the light".
Enough about me...there I sat with a young woman, who had given birth quickly and easily the day before. It was immediately apparent that she felt a strong bond for her tiny, new son. She shared a few details of her labor and birth, then went into greater detail about her plans for getting out of jail and being at home with her son. She alternated between beaming with pride about how beautiful and strong he was, and tearful sobbing about the guilt she felt for being a bad mother and causing pain and poor circumstances for her baby.
The easy road here was for me to listen to that little judgmental voice in my head saying "of course it's your fault, you messed up". But, instead, I just continued to listen and tried to put myself in her shoes. As her story unfolded, it became easy to see that this woman was just as much a victim in life as her newborn son was now. Her own family, while growing up, was replete with substance abuse, dishonesty, abuse, poverty, and general "poor choices". That's what she knows; that's her comfort zone. I choose to hold steadfastly to the idea that, with loving guidance, she can rise above it and make a better life for herself and her child. Yet, I also know the statistics, so I will continue to hope that this miraculous baby will know unconditional love and safety, no matter how or where that has to occur.
After some unforeseen delays, I accompanied Mama to the NICU to see her baby (her baby was addicted to drugs). She held him so tenderly and cried precious tears all over him, as she had waited many hours for this opportunity. She talked to him sweetly, admired his delicate features, rocked him, and cried some more. Tomorrow, she would be returning to jail, and he would be remaining in the NICU, alone. She thanked me about a hundred times for taking the time to spend with her and told me how much she appreciated all the support she had received from For the Love of Birth. In that moment, as a mother and a human being, her circumstances didn't matter. She was a mother, absorbing the warmth and scent of her newborn baby, doing it the best she could, possibly for the last time. I was grateful for the opportunity to share that moment with her.