I had over an hour to drive and think about the woman that I was on my way to support. I knew nothing about her except her name, that this was her 3rd child, and that I needed to be there for her, even if she didn’t know me. I walked in to the room at 7:00 p.m.. T he midwife was sitting on the end of the bed, the nurse was holding one of the inmate’s legs, and the deputy was standing on the other side of the room. They all turned to look at me…I introduced myself to everyone and was told to grab her other leg. I dropped my bag and went to her. I looked her in the eye and told her my name and that I was there for her.
The next 10 minutes were very intense. The inmate was in so much pain, her baby was crowning, and she was scared. I did my best to reassure her that everything was going to be okay, that she was doing great and would have her baby soon. He was born at 7:22 p.m. He was immediately placed on her chest and they both began to cry.
After everything calmed down a bit I told her again who I was and why I was there, and she thanked me. I asked her his name and she began to cry again. “We haven’t even decided yet. I didn’t think he was coming until February…I didn’t want to have him like this, in here (jail). My boyfriend has always been there when our babies came…” I said to her that even though I was not her family I was there for her. We talked more and admired her baby boy. He weighed 6 pounds 3 ounces, had a head full of dark hair, and the sweetest little lips I had ever seen. She shared with me that he looked like his big brothers, and talked about how much they were going to love him, how surprised his father was going to be when he got the call about his birth. She asked me to go to the nursery with him when the nurse took him for his bath and after making sure that she was okay I did just that. I took pictures of everything that a mother would want pictures of so that she would have them to remember him until she could see him again.
When we got back to the room she held him again. We talked more about her family and the names that they had talked about for him. She knew that this was a decision that she had to make herself. After about an hour the nurse came in. She explained to the inmate that he baby‘s blood work was showing signs of infection and that he would need to be on antibiotics for 7 days, and that he needed to go to the NICU right then to get started on the medicine. The mom asked the nurse when she would see him again and the nurse said that she could go to the NICU in the morning to see him. I looked at the deputy who shook her head and said that she didn’t think that would be possible. The inmate began to panic realizing that she may not get to see her baby again before she got sent back to jail. She was kissing him and I was taking pictures…the nurse kept saying that she needed to take the baby. We kept trying to explain to her that she may not get to see her baby again for a long time and she seemed to not understand. We made those few minutes last as long as we could. After one last tearful kiss the nurse took him. The mother cried, and I did everything I could to not cry right along with her. After getting her settled for the night I told her that I would be back the next day to see her. I also told her that although I couldn’t promise anything, I was going to do everything that I could to make sure that she would see her baby again before she left the hospital. We prayed together, for her baby, for her family, for her strength to get through this.
First thing the next morning I called Janice. I explained to her what had happened and that we needed to fix it, that she needed to see her baby again. I was on my way back to the hospital and Janice told me that she would call the jail and call me back as soon as she knew something. I got the call as I was driving…she was going to get to see her baby. I was so thankful for everyone involved in making this happen.
When I got to the hospital I asked her how she was, how her night went. She was sore but managed to get some rest. I asked her if she had seen her baby and she said no. I asked her if she was going to and she didn’t know. I then looked at the deputy, not the same one from the night before, and asked her if she knew anything about this? “I was waiting for you to get here” she replied. I then told the inmate that she was going to get to see her baby again. This was the first time that I saw her smile. She thanked me again for being there and for helping make this happen. I asked when she wanted to go and she said that she was in a lot of pain and could we go after she got her pain medicine and ate lunch. I said that we could do whatever she wanted. I asked her what she would like for lunch and she said “Whatever you want…” I told her no, that is was about you and not me. She smiled and said McDonalds.
When I returned with our food, we sat and ate lunch together, watched TV, and talked. She was finally relaxed and we had a great conversation about her family, her pets, and about the baby. I asked her if she had decided on a name and she had. I told her that I thought it fit him perfectly. She told me that CPI (Child Protection Investigation) had come and was going to call her boyfriend to tell him about the baby. We talked about what his reaction probably was to this joyous, but surprising news! I just let her talk about whatever came to her mind so that she knew someone cared about her. It was as if we had known each other before yesterday….before I walked into one of the most intimate experiences of her life.
We then headed to the NICU. I pushed her in a wheelchair for what seemed like forever. When we got to the NICU the nurse took us to her baby and said that the Doctor would be over to talk to her shortly. He was in an incubator, wires and IV’s coming from every limb. He was asleep. She just sat and stared at him for the longest time. I asked her what she was thinking? “Just how perfect he is”. The Doctor came over and explained what everything was for. She then went on to say that he had signs of spinal meningitis in his blood work and that she wanted to do a spinal tap on him. As the inmate was signing the consent she had just one question…”Will it hurt him?” The Doctor assured her that he would not feel a thing and would not remember. This eased her mind.
I asked if she could hold him and the Doctor said she didn’t see why not. So the nurse took him out of the incubator, swaddled him as best she could, and gave him to her. She smiled again. The smiles were coming more often now. She asked me to take more pictures, one of his hair and one of his perfect little face. I did whatever she asked. We sat for hours in the NICU. She was able to feed him and burp him. She said that she didn’t remember her other boys being this small and fragile. She asked if I wanted to hold him again. Of course I wanted to, but I told her no…it was important for her to hold him now.
It was time to go. The Doctor was getting ready to do his spinal tap. The nurse said that his next feeding would be at 5:30 and she could come back then if she would like. I said to the deputy that this should be okay, right? She said that she wasn’t sure and would have to talk to her Lieutenant. Hearing this, the inmate knew this time that this might be her last goodbye. She held her baby tight, kissed him, told him that she loved him, kissed him some more.
We walked back to her room in silence. When we got there I told her that it was time for me to go. I reminded the deputy about the 5:30 feeding, hoping that she would try to make it happen. We prayed together again, for the same things as before, and this time for the health of her baby. She then asked me the question that I always hate to hear. “Will you come back again?” I told her that she would be going back to jail tomorrow and that they never know what time so it is hard for me to plan on coming again. I told her that I would try to call to check on her baby boy’s test results. I promised her that if she was still in jail next Friday I would see her. And I promised that I would get her pictures developed and mailed to her as soon as possible. I said, again, that I would talk to her soon, and I hugged her. She cried and thanked me yet again, for everything.
I left then, always the hardest part of the job, wishing I could stay there with her until she had to go back to jail. I waited for the elevator with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart, praying silent prayers for this woman, whose name I didn’t even know 24 hours ago, and her precious little angel.