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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Beginning and End (04/16/09)

TITLE: In charge of her body?
By Sharon Kane
04/19/09


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Her emaciated form seemed to exaggerate the swollen belly even as her stillness threw into sharp relief the independent wriggling of the life growing inside her. Other enlarged women arrived, delivered their longed-for offspring, and departed. Oblivious to them all she slept in the corner bed, pink-curtained against prying eyes, watched over by anxious kin and hovering angels. The tropical sun cast dancing shadows across her bed where a salty, damp halo soaked through her matted hair and into the thin standard-issue sheets. Her devoted sister wiped the beads from her face, willing her to sit up, to speak, to live. Diligent nurses adjusted the life-sustaining drip, marvelling at how long she lingered in the twilight zone. No one spoke of the day that was inevitably coming when the dry shell would be laid aside, setting the spirit free to return to the One who made it. Speaking of that day seemed too much like an invitation while maintaining the conspiracy of silence seemed to hold the faintest possibility of a different outcome. Yet as sunrise followed sunset and her sleep only deepened, even that pale glimmer of hope flickered.

Maybe it had to be a foreigner who broke the taboo. She laid a hand on the swollen belly, and the almost-grown baby's kick gave it a voice that called from the womb with desperate urgency, “Remember me!”

“...Your daughter's life is drawing to a close. She is beyond help.” (Oh, why do I have to be the one to deliver this damning message?) “There is another life though, that we may yet save. The baby is strong enough to survive, but the mother is too weak to deliver. To give the baby a chance of life requires us to do a Caesarean Section. Since the mother is unconscious, we would need your consent for the operation.” (Could this be any more cruel if I tried? Is there no softening it?) “This must be your own decision. We realise the burden of raising the child will not fall on us but upon you, the family. We know times are hard and help is scarce, and you have other mouths to feed. Remember too that the baby may be infected with the disease that has ravaged the mother, and may become very sick. We will understand if you choose to leave things as they are, choose to let the baby's life end along with... to go no further.” The halting explanation died on the doctor's lips as suppressed rage at life's injustices squeezed the breath from her and knotted her throat.

Across the passage babies cried, nursed, slept again. Across the passage new mothers, united in that mysterious way that comes of sharing in the common bond of childbirth, laughed and chatted. In the office mother, aunt, sister sat benumbed by grief. The stark decision lay like a granite boulder in their breasts. They sat huddled together, as if in doing so the separate burdens they each carried might be persuaded to merge into one infinitely lighter load. And perhaps it was so, for though each was lost for a while in her own thoughts yet the common grief that bound them, the shared pain that lay in all their hearts, wove those thoughts together. When the decision came, it came to them all. They would take the orphan child. They would give it the chance of life. They would play their part and trust God to make provision for them day by day.

Even through her foggy sleep, she groaned and her limbs flailed under the white bed-sheet. Her vigilant sister's eyes brightened – would she yet confound them all? But she slept again, leaving her sister to smooth the sheets and wipe her face. The scene repeated itself, her moans became louder, her fingernails clawed at the mattress before she sank each time into oblivion.

The nurse on her night round felt the swollen belly and detected the unmistakable tightening of birth pangs. “Heaven be praised! The Lord has confirmed the decision and taken the timing out of our hands!”

The surgeon's hand lifted the gasping infant from the emaciated mother's body. Wide-eyed family members received the tiny form, and with it the enormous responsibility to care for a child who would never taste its mother's milk. The mother's spirit put off its worn out tent. Its job was ended. It had delivered a new life to its faltering beginning.



Footnote
Each year around 500 000 women die during or shortly after a pregnancy. Less than 1% of these deaths occur in the developed world. The leading causes of maternal deaths are: haemorrhage, infection, unsafe abortions, eclampsia, and obstructed labour. In addition indirect causes such as malaria, anaemia, HIV/AIDS and cardiovascular disease are responsible for around 20% of all maternal deaths.

(Source: Wikipedia, “Maternal Death”)


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This article has been read 556 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 04/24/09
So visual, and so sad. Sobering statistics, and you brought them to life.
Lynda Schultz 04/24/09
This is a really good piece. The one suggestion I might have is to break up the length of your sentences a bit more. That would make the actual action of reading easier. As Joanne said, a sobering story that we need to hear.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/26/09
You brought a truly sad too-common situation vividly alive in your story.
Jan Ackerson 04/28/09
Well-written and heartbreaking.
Rachel Rudd04/28/09
I didn't realize that they were so many who face this. I can only imagine the agony that they face. I agree with the others that the long sentences made it difficult to read. I think that the last paragraph was really poignant and well-written. May God bless you where you are!
Karlene Jacobsen 04/28/09
I couldn't have done better myself. I can tell your emotions are wrapped up in this piece, and I am glad for it. I could feel the agony of the sisters' decision, and pleased with God's. Thankful He took it out of the mom's hands.
Carol Slider 04/29/09
This is a vivid and beautiful story, heartbreaking in its reality. I'm so glad the baby was saved!
Loren T. Lowery04/29/09
I would agree with the readers that visually this looks a bit daunting to read and needs to be broken up in smaller, cascading paragraphs congruent with your thoughts. Writings in this format appear text book material and I found myself rushing through the material.
However, after sensing what I was actually reading, I slowed down to take in the emotive power of some of your words and what they were conveying. There is no doubt you have talent and can tell a good story - it's evident here. So, my only critique is more of appearance than it is literary.
Janice Fitzpatrick06/04/09
Excellent writing-though very sad. I've read quite a few of your pieces and see that you are truly gifted. Well written and great presentation of statistics woven in an unforgettable story, with a native flair. I felt as if I was in the room too witnessing such a tragedy that happens all too many times. But praise the Lord for a new bundle of hope that emerged on this day. :0)