Chickens and Eggs or Giving Birth in The Middle of Haiti


When I had my daughter another woman was birthing death
The hospital’s morgue must have been waiting
I went first putting my knees against the edges of east and west
The midwife exclaimed this baby is “so high”
I wanted to get high
But there was apparently no time
So I counted chickens in the hospital courtyard instead
One by one head for head
Treading lightly in a circle so as not to awaken
Misery
They would occasionally stop and stare back at me
After an eternity of “no time at all” as the midwife called it
A doctor came
I am sure the chickens mistook him for their rooster
Chest out pressed with a hairline that seemed to point forward like a beak
He proclaimed “ah it is time”
I fainted as the chickens ran to the window to see what their guy was up to
When I came to we were pushing
Or pulling
I can’t be sure which
I was sure that the Artibonite River had changed course and flowed directly beneath me
My body undulating at its command
Twisting and turning in an inescapable rhythm
The chickens went off to do their shopping but left a crew
Of nurses and other hospital staff in the hallway
They were instructed to wait for the baby
My daughter came ashore and a roar of cheering ensued
The midwife rolled her eyes at the doctor as he handed her the baby
She was busy tending to me
And just as we were all filling with the glee
Of my daughter’s arrival
A desperate and alarming “NO” slipped from the other side of the courtyard
It sauntered its way to the window and shattered the opening with its somber wave
Next a woman was rolled in on a tiny cart not quite recent enough to be a gurney
My eyes tried to escape my skull to go comfort her
They were trapped
My voice hurried to the door of my throat to liberate her
It could not find the latch
My daughter did
Find the latch
I looked down at her
She drank me in with her eyes and her belly
And reached her tiny hand in the air as if she was grasping for hope
As if she could pull it from the sky and toss it across our room to the other mother
She worked so hard on this that she exhausted herself and had to nap
She periodically sipped as if she were fighting to wake up
But sleep claimed her
In a shade less navy than the way it claimed the child in the other bed
My roommate birthed death
She cried and begged
But the baby across the room did not live
And we had offered all the pushes we had to give
I folded my daughter into my chest and sniffed her steaming head
I watched night fall over the courtyard and listened as the new mother sang the chickens to bed
I still pray for her each year on our babies’ birthdays
I still think of her profound courage and womanly ways