… and with these our hells and our heavens, so few inches apart…
I’ve always loved that line from Rich Mullins (my favorite Christian artist), probably because I’ve seen it play out time and time again both in my life as well as others. This morning was a great example of that. How within a matter of minutes I witnessed heaven and hell: a woman’s complete joy, another’s total anguish, and yet another’s excitement and anticipation.
I had just started my Sunday morning run on a beautiful Ethiopian morning. Clean cool air, the sun rising, birds singing, and relatively empty roads. My phone rang with my midwife Biruk telling me that we had a mother with twins who had just arrived and she was completely dilated. He thought that she was about 5 weeks early, and the first baby was head first but the second was sideways. We try to deliver all of our twins in the operating room in case of an emergency and I told him to transfer her there and I would meet them. I quickly ran back home, threw my scrubs on, and headed to the OR.
Twin deliveries have always been one of my favorite things about my job, but they tend to be a bit chaotic. The anticipation of 2 babies just gets everybody a little more on edge. We could see that the woman’s bag of water was about to break and I wanted to quickly ultrasound her before things started. When I put the scanner on her abdomen I could not appreciate that the first baby was head first as Biruk had said and I questioned him about this. Two seconds later her water broke, followed immediately by a healthy 5.5 # baby boy literally flying out of the birth canal – head first. “Well – I guess that answers that question,” I told Biruk with a hint of sarcasm.
The second twin is usually the one that causes the most angst, worry, and trepidation. A lot of bad things can happen. We quickly ultrasounded the baby and saw that it was still sideways, but now the heartbeat was dangerously low. I tried to find the feet or head with her water still intact but I could not – so I prayed as I broke her water and hoped that I could find something to pull down and quickly deliver. The only thing I could find was a limb and I hoped that it was a leg and not an arm, because an arm would NOT be good. Praise God it was a leg- and we found the other leg- and were able to help her deliver the baby breech and all was well – two beautiful healthy 5.5# baby boys.
The mother was crying with joy, and as I exited the operating room I was met by her husband and sister – all of whom were so happy to hear the good news. I exited the OR area with a smile on my face as I celebrated with them as well.
But the next face that I saw was not smiling. She was wailing loudly. She was grabbing her head and shaking. Her husband was holding her and trying to comfort her. But he could not. Nobody could. Her child had just died. As she was surrounded by more and more family the grief and anguish continued. As I continued to walk I was struck by how just a few inches apart, just a few minutes apart – one woman was experiencing such joy and happiness while another was experiencing the worst pain and grief. Literally inches apart. Literally minutes apart.
I went home and changed back into my running clothes, wanting to finish the run that I had started. These thoughts were still kind of swirling in my head as I started out. About a mile into my run I saw some bright colors, something unusual for the middle of town on Sunday morning. As I got closer I realized it was women in brightly colored dresses from a wedding party – and then I saw the couple posing for their wedding photos. The wedding will happen later today. Beautiful young people starting a new and happy chapter in their lives – again just a few inches and minutes apart from two other women experiencing their own heaven and hell.
The closeness of heaven and hell here is more evident to me than when I was back in the States. But I know it’s there too. It’s everywhere. We just need to open our eyes to see it. It just happens to be a little more obvious here.
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; my the name of the Lord be praised.