The doula.

You wake up early on a Sunday. The sun is peeking through the curtain, promising a beautiful day full of hope and dreams. It is time to get up. Coffee and a smoke. Then you take out the crisp pink scrubs from the cupboard- ironed to perfection. The black wocks- still dusty from your last stroll to the Hillbrow BP for Halls. The usual struggle to find the black secret socks.

Off in the car- the familiar sounds from the playlist you made the night before. Driving in autopilot- as by this time you know each pothole and bump on your way there. Stop for cake at the Engen garage at Empire- caramel sponge as it is the midwives favourite and it is a Sunday and you know by now that you will be short staffed anyways. So, whatever it takes to get through the day.

Parking on Sundays are not a problem. You get out. Grab the heavy doula bag and mission up the stairs. Forgetting the cake in the car as usual- and going back to the car. In which pocket of these cursed scrubs did you put the car keys? Up the stairs again. Say hello to the security and the trees.

Inside you go- like a lamb into a slaughterhouse. You expect the unexpected.  Lots of women sitting around. Some with babies already and some on their way to become moms. The midwife is happy to see you- takes the cake and gives you a hug. You put your bag down.

Off into the unknown- the corridor seems dark today. Peeking into pre-labour. Five women sitting staring at each other. Silence. “How are you today?” The usual small talk and promise to come back quickly.

Off to the next room. You find a woman on the floor. In labour. Get her up unto the bed. Ask her if she had any water to drink. No. Go get a polystyrene cup and straw from your bag. Thank goodness you brought a banana for lunch today. Give it to the mom. By this time, she is crying and lost hope. You hold her. Tie her hair back and give her water. Rock her gently. You make promises of not leaving. You will stay. You walk her around. Let her sit on the chair while you massage her feet. “When did you get here?” you ask. “This morning at 4” is the answer you get. “I walked here”

Time moves. The shadows move over the walls. Checkup time. You get her up-  take the walk. “Get her to labour” the midwife said. Off to labour you go. You help her undress- folding up the little she has. No bag. Get her on the bed. Tell her to listen to the midwife. You hear yourself say “Only push with a contraction” “Hold your legs like this” “Put your chin on your chest”. She asks if it is going to hurt. And you don’t know. You have never been there before.

The baby is born breach. You can see the worry on the midwives faces. By now you have seen enough of this to know how it is going to end. But today is different as you made all kinds of promises to the universe on your way there. Today is a lucky day. Mom and baby is fine.

The last time you weren’t as lucky. You stood by watching life slip away. You went home and hugged your two kids. And cried in your tea while you sat in the bath. You had to wait for the kids to be asleep.

Your time is up. You take your bag- not heavy anymore as you used up your supplies. You stop at the garage to buy the usual Dunhill Fine cut menthol to reward yourself for a job well done. As you drive out of Hillbrow you say goodbye, watching souls pass you by. Back to your life in the suburbs 22.3km away.

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