Day 14 – Homecoming
And so at the end of the day, 14 days after I arrived scared, worried, and wondering what the near future had to offer, my time here in Karachi, Pakistan has drawn to a close. I am awaiting my transport to the airport; the much loved and trusted Muna will take me back to the place where we first met. It’s late at night and Sofia is asleep with her two babies. The beautiful new baby girl is to be named Lily May.
“She didn’t stop until she proved all of those, and more, that she could and would have her right of passage.”
Am I please to be going home? Oh yes, for sure I am excited and relieved that the day has finally come. I can’t wait to snuggle up with Sean and see the rest of my family. But am I glad I came, did I have a good time? Yes, I did. Am I upset to be leaving this wonderful family, this amazing contradictory country? Yes, I truly am. I met a wonderful, strong woman and her mother who showed me how hospitality should be done. I have met so many strong women when it comes to childbirth over my years as a midwife, so many who have fought for what they want in a country where normality and midwifery is the norm. But when you have a whole family, a whole society, and what appears to be a whole medical establishment to fight, most women would have given up. Not Sofia, the pocket rocket of just 21years old. She didn’t stop until she proved all of those, and more, that she could and would have her right of passage.
She took Lily May outside today to show her off to the staff and I could feel the pride in what she had achieved just oozing out of her. With her newborn baby girl in the sling and little Ebo on her hip I knew the love this little family had would see them through life’s tough times.
Dr Azra came by today. She had said she would help Sofia with obtaining a birth certificate, and once more we discussed what is so wrong with childbirth practices. She asked if I would come and speak to the teachers who teach the local lay midwives. Of course I would love to do something like this, but as I explained the problems is I have a mortgage to pay in the UK. Without hesitation she replied that she could put some sort of package together so I would be paid! Wow! I will certainly be keeping in touch with Dr Azra.
“It was as if she had been in on the full home birth plan anyway.”
We discussed Sofia’s homebirth, and although we had never been fully open about the homebirth being an absolute plan and instead had focused on “staying at home as long as possible”, our discussion appeared not to acknowledge that. It was as if she had been in on the full home birth plan anyway. She told us that many of her colleagues had given her a lot of flak for supporting Sofia’s birth plan (the one where Sofia had written “I do not consent to bla bla bla” all the standard interventions for a VBAC) so I say “Good on you Dr Azra.” I wish we had more doctors like her, and even more midwives, standing up for women’s’ informed choices worldwide.
We took some great photos of us all and we certainly look the A team in them, or maybe that should be the P (Pakistani) team. Right to the bitter end Muna and Sofia made sure I was neither bored or lonely and today they wanted to make sure I had missed nothing. So after a spot of lunch brought to us by the sweetest, ever-present maids; Rumi and Sunia, it was time for Muna to take me on our last excursion. We were off downtown to the market. On the way I was quite surprised to see lots of street sellers with huge hordes of valentines balloons! Of all the western cultures to hit the 3rd world, and one is red heart helium balloons on February 14th. As I knew Sofia would not be getting a Valentine this year I asked Sharif to pull over so I could buy her one. It was 50 Rupees (38 pence).
We arrived at the market, which was indoor, and housed many stalls filled floor to ceiling with fabrics. An amazing and abundant display of brocades and silks, cottons and chiffons. Each stall was like a mini theatre with stall keepers literally elevated on a stage displaying their wares to an audience of excited women sat on chairs facing them. I would have love to have purchased loads of the wonderful fabrics but using a needle is not one of my better skills!
After our outing I had to do the rounds of saying goodbye to people, and the first was Sofia’s grandmother (the baby who was born in the Caul). At 88 she is frail but she is sound of mind and has a lovely heart. She gave me a gift of a beautiful 2 tone soft cashmere pashmina, and it is not one of the cheap imitations either! The hug I gave her was genuine with affection and I was sad to think I would never see her again.
Back home Sofia gave me the glad news that her baby had finally had her 1st meconium poo which we had all been waiting for. I had already done her first day examination to check her hips, eyes and heart, so Sofia had no need to rush off to see a paediatrician any time soon. With all boxes ticked I was now content to go. The time had almost come. Just one last thing to do…
I wanted to see where this huge amount of food went that the family chef cooked every week. So not only was the boot loaded with the latest hot pot, but I contributed a huge amount of oranges for the grand price of £3 and jumped into the car.
Muna, as always, at my side, I was glad of her company when we arrived at the orphanage to deliver the food because the area felt anything but safe. Although we had two male staff members with us, Sharif and the chef, it still felt sinister when we stopped in a dark street hardly bigger than an alleyway and several males were hanging around. Then orphanage was really two apartment blocks; one for girls and one for boys; and although it was painted in bright colours it was pretty bare except for sofas and beds. There were no toys, books or games, and no TV from what I could see, but the kids were healthy and very happy to see us. Muna asked them about their backgrounds, and many still had at least one parent, but the common problem was that the parents could not feed them. One brother and sister had a mother who had re-married and there was not the choice to keep the kids. The ages ranged from 3 to 17 and all the kids went to school. Two of the older girls were even planning high school and university educations. This particular orphanage was set up by an English woman, and is run purely on donations from the communities.
Back home and dinner was with the whole family, including Azaan’s mother and aunt. It was probably the only meal I didn’t enjoy for the whole time and that was because it was a take away! All the lovely home cooking has spoilt me! Azaan presented me with another beautiful local fabric made wrap and said it was tradition to give such a gift to the person who had helped deliver your child. I was touched and honoured to receive such gratitude.
And now here I am and it’s over. My case is packed, the room is bare and all that is ahead of me is a long night’s journey…
I am coming home!