She had been in labor for three days. Baby had been quite large . . . and didn't survive. Her legs were marked by the streams of dripping urine that she could no longer regulate; now they were numb and she was unable to walk.
I was consulted to see if there was anything I could do to help.
As I approached her bed, Mama was laying on her right side, eyes closed, but not asleep. Her mother, lying on a mat protruding from under her bed, rolled over first and stood upon seeing me approach.
She spoke to her daughter, announcing my arrival. Mama opened her eyes and gazed at me without moving; they were quiet and empty, saying nothing to me.
With one swoop, Mama sat at the edge of the bed, staring blankly ahead.
'I'm Déborah. The doctor told me that you cannot walk. I'm here to see if I can help,' I tried to say in my very broken Hausa.
She swung her head to look at me.
Her eyes remained hollow as we looked at one another. I prayed that mine would not fill with tears in front of her.
I wanted to extend my condolences, but the only word I knew was 'sannu' ('sorry'). I hoped my eyes would convey what my tongue could not.
I tested the muscles of her legs and decided to give standing a try.
Without warning, she hopped down from the high bed, landing on wobbly legs. I reached out to help provide some stability, but she didn't welcome the assistance. She spread her feet wide apart in an attempt to steady herself; she loosened her wrap around zunni, tugged it tight around her waist and retucked it into place.
Her skirt seemed to be the only thing secure about her.
Like a new-born giraffe, she stumbled through her first steps. I offered my right hand, this time she accepted.
I moved in close next to her and secured my left hand around her waist in order to facilitate weight-shifting. We rocked back-and-forth down the aisle of brand-new nursing mothers. Mama stared straight ahead.
My heart pricked with each glimpse of fresh-baby skin peaking out from brightly patterned fabrics atop the beds we passed: soft cheeks, tiny fingers, miniature noses. I wondered if with each thudding step we took Mama's heart cracked a little more.
We made it back to her bed and I promised to return with a pair of crutches.
I was reluctant to give them to her . . . after all, she was supposed to show up at home with a bouncy baby, not cold, dead, wooden crutches. My heart kept telling my head it was a sick consolation prize.
But Mama was anxious to check out of her nightmare . . . there was work waiting at home, and other children to think about. She would leave her dead baby behind and continue her life, as if nothing had happened.
After presenting her with the crutches and taking them for a spin around the room, Mama climbed back on top of her bed. The dry skin of her legs accentuated the path left by her leaking urine: early evidence of a coming fistula.
I said my goodbyes and promised to check on her the next day. Walking away, I couldn't help but think of Jesus . . . if He had been her Occupational Therapist . . . what He would have said or done to touch the hurt of this Mama's broken heart. I don't know that He would have brought baby back to life, but I do believe He would have healed her leaking vagina . . . and He would have told her 'Blessed are you in your mourning, for you will be comforted' . . . and He would have promised to 'bind up' her wounded heart. I know, because when He was on earth, that is what He did.
Jesus has a soft spot for the broken and hurting. He is in the business of healing . . . broken bodies and broken hearts. He makes a practice of repairing and redeeming. He came to give life and to give it abundantly. He is the ultimate facilitator of life.
And that is why I work in Galmi . . . because Jesus is at work in Galmi.