Failing to connect with locals overseas
Then I moved to East Timor and things changed
- What, your wife is pregnant? (East Timorese men have a way of keeping important information like this on the low down.)
- If your wife is in labour, why the hell are you here at work?
Before I knew it, another female colleague and the new father herded me into a taxi, we were all going to the Dili National Hospital to visit the baby! I was assured that even though I hadn’t met the mother, I would not be imposing. When we arrived, a call was made and a family member met us out the front of maternity ward. We went straight in with the new father scampering in behind us. I was told that men aren’t usually allowed in to the maternity ward because birthing is “women’s business”.
Both my parents are nurses so gore and blood has never made me sick, but I’ve never been to a maternity ward before, let alone a maternity ward in a developing country. We entered to women wailing. Gut wrenching screams of agony. We found the new mother; she was rolling around on a bed covered in bright red blood, clearly still in pain. Her Aunty was trying to make the baby breastfeed. The other women were patting the mother’s head but they seemed unconcerned, they’d obviously done this plenty of times before. Like in a lot of developing countries, the patients well-being (cleaning, feeding) is looked after by the family and not by the hospital staff. I knew this, but it was still surprising to see.
I looked around, everyone, except the new mother, was in high spirits. I started to sweat, really sweat. The screaming continued. My breathing got quicker and I started to feel dizzy. I couldn’t believe it, here I was looking at someone who had just gone through a grueling labour and I was about to faint. Are you kidding me? I’d never fainted before…. Air, air someone give me some air, my head screamed. I got myself quickly outside and sat on the cement step, pouring water all over my face and neck. It wasn’t long until the father joined me. We sat there for a while, not really talking about too much. He was happy, but he thought it would be a boy and despite having been told by the doctors that they were having a girl, he still thought it would be a boy. I couldn’t believe that I was with him the first time he laid eyes on his baby. We bought some fizzy drinks and more water and then headed back to work, it was like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. Just another day in Timor.