Balance Everything is a balancing act: Riding a bicycle, weighing onions at the market, carrying water containers on your head, health, life and death. On the last day of 2009, I witnessed the balance between life and death.. A laboring woman was on a birthing table. Two midwives. No family, no support, no sounds.  She worked quietly through each contraction.  The only sign of discomfort was an occasional grimace.  I watched her face and her belly closely in order to see when she was having a contraction.  The fetus was ready to come out, but was in breech position. Bum first.  This can sometimes cause difficult and potentially dangerous labor.  But the midwives remained calm and confident.  It all happened quickly. First the bum, then the legs, arms, shoulders and lastly the head.  How did the woman make it look so easy? The midwife broke a sweat helping baby out...  and yet the woman remained quiet. Baby got a quick chest massage and then took his first breath of air and first big scream. Another little miracle.  We were all smiling, happy to see a healthy little boy, 5 fingers on each hand, 5 toes on each foot and good set of lungs.  Welcome to the real world little guy! I looked over at the mama, she did not appear to be interested in the newborn, this was baby number 10 for her. Another mouth to feed. We weighed him, cleaned him and wrapped him  in a blanket, then left him on another table, alone.  It broke my heart to see this tiny perfect little baby wrapped up in a blanket, lying alone on a sterile table.  I picked him up and held him, until mama was ready to move to the room with her baby. A new life. Today it happened quickly, with little fuss. A couple hours later, on that same last day of 2009.  I went into the emergency room.  On the stretcher there was a little one year old girl. A tiny oxygen mask strapped to her face. A drain poking out of her swollen belly to drain the accumulated excess fluid.  An intravenous line, taped to her tiny arms.  A mother in tears was at her side.  The little girl was struggling to breathe, her belly so swollen that it made it hard for her lungs to work effectively.  She was very sick.  I went into the room.  I listened to the little heart struggling to beat effectively.  I stayed.  I sat down with the mama.  We held the little girls hands as we watched her struggle for each breath.  It was heart breaking, but there was nothing else we could do for her.  Slowly her breathing became less frequent and soon she slipped away into another world. The room erupted with cries, chest thumping, shrieks and wailing.  Heart wrenching sounds of grief.  I sat there stunned, a life just slipped away while I was holding her tiny hand. How did it happen so quickly?  How was there was there nothing more that I could do?   I know that death is part of life, but when a life is short it seems so unfair.  The balance between life and death is delicate, especially here. Everything is a balancing act,  eating, sleeping, laughing, crying, as well as life and death.  I feel fortunate to have been able to witness one of life's more delicate balancing acts.

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