The woman is led into the hospital’s birthing room by an armed guard. Another guard, a male, takes up his post outside the door.
The woman is dressed in a green prison issue jumpsuit that marks her as an “illegal alien.” Her handcuffs rest on her considerable belly, made large by the child waiting within to be born.
The guard, another woman, refuses. “My orders are to keep her restrained.”
The midwife, a woman short in stature but bearing a powerful presence, stares the guard down. “I give the orders in here. Remove the handcuffs. Now.”
The guard unlocks the shackles, but then stands against the wall. The right to privacy in this most intimate of all things human is refused this prisoner.
Moments later, amidst tears and pain and blood, the new mother has released the baby from the safety of her womb.
After a bit, a nurse comes into the room. She has been told by the male guard to remove the baby from the mother’s arms and to take the baby to the nursery. The midwife intervenes, again, insisting that mother and child spend these first moments of this new life together.
These first moments past quickly; the mother and child bond, and then, the baby is taken from the mother, given to an aunt, and they are both deported.
The mother is returned to the immigration detention center, where her milk will dry up, although perhaps not her tears.
The midwife tells us this story over dessert. She’s made flan. It is an extraordinary dish, as textured and substantial as this woman’s outrage.
There are six of us sitting around the table. We drink coffee and eat our flan. We are silent.
The woman recounting this tale is a certified nurse midwife, practicing in the two largest hospitals in the region. She has delivered thousands of children, some born into wealth, and others, into poverty. She seemed to believe that there was nothing that she had not seen. Until this.
“We can do better than this,” someone remarks, referring to the way that our nation has decided to deal with immigrants and prisoners—and new born babies.
The midwife nods, sips her coffee and remains silent. Perhaps she thinks of other ways that she can make her workplace an even better sanctuary. Removing chains, is of course, an obvious beginning.