Exhausted, we waited in a large room with about 30 beds, where all the women go to recuperate. We held and kissed and made a fuss over the baby. She was beautiful and healthy, but I couldn't help but feel sad for the circumstances in which she was just brought into the world. I also couldn't help but think of the environment in which she'll be raised. Like most of the impoverished rural women, she will likely grow up without a proper education, will lack food and water and will most likely be married off young in exchange for cows…and that's if she's lucky. The odds were better that she'd be raped, become one of many wives, and most likely contract AIDS, assuming she wasn't already born with it. It was hard to feel excited for this child knowing that her life would prove to be hard.

Miriam, unwashed, but changed into her nicest dress, limped in and lay down with her baby. She stroked her head gently and told us her name was to be "Miriam," just like her own. It made me wonder if this child was the product of a rape, because it is customary for the father to name the child and with Miriam naming her herself, and no mother-in-law present, this suggested that no father was available. I began to choke up with this realization and felt compelled to reach over and touched Miriam on her cheek and said "Thank you, you have given me the greatest gift in my life." I knew her English was limited, but I needed to express my gratitude for being allowed to witness and be a part of the deepest intimacy of her young lifetime. Surprisingly, she smiled, touched her heart with one hand and said, "You are my friend." And for the first time that day, I began to cry.

Before we left, I kissed Miriam and the baby and gave her some money, certainly not much by our standards, but perhaps an entire year's salary to her. I put it in her hand and squeezed, and then touched the baby's head and said "Please, an education, okay? You understand?" "Yes," Miriam said and smiled, still looking down at her daughter, "She will go to school."

Miriam's birth was one of the most remarkable experiences in my life. She was beautiful, like a wild animal, and with loving guidance and encouragement allowed her body to do what it was meant to instinctively. I can't imagine going through that process without the love and support of a partner, parent or friend. It breaks my heart to know that women have to go through an experience as intense as labor and birth in conditions that are unsafe, unsanitary and unsacred, when it is, indeed, the most holy of moments and should be honored as such.

After witnessing this birth, this yoga, I am even more excited that we are building a center where women will be supported in the process of birthing. They will be nurtured and guided so that the experience can be what it is, a miracle and a blessing and a sacred expression of God. No woman should ever have to birth in conditions like what we saw, and unfortunately, that is how it is for many of the women in our world.


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