Expecting and afraid—a visit with Sozan

Sozan, an IDP in Iraq, struggles at the end of her pregnancy.

“I’m afraid” she says. “I’m afraid.” 

 Sozan is in the final days of her pregnancy—she’s in a lot of pain and feels terrible. Stress lines trace around her eyes and the corners of her mouth. Trips to the maternity hospital in the main city are frustrating, as language and culture barriers mean that Sozan never feels heard. Each time she is sent home confused—and afraid.

This pregnancy isn’t like the others.

This time Sozan and her family are “internally displaced persons” or IDPs. This time Sozan is far from home, living in a leaky storage container in a muddy field. She is far from the hospital where she birthed her first babies. She is far from her community. She is far from her home.

It’s so quiet when I arrive with our partners for our visit. Early morning; most everyone is still asleep—tucked under warm blankets in tents, containers, and unfinished buildings. Rain continues to fall as it has through the night. We make our way with Sozan through a cold, wet field, over the merest sliver of land not submerged in rainwater, across a muddy street, and into a nearby building.

We find a place to sit next to the warmth of a heater delivered the week earlier. Families sleeping in this space start to stir as we settle ourselves; month-old twins on the other side of the room fuss in hunger. We pour over Sozan’s earlier ultrasound results and try to make sense of conflicting reports.  We are 5 women from 5 different countries. We work hard to understand each other in broken attempts at a common language. None of us were born in this place—but we’ve all somehow found each other, and come together in concern over the life of this mother and her unborn baby. 

A private space is needed for the midwives’ exam. The only space available is bare and unheated. Sozan lies down on a mat in a cold, tiled room. Her face speaks of her pain and worry—words, in any language—are unnecessary. As the midwives do their work to determine the health of the baby, Sozan holds in the pain as best she can. A strong woman, (like most of the women we’ve met here) she is reluctant to cry out. But finally the pain and fear are too much—a cry escapes, and we hold her hand tightly until the exam is finished.

“I’m afraid” she says. 

“The baby is fine.” The midwives try to reassure her. “The heart beat is strong. The baby is in a good position. Everything is fine.” 

But Sozan can only manage a weak smile in return. The words from the midwives are welcome, but her pain and fear are still so real. We promise to return the next week. Sozan’s relief is palpable.

Sozan and her family need the heater we’d brought. They need the fuel and the carpet. Sozan needs the bassinet we’d brought a few days earlier. But more than anything else—she needs our presence. She needs to know that we are there for her; that we’re with her.

When you give funds to help with families like Sozan’s, you give real relief. You provide a warm space for a newborn baby. You lift some of the worry from the shoulders of a mother days from delivery. 

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