She led me into the dark interior of the mud house, a narrow doorway providing the only entrance and light. Near the doorway was a low wooden stool, handmade, she asked me to sit on it. I was in a small subdivided area of the house, next to me a bed made of cow hide with some blankets and opposite another narrow opening into the main part of the house. To eyes still adjusting from the small splash of bright light by the door the house was in darkness. Presently the dim glow of a low fire became visible lit between two hearth stones in the room beyond. From within this dark space came the older woman, she brought with her a carefully carried bundle of soft new blanket. With great care she passed the bundle to me. Gently pushing aside the folds I looked down on the two day old face of my friend’s baby girl.
She gave birth here in this house; she was in labour for 12 hours, her first child. Though she is a strong and capable young woman she was a little scared. The older women took care of her. The mother of another friend came to deliver the baby, a woman in her sixties and a well-respected traditional birth assistant. My friend was in good hands. At last the baby was born, a health baby girl. My friend and her baby were wrapped up and are being cared for in the dark wood smoky house by the older women from the village, this will continue for some weeks to come.
The baby in my arms started to cry a little, I gave her back to the older women; the baby stopped crying and settled immediately. The older woman disappeared into the dark of the other room with the baby. My friend was sitting by the fire. I moved my stool near to her so I could see her face in the firelight. Beyond in the darkness there was another small subdivision of the house where the older woman sat quietly with the baby in her arms. Looking at my friend I saw in her face disbelief and wonder. I could see that it hadn’t become real for her yet, that the tiny little bundle, the beautiful little girl, was her baby. We sat together by the fire, it’s reassuring warmth and glow flickering around the small dark house made of sticks, dried cow dung and mud. The sweet smell of the recent rain mixed with the wood smoke. For a while I silently shared her wonder. In those moments the world seemed to be a soft and almost perfect place.