False Alarms and Energy Drinks

She hands me a little plastic bag through the driver window. “Ah Sayama, chesu tin ba deh.” (Teacher, thank you, in Burmese.) I let my surprise show on my face. Not over the drinks, the ladies have taken to giving me these little gratitude tokens every week, almost always an energy drink. They must think I look tired.



I’m not expecting to see her because I drove her to the clinic two days ago to have a baby, along with her sister, her husband, and her sister’s husband, to help take care of her.

There she is, still pregnant, laughing, a little embarrassed, and ready for class this week.

I save my questions for when we arrive, because Tintin can translate for me when we get there.

“When I got there they checked me, but I’m still not dilated,” she says. “When sayama, she checked me in the car and told me it would be a long time, I was just worried about getting to the clinic in time. I didn’t want to have to call her in the middle of the night. And when she offered to go and wait at her house I didn’t want her to be put out because I had people with me. So thank you Sayama.”

I hadn’t been completely certain that she wasn’t actually having any contractions, and just Braxton Hicks, after watching her for a few minutes. They are greatly stoic people after all. She could just be a really quiet laborer. But I knew that she had a long ways to go before a baby was imminent. That much was clear. Her water had definitely not broken yet, unlike what I had been told. I realized I should have asked how many pieces of clothing were soaked when her water broke. Things like the distinction between water and cervical mucus can be really lost in translation. I need to determine quantity of liquid in the future.

She, and at least 4 others, started coming to class after we talked about signs of labor. That’s something we need to fix today, rather than wait for the review class in a few weeks. Many of them are due in the next month.



I ask her to tell the class what happened as a preamble to going over the signs of labor again. I’ve never seen her smile this much. She always stares wide eyed and worried during class. She’s always seemed serious, and a little bit afraid. Tonight she is laughing, she is telling them about it and smiling.

I explain the difference between mucus, and water breaking, and she makes a note of it. I talk about looking for pink or brown in the mucus to show the cervix is opening, and how much water there usually is when your water actually breaks. I explain about timing contractions, how long they get, and how far apart, before it’s time to go to the clinic. I tell them that with my first baby I thought it was labor way too early too, everyone does. They laugh, relieved it's not just them.

She reiterates that she doesn’t want to wake us up late at night, Tintin, or me, and I tell her again that it’s no problem. Babies come at night. I expect to be woken up when their babies are finally ready to come.

But it’s good to see her smile, and laugh, like the false alarm has provided her some much needed comfort with the whole thing, and alleviated some of her fear for when it really is time for that baby to come.

Edited to add [TinTin just told me today that this girl felt really honored to be asked to tell the class about what happened, and that I had offered to take her to my house. That's one of the reasons she was smiling so much. So that's pretty cool, that treating these women like I would treat one of my western friends makes them feel honored. They receive so little honor from their culture or the country they reside in. The Burmese even have a ridiculous taboo against hanging women's clothes to dry up high, or above men's clothing. So that made my day.]

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