October 1st, Saturday: Dakota is 36 weeks and one day. She is about the size of a Swiss chard. We are both trying to stay patient. A nurse suggests I make a paper chain to count down the days.
Signs of a good nurse: she tells you the generic names when giving you pills; she remembers all of the pills and gives them to you at the right times; she’s personable; she asks if there’s anything more she can do for you and makes sure your water is filled. An even better nurse will get you coffee in the morning and tell you something interesting. She’ll be personable but also really mean it because she’s just that invested in the wellbeing of her patients. Lauren, my nurse this morning, did none of these things. She seemed to be here for the work, not the meaning it could give her.
Which was funny because soon after that I met a woman who said working as a maid in the hospital meant a lot to her because she got to meet new people and help them feel better with cleaner rooms.
At 10:30 am, Nerxhivane (“nur-geh- vah-nah”) comes in to clean the floors and take out the trash. Nerxhivane is from Kosovo, but came to America in 1999, when her country was in the middle of war. History books will claim the war was from February of 1998 to June of 1999, but that’s just the meat and potatoes. It really got going in 1997 and stemmed from roots as early as 1981.
The Kosovo War was fought by the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (at this time, Montenegro and Serbia), which controlled Kosovo before the war, and the Kosovo Albanian rebel group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army, with air support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) from 24 March 1999, and ground support from the Albanian army.
Diplomatic solutions failed, and NATO intervened, justifying the campaign in Kosovo as a “humanitarian war”, and leading to a mass expulsion of Kosovar Albanians and the aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia from March to June 1M 999.
“The forces of war don’t know anything about love and the desire to save something. They just know how to destroy, burn, take things away”, said Zlata Filipovic to her diary Mimmy during the Bosnian war. She was ten years old.
Zlata ended up becoming a writer and humanitarian. She went to Oxford, served on the Executive Committee of Amnesty International Ireland, and is a founding member of NYPAW (Network of Young People Affected by War).
Nerxhivane hasn’t written a book and didn’t go to Oxford, but she did relocate as a refugee to Salt Lake City in 1999, in the middle of the Kosovo War. She said it was hard but it was the only answer- starting over in a new place with a new language and new rules. She raised three children who are all in university now and all voting for Hillary (even though they did also like Bernie). They understand the importance of empathy and compassion. Nerxhivane doesn’t tell them half of the things she experienced during the war because she doesn’t want to “darken their heads”.
The Associated Press documented accounts of nurses and nuns being raped in their communes. The World Health Organisation and US-based Centre for Disease Control estimated as many as 20,000 Kosovar women (4.4 per cent of the population) were raped in the two years prior to Nato’s forces entering the benighted territory during the Kosovo War. These numbers mirrored those in Bosnia, but Bosnia had international organisations to help. By the time Kosovo was liberated, hundreds of women who’d been plucked from columns of refugees as they tried to flee the Serb onslaught were discovered wandering in the hills- disoriented, pregnant, drugged, naked, crazed.
Nerxhivane says she is blessed to have left her past, and to be alive and with her family. Did she leave her roots when she came to America? Not entirely; her roots are with her husband and her children. She says she’s blessed to be able to work and vote. She says Trump is a “bad man” and a “rich man with no clue”. She thanks god every day for what she has, and is “thankful I’m not rich”.
“Me too, I’m glad I’m not rich. I wouldn’t want to be like that orange trash man Trump.” But in many ways I am rich. I went to college. I went to grad school. I traveled to other countries and ate well. I lived through my stupidities. I am blessed.
“There is one God for everyone. We are not separate,” Nerxhivane says. At a time when one candidate (libertarian Gary Johnson) doesn’t know what Aleppo is, and another (madman Donald Trump) pushes for walls and fear, the withdrawal of all refugee help and removal of Muslims from America, I can only hope that the rest of the country has the wisdom Nerxhivane shares while mopping my hospital floor.
It turns out that the chances of being born in America- a country of 324,699,276 people as of Friday, September 30, 2016, in a world of 7 billion people- is about 4.4%. The probability of being born above the poverty line in a first world country are just over 12%. The chances of being born at all are estimated to be one in 400 trillion.
I walk the empty halls around my room, sipping soda and biting the polish off my nails, and think about the probability of my life.
I am blessed.
*To read “Notes On a Hospitalized Pregnant Woman”: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1521096910/ref=cm_sw_r_pi_awdb_x_Dcg-yb990NBWB