By Dr. Abdul-Salam Ojeili – Translated by Ibrahim AL Alou –
We left our hotel in Toronto last fall on an early morning heading to Detroit in the northern U.S.A.
As we were pulling our car from the hotel’s parking lot, we were surprised to see the wide open road in front of us almost closed and traffic coming to a standstill.
There were a number of traffic officers waving at the moving cars to slow down and two ambulances rotating their lights flashing and their sirens squeaking. A group of paramedics dressed in white uniforms was circling a car that stood in the middle of the road and rushing to its open doors.
We wondered what was going on.
These days with the increase in violence and terrorism first thought to go to the explosion of detonated cars or the acts of mafia members exterminating each other and matter as such that were spreading a lot in the countries of east and west.
A cop signaled to us by his hand to resume driving in his direction.
We did. As we were parallel we asked him what had happened.
The officer smiled before answering which gave us relief that there is nothing frightening or annoying.
We asked: What is it?
He replied: A happy birth.
A pregnant woman suffered an unexpected labor and gave birth in her car in the middle of the road.
We had no choice but to smile at him and ask with awe:
Did she give birth in the car?
And what was the baby?
The smile of the cop grew in width and replied: She gave birth to a baby girl. A baby girl. Sir.
And he asked us to move on to the other cars can follow after us.
We didn’t have much time in our shortstop to know the circumstances of this happy accident. But I was wondering was this lady on her way to the hospital and was caught by a sudden labor before reaching it?
I excluded this assumption.
In a city such as Toronto, a woman in labor won’t take a cab just as the one shuttling this pregnant lady. Maybe she was struck by labor on the last notice while she was going on some of her errands.
Or maybe she had a premature birth.
For example in her eighth month like the pregnant woman on a plane, I was boarding and I witnessed how she was fearful of giving birth on the plane. She was stressed and spread her fear across the people sitting close to her.
This event happened a long time ago on my trip from Beirut to Jeddah.
To my left sat a westerner and to his left sat a Lebanese lady whose ballooning belly showed an advanced stage of pregnancy.
After the plane took off and was in the air I noticed she was feeling uneasy and talking to herself anxiously. Then she was addressing her neighbor who replied in obscure Arabic.
The man was Italian who couldn`t understand much Arabic.
I heard her telling him that she was pregnant and was afraid of the plane turbulences and she started to feel the fetus movement increased inside her.
The man replied with few words but she persisted. He grumbled and turned to me for help.
I had no choice but to intervene and asked her what she was going on?
She replied she is in her eighth month of pregnancy and she concealed that from the air carrier when she bought her ticket. Now she is afraid of the plane movement on her baby and self.
I asked her if she was feeling any cramps like feeling.
She said no.
I assured her that she does not need to worry; there are no signs of an approaching labor.
And added: You can trust me. I am a doctor!
When my Italian neighbor heard my last word he exclaimed: You are a doctor?
Please have my seat and be seated next to the lady!
He left his seat happy to be away from that stressed lady and her nervousness.
Leaving her worry to the shoulders of the doctor who volunteered and confessed his status that allowed him to carry the burdens of others.
The trip was over safely anyway and the Lebanese lady didn’t give birth on the plane like the Canadian lady who did in the car.
If she did it would be to the advantage of the baby who would have the right to get a free plane ticket for life on all air carriers around the world.
Which is a privilege not granted to the baby who was born on a car ride?
That incident we encountered that morning which stopped traffic in one of the biggest boulevards in Toronto filling it with ambulances, doctors, nurses and cops brought to my memory what an elderly villager told me when she accompanied her daughter-in-law to my clinic.
The young lady was complaining of cramps and routine pains that are associated with her last months of pregnancy.
I told the elderly lady: Your daughter-in-law should rest until she gives birth which is imminent. Don`t let her carry a hefty load or do heavy works.
The old lady looked at me in bewilderment and said:
Then who is going to knead the flour and bake the bread for us?
Look. I who am standing in front of you was pregnant…..…and in my last days of pregnancy my family sent me to bring them some firewood from the bush.
On my way back as I was carrying the wood on my shoulder, I felt labor.
I was alone. Nobody was around me.
I sat down. I gave birth alone. Then I picked a stone that was near me, with it, I cut the umbilical cord by my own hand then I stood up and came back to my family:
Carrying the firewood on my back and my baby in my lap.
And you say she needs rest?
You, today’s doctors, are spoiling our girls!!!
This translation was authorized by Dr. Hazem Ojeili.
-Abdul-Salam Ojeili (1918-April 5, 2006) was a Syrian doctor, novelist, and politician. He had over 40 published books. Among his best-known works is Basima Between Tears, Hearts on Wires, The Obscure, Unknown on the Road, and Land of the Lords.
Ojeili was born in Raqqa, about 350 miles northeast of Damascus. He trained as a physician and was elected to Parliament in 1947. He held a number of ministerial posts, including the foreign, culture and information portfolios, until 1962. (The New York Times, April 7, 2006)