A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be around while one of my best friends gave birth to a baby boy. It was an amazing experience. As a result, unfortunately, I had to spend a lot of time at SF General. This involved walking around a puddle of blood in the entryway while a security guard yelled “Watch your step! Blood here!” I also saw a man smoke a cigarette while dancing with his pants around his ankles (it turns out this is very difficult to do. He fell down).
But of all the things I saw there, the most depressing was without a doubt the soon-to-be-new mothers who were at General because it’s one of the only hospitals in the area to take prisoners who are about to give birth.
The State of California stationed police officers outside these women’s doors, and the crying that came from these women at night was enough to make me crumple in a ball and … You know what? I can’t even begin to describe the hopelessness I heard in there. These women were about to give birth to a baby and then be separated from it, quite possibly forever. It would be impossible to say what that sounds like, except that I could see it still affect nurses who told us they’d worked there 25 years.
I tried to put it aside for awhile and let it go. But then, today, I came across Aunt Mary’s Storybook Project, a program that helps women in prison read to their children on audiotape while they are serving their time in prison. From their website: “With the help of a trained volunteer, the mom picks a book that is age appropriate for each or her children. She is then given an opportunity to audiotape a personal message as well as the reading of the books for her children. The books and tapes are then sent to the children by the volunteer on behalf of the mother. Many mothers end with a message of love and thanks to the caregiver.”