They were both Americans who were converts to Islam. Although not legally married in the eyes of the state, they were considered married in the eyes of their religious community. Rita was the man's second wife. The problem was that his first wife was still alive - and still married to him and living with him and Rita. Their religious community accepted the polygamy. Sometimes father, first wife, and second wife would visit baby together, a weird situation as you might imagine. Rita seemed very uncomfortable at such times and looked to be the lowest of the trio on the totem pole. Father - generally considered a scumbag by the NICU staff - sat with a grin like a Cheshire cat, looking very proud of himself.
I cannot imagine why a person, even a young insecure person, would let herself be exploited in this way. What sort of upbringing must she have had to allow herself to live in such a humiliating way? What sort of sad living situation must she have left to make this one seem acceptable? What sort of insults must she have sustained from her parents to end up with such low self esteem?
I will probably never know. I only hope her life gets better.
P.S. A new Grand Rounds is up at NHS Blog Doctor.