Monday, March 27, 2006


"Rita" was nineteen. He was about fifty, and the father of her baby born at 26 weeks gestation. She was petulant and immature, even for her age, and gave our nurses a hard time. Her baby had the problems typical of a baby born that prematurely and was in our NICU for about three months.

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found your site. Absolutely fabulous writing. Got it added to my favorites.

Phillip Gordon

4:12 PM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

Phillip: Thank you so much!

8:49 PM  
Blogger Flea said...

Hope springs eternal, ND.

In cases like these I often hope secretly that some day Mr. Cheshire cat will wake up and find wife #2 and baby gone without a trace.



8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Rita" was probably raised in an environment that treats women as second class citizens. This is often the case in these kind of "arrangements".

I have had the misfortune of careing for a baby born into a even weirder trio. A married couple are unable to have children. Enter a young lesbian woman who has an affair with the wife. The husband is aware of this, and even participates on occasion. The young woman is talked into becoming a surrogate for the childless couple. She conceives a child (the natural way) with the husband and moves in with them, as she is now homeless. When the baby is born, the young woman gives it to the couple, but she will continue to live with them and is still sleeping with the wife. Why do I know all of this? People are way too eager to share their personal information.

12:39 PM  
Blogger That Girl said...

Women are treated as second class citizens in every society on Earth.

This is just an obvious example.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

What an interesting story..Dr. Flea is right. I wish Rita and baby would just leave. I don't understand what happens to human emotions in these situations..Most of us don't share our men. Atleast not knowingly!

1:30 AM  
Blogger Fat Doctor said...

How very Big Love. This lifestyle sounds quite confusing, and quite nice for Big Papa. Makes you wonder what choices baby will make in 20-30 years.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Bardiac said...

Or, if the baby's female, what choices she'll be allowed to make?

5:20 PM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

Thanks, all, for the interesting comments. Wife #2 and baby did not run away. About two years later she was back with another baby, born at close to full term, with the same father. I don't recall seeing wife #1 at that time, but maybe she just didn't visit.

7:54 PM  
Blogger jerseycityjoan said...

Maybe Wife #1 left first; let's hope "Wife" #2 will leave too.

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