Over the next few months we shared near silent car rides to and from her prenatal appointments. I worried the whole time I was too self-conscious, too inexperienced, too culturally distant to be a good support person for Hay Soe. I didn’t know it then, but we were getting to know each other, even in the most awkward moments, and building up that level of trust and respect that would be so crucial when it was time for Hay Soe to give birth.
Hay Soe went into labor on a Saturday afternoon and went to the hospital later that night. I met her and her friend, a translator, there. The atmosphere of awkward car rides suddenly disappeared. We were all friends, united with the common goal of helping Hay Soe bring a new life into this world the way she wanted to do it. Hay Soe labored beautifully, pushing spontaneously and hardly making a noise. In those moments I saw her strength, her ability to advocate for herself, and even her humor. I didn’t know how natural it would be to laugh in a delivery room.
Later on that night, when we relaxed and ate snacks together in her room, Hay Soe told me that she was thankful I had been given to her as a volunteer and that I had been the right fit. She asked me to name her baby, a boy, simply because I had been nice. I couldn’t help but to feel both shocked and honored, we had barely spoken before the birth, as she went on to say that sometimes you can just tell who is kind by the way act.
Now I visit Hay Soe as a friend. We sit smiling, still unable to speak the way I would communicate with most of my friends, though that doesn’t make our friendship any less rich. In fact, it holds a warmth now that some friendships will never have, a warmth that comes from knowing friendship has no partiality to language, country, or appearance. I love and admire her for who she is and know it was never about my ability to be perfect, it was always about just being present with a kind face and a heart open to whatever comes next.