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You are a 14-year-old girl. You've never been to school. You were married to a man in a neighboring village at age 13—before your first menstrual period—and six months later, you became pregnant. Now you are in labor with your first child.

Labor has already lasted for three days, but still the baby has not come. You are exhausted. You have lost a lot of blood and are running a fever. You haven't passed urine in over two days, and your genitals are horribly swollen and bruised from the constant pushing. Why won't the baby come out? you wonder. You dread the long, bony fingers of the old woman who is attending your birth. Nothing she does brings relief.

Soon the sun is rising on the morning of your fourth day of labor. At midday, with agony, you manage to pass the child from your body. The baby is stillborn. It has been dead for nearly three days and has started to decay. The softening of its tissues finally allowed it to pass through your vagina.

Thank God, you sigh. It's finally over. But it's not.

On the morning of the fifth day, you pass more dead tissue. And then it starts. Urine is running out of your vagina, onto your thighs, onto the floor. What is going on? The urine does not stop. You find some rags and stuff them between your thighs.

There, that ought to take care of it, you think. But it doesn't.

In an hour or two, the rags are soaked. In six hours, you have run out of rags. In 12 hours you notice—to your horror—that feces are also coming out. No matter how much you try, no matter how much you wash, you cannot get rid of it.

The odor and wetness are constant. Your husband is disgusted. He cannot stand to have you around. Your presence is unendurable.

"What has happened to you? What did you do?" ...

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hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2010

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