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assistant charts Alex's length; a nurse appears and takes over.
"I need you to undo everything," she says to Brenda.
starts to pull off Alexandra's jacket. The infant, startled, makes
a little aaaah sound, trying to decide if she wants to cry. Her
legs draw up into a ball.
the baby is undressed, the nurse carries her over to the scale.
Alexandra is awake now, waving her skinny arms purposelessly in
the air. The exam over, Brenda dresses Alexandra and carries her
into another room.
minutes later, Deborah Wafer bounces into the room. The nurse practitioner
heads right for the baby and scoops her up. "Hi there!" she says
in a loud, cheerful voice.
turns to Brenda. "She's a beautiful baby. How are you feeling?"
feel great," Brenda says. "I've been walking since the third day."
you get the tubal ligation?"
must have been a hard decision."
the next 20 minutes, Wafer and Brenda talk over many things. Brenda's
medications and how she's doing on them. Her sadness over not being
able to breastfeed. The hormonal changes she's going through. The
baby's vaccination schedule and the tests for HIV Alexandra will
have in the coming weeks.
of this writing, Brenda's baby has tested negative four times. Two
more tests will determine her status conclusively; she has an excellent
chance of being OK.
journey with the virus is just beginning. Because she feels a responsibility
to educate other women about the disease, she is participating in
a training program for counselors at Women's Link, a nonprofit agency
in Culver City that serves women with AIDS.
is grateful for Wafer and the other AIDS practitioners she's met
who've come to occupy such a large presence in her life. "You feel
all these people are working for you and other people like you,"
Brenda says. "To them, it's like a fight, a war. It's not that they
feel sorry for you. They feel you have the right to live."
Gable is senior writer of UCLA Magazine.