Saturday was my first day on the labor deck for my "Labor and Delivery" class. I have to admit I was quite apprehensive, as the extent of my pregnant lady/birthing experience is pretty much limited to being around when my little bro was born, oh, say 20 years ago... not to mention that it seems like having a child is a prerequisite to success in my L&D class...
My fellow student Michelle and I rolled onto the floor at 7am to a "packed house" and several imminent births on the status board. I was psyched when I walked into my first patient's room with my nurse to discover that she was a 16 year old Latina girl. As some of you may know, I am quite certain I want to work with the Spanish speaking population, and I've always loved working with teens, so this was like a double score. She was a very mature young lady who easily allowed you to forget she was so young, until she would smile or laugh or yell out and you saw a mouth full of braces... her boyfriend and mom were there to accompany her through labor. I have never seen someone who looked so nervous and lost as that 16 year old boy did when things got rolling. He needed almost as much encouraging as she did. My second patient was almost the exact opposite- a 35yr old mother, 37 year old father, both of Indian descent. Dad was so excited, so nervous, and as prepared as any guy could be for what he was about to go through.
The process of the two labors themselves is something I will probably never forget. I will save you the gory details and just say that it was at once amazing, terrifying, messy, and fascinating. I felt honored to be a part of such a momentous life occasion for those involved. I must admit I did get a bit teary eyed after the second birth- I couldn't help it! The mom was sobbing and I'm pretty sure the dad was in shock. Afterwords the dad had me show him how to hold the baby (which, mind you, I have done probably all of 5 times in my life...) and he said "no matter how much you prepare for this you just can't ever really imagine what it is like... I have so many images in my head I just can't erase them."
The most interesting part of it all was the fact that the births seemed so unnatural in a way. Both mothers were flat on their backs with so many IV lines, monitors, and wires attached to them they were practically strapped down to the bed. As we have discussed time and again in my L&D lectures, we have medicalized birth to the point that we make it more taxing and difficult on women's bodies than it ever needs to be. Instead of using gravity to our advantage by putting the woman in a vertical position, we force her to remain horizontal. Instead of trusting that the birth will not have complications (as the vast majority don't) we prepare for the worse by putting in unnecessary IV lines and preventing mothers form eating or drinking from the moment they step in the hospital until an hour after they give birth- just in case they MIGHT have to go to the OR for a c-section. Blood pressure cuffs stay on the entire labor and go on every 15 minutes (that thing is annoying when you're perfectly healthy... I can only imagine how obnoxious and constricting that must be when you're laboring).
It should be noted that both my patients were working with a doctor (an OBGYN) as opposed to a midwife. Midwives are well known for their emphasis on alternative birthing methods. I ask, alternative to what? Alternative to what some doctor in 1957 decided was easier for HIM in monitoring his laboring patient- sitting comfortably on a stool in front of a conveniently placed, easily visible woman. What have we done to the ultimate natural process of birth?
Today is the 18th of September- Chilean Independence Day. Today is also the first day that I realized more than a year has gone by since I left for South America last August. I am now at that awesomely terribly time-warping post trip phase where I can throw out phrases in casual conversation like “a year ago today I was on a beach in Chile shooting off fireworks.” This phase will proceed for the next four months, at which point I will then transition into the much more depressing phase of saying, “it’s been more than a year since I was in down in South America…” Not that I haven’t been busy, but really? Has it really been a year? I guess things like facebook warp your sense of how long it has been since you actually saw a friend face-to-face. Also, I suppose being continually mentally occupied with all things human body is an excellent source of distraction from one’s lack of jetsetting.
Through the many ups and downs of life after travel, facing new challenges and ever expanding horizons, I have decided to come back to what grounds me: writing. Putting my thoughts down on paper has always been cathartic, but in my travels I found that writing took on a different roll for me. Where my journals were an outlet for all the internal chaos traveling provokes, my communications with friends and family were a more formal space for reflection. In the spirit of “keeping in touch,” I found a casual way to process experiences while I was having them, and unknowingly created a deeper understating of what I was living day to day. Not to mention that my entries often spurred interesting and thought provoking questions and reflections from those who read them!
In the spirit of this self-reflective habit I enjoyed so much while abroad, I’ve started with project “Blog, revisited.” I just made that name up right now, and I think it works quite nicely. When I decided to start blogging again, I also decided to rearrange and redecorate the blog itself… let me know what you think of the new look! Be honest… I don’t know how often I’ll write, or what I’ll have to say, but I thought this time period deserved some pause and reflection. Plus, I think there are just some great stories to be told from the world of nursing that someone really should hear/read. I hope that you’ll enjoy it. Of course, if you don’t, you wont be stopping by very often to read. Don’t worry, I won’t ask… now that this entry has become disgustingly long, I will end. Welcome back!