A year at U of R

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Crying over deliveries

Last week during clinicals, some of my classmates got to witness deliveries. I saw an awful lot of labor and interventions, but no actual births. In the post-clinical conference where we debrief, I listened to them exultantly describe the experience. They all said they'd cried when the babies were born.

"Isn't that a little overboard?" I thought. "After all, it happens every day. Why all the sentimental touchy-feely-ness? Come on!"

Little did I suspect that I'd spend much of my clinicals the next week holding back tears and telling myself, "Come on, don't go overboard!" But the battle was futile. A birth is truly a Bambi moment.

The first one that got me was a mom in labor. She had been laboring for hours, sucking ice chips, shifting positions, trying to endure the pain with fortitude. It was exhausting just being in the room with her, and watchiing one contraction and waiting until the next one, on and on for hours.

When she reached the final stage of labor, the head of the baby began to crown. But by then the mother was spent. Each time there was a contraction, the nurse and doctor coached her to bare down. “Push a little harder, keep going, push!” they urged. I was standing at the foot of the bed. Each time she pushed, I could see a larger silver dollar of the baby’s mucous covered hair showing through the slit of the vagina. Then the contraction would end, and the little tuft of hair would slip back inside and disappear.

“Push!” the nurses urged. They watched intently as the tuft of hair came and went.

But the mother’s endurance had been pushed far enough. She had been in labor for hours. She hadn’t slept. She hadn’t eaten. She took a gasp, and began to cry with exhaustion. “I can’t do it anymore.”

The nurses stopped paying attention to the labor, and looked at her. “The baby's almost there, we can see the head,” they encouraged. She continued cry.

“Would you like to see the baby? We’ll get a mirror,” the nurse said, and dispatched me off to find a mirror.

Once outside the room, I realized I had no idea where to find a mirror. “The supply closet is over there,” the secretary told me. I found the supply closet, and opened the door. It was immense. It was a vast supply room, packed with row after row of instruments, supplies, birthing balls, and sterile kits. I had no idea of what kind of mirror I was looking for. I imagined the humiliation of having to go back to the room without a mirror, and ask one of the nurses to show me. I’d better find it, and quick.

I turned around, and lucky for me, there it was! Not the little mirror that they use in barber shops to show you what the back of your haircut looks like. This was a huge mirror on wheels. I think I broke the speed limit wheeling it back to the room.

Once in the room, I negotiated it around the tubes and IV’s, and positioned it at the foot of the bed, asking the mom if she could see. Just then, she had another contraction. “Push harder!” the doctor urged. “Keep going a little longer!” said the nurse. The mother pushed, but she was no longer paying attention to the doctor or nurse, or to the pain or exhaustion of her body. I could see from my station at the end of the bed, the only thing that the mom was seeing in the world was that tiny silver dollar of hair in the mirror.