Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Trouble with Expecations

I think that what makes me saddest about working in a labor and delivery unit under the medical model is the fact that people come in with expectations that we actually meet every day. Why on earth would that make me sad?
Well, because their expectations are a symptom of the profound disconnect that women in our (American) culture experience when it comes to their bodies, their babies and their births.
This hit home for me as I walked out of the hospital on Saturday morning and passed the father of one of the babies whose birth I attended the night before. He smiled and mentioned to the person he was talking to on his cell phone that he "Just seen the nurse..." as he waved to me with the same hand that was holding a cigarette. As he walked away from me, I thought of the mother of his baby, alone upstairs eating a turkey sandwich, waiting to be moved to her room on the postpartum floor and her baby which had been whisked away to the nursery ("to recovery") less than an hour after the birth. As far as just about anybody else was concerned, all was just as it should be. And yet, it just seemed so not right to someone like me, who knows what it is like to fall asleep in your own, clean, familiar bed with your new baby.
Birth is a time of loss and a time of gain. A time of separation and a time of connection. When a woman feels the loss (there is no longer a baby or placenta inside her womb) and does not get to experience the gain (no baby present immediately postpartum or soon after), all is not right with the world. It is simply not the way we are intended to spend the first, precious hours after the birth. Certainly, there are times when the baby or the mother's condition is too tenacious for this bonding to be the priority, but those cases are rare. Much more rare than we are led to believe by the medical model. The truth is that with every induction, with every epidural and every dose of narcotic there is a price. What makes me sad is not that women avail themselves of these medical interventions. It is rather the fact that women are not informed of the price that most likely will come with the choice they make if they do avail themselves of medical interventions in childbirth. And that is an affront to the most basic rights of women.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Laboring on Labor Day

Well, it's been a labor day full of ups-and-downs for this Itinerant Laborer.
I was awakened from my pre-shift rest by a phone call from Jen B. who was in the neighborhood...because Kelly went into labor last night. Apparently Kelly hit the seven cm mark and just stalled, so Jen wanted to come over for a couple of hours to give her some space.
I was really happy to hear from her and to have an impromptu visit...Jen is one of my favorite people. It is also just so wonderful to be reminded that we can, indeed, trust a woman's body to deliver her baby in its perfect time. A seven cm stall at the hospital would have triggered a whole cascade of events and Kelly's cervix would have been labeled, like so many, a failure, an anomoly, something incompetent for having the gall to deviate from the prescribed protocol. Who is this cervix, anyway, to tell us how this baby is going to be born?
Of course I can imagine anything I care to imagine would happen because Kelly would not have been permitted to labor at all under the medical model. Her baby, apparently unaware of the prescribed choreography as well, failed to turn.
Kelly is still breech, which means Jen is having two other midwives attend with her. Add to that her apprentice, who I met for the first time tonite, and the sum is evident: No room for me at the delivery.
I was bummed. I have to admit, I cried a little bit. Jen was sweet and apologetic. (She had no idea I cried.) It was obvious to me by the time she left, though, that I was just not meant to be there. Not tonight. The timing made that clear, at least to me, which is really all that matters.
... Kelly went into labor early on a day I was not supposed to work but signed up to work anyway.
Labor day.
I am supposed to be at the hospital tonight. I have no idea why. I have to move forward into my shift with that in mind. Be grateful I am, at least, in the presence of laboring women and the miracle of new life and send love, light, peace and validation to Kelly and her midwives and trust that my time will come.
Amen. And Happy Labor Day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cake Walk

Ian, the baby, Ginger and I ventured out into Fredonia today. That's where I smelled it. I used to say that I love this time of year because you can smell the crispness in the air. Autumn air has its own particular scent. Some say it's the scent of decay. Today, it was the scent of cake.
"That's why I love this time of year!" I said.
"Because there's a lot of cake?" (This query proves just how well my nine year-old really does know me.)
No, because people are turning their ovens back on.
People are beginning to embrace that amazing and wondrous time of year when we turn inward and prepare ourselves to hold fast to the faith that Light Will Wane, but Light Will Also Return. Maybe it's the Irish in me, but one of my favorite transitions is the one into embracing death in Autumn. The circle begins its upsweep into the long, dark Winter and we begin to fuel our bodies and souls for another journey inward. Winter is a time for self-reflection and the deepening of roots. Autumn is our gateway to that time. One hand grasps the fleeting warmth of the sun while the other begins to wrap the body in layers of protection and sustinence. We are readying ourselves for the quiet miracles that can only happen in the deep and dark of Winter.
As long and sometimes depressing as Western New York Winters can be, Im so grateful to live in a place where Autumn comes Early.