We as social beings tell the same sensationalized, gruesome stories over and over again, outdoing each other with terror and this-close-to-deathness, presumably because these stories are interesting. I think people tell stories like that over and over again in an effort to heal. But what's missing is the actual healing part. Unless you tell the story and feel what you couldn't feel while the action was happening, the healing is going to remain elusive. You can talk or write and stay divorced from the words, keep them outside of yourself. Or you can try them on in a safe space and feel and fall apart. Then begin to heal.
Trust that this is has the latter intention in mind.
For this installment, here is what I know:
- We all have our own shit going on
- People make mistakes
- We can't be in more than once place at one time
- The overarching tenet of Western medicine is "To do no harm"
Wednesday. Last year on this Wednesday I had an evening appointment with my midwife at Cambridge Hospital. She and I had gotten on fine over the past 7 months or so (you don't really meet the midwife until you're already about 2 months along anyway). She had been patient, largely even-keeled. I walked to the appointment. Still feeling fine.
Before examining me, we discussed how I was feeling, what was new. Nothing. I was coming up on my 41st week (normal human gestation is 40 weeks; the average gestation for a first baby is 41 and 1/2 weeks) - turns out after 41 weeks a mom is no longer permitted to give birth to her baby at the Cambridge Birth Center (a home with four-poster beds and quilts and jacuzzi tubs instead of a hospital). No, after 41 weeks some risk factors go up. This was somewhat disappointing to hear, but the midwife had Measures that could Help. Pills? No thanks. A hormone cream on the cervix? What? How about stripping your membranes? Um...
I chose the last option, as it seemed to be the least suspicious and most low-tech. Stripping membranes involves insertion of a finger (hers, gloved) into the cerivx and, for lack of a better term, swirling. The idea is to separate the uterus from the cervix. See, I've slipped into clinical talk. The idea is to separate MY uterus from MY cervix. She goes in there and stirs it up in the hopes that the amniotic sac thins and eventually breaks and then here comes baby.
So I lie back, ready for a little discomfort, and the midwife goes for it. Feels like cramps, no big deal. She tells me I'm 1 cm dilated. Thrilling. Then she notices that her finger is bumping up against some unexpected shape. Should be the top of the head, right? She says, "Oh, her hands are up by her head. Move your hands, baby!" All I can see are my own belly and this woman standing between my knees, head turned to one side, face starting to get screwed up into a question. "What?" I say. She's whispering to herself now, looking off somewhere on the floor to my left, absently.
"Why isn't she moving her hands out of the way, usually if you touch their hands they will move them out of the way... unless..."
"Unless that's her foot."
Falling. Feeling like falling. I'm by myself prone on a table and I feel like I'm falling. Because the cascade of Circumstances and Measures and Results has just kicked me in the cervix. She pulls out her gloved hand, now covered with my blood (expected) and I can see her sneaky fucking brain working. She had told me, every appointment, that the baby was head-down. Every time.
I can see she is edging up near panic, as panicked as a nurse gets, I suppose. She instructs me to get up and get dressed while she makes a few phone calls. She gets off of the phone and sends me up two floors to Labor and Delivery, where the midwife on call is waiting for me to do a very late, last-minute covert ultrasound. I am holding my breath, still hopeful that there may possibly be a chance that this baby is not upside-down (rightside-up) and that the rest of the mess that would follow may not happen. Maybe.
The midwife quietly takes me into the ultrasound room, which is dark (because we're not supposed to be in there). She fires up the machine, squirts my belly with jelly, and proceeds to drag the ultrasound thingy all around my belly. Have I mentioned she's not an ultrasound tech? She's a complete ditz. "Oh, hmm.. I don't really know... I can't tell what this is... can you?" Are you kidding me? Short of grabbing the thingy out of her hand I said "Yes. That is the head. Those are her feet. Her feet are down. Fuck." She hands me a towel to clean myself off and leaves the room to call my midwife. That's when I start to cry. I lay on the table in the dark room with the image of upside-down rightside-up Selah parts still on the screen next to me, my whole belly still out in the air and cold now, slathered with ultrasound jelly and I cry. And I don't want to get caught crying by this stupid woman. And of course she comes in and says, "Awwww..." and gives me some lame ass hug. I don't understand medical professionals. They are missing a crucial part of their personality, the compassionate one. I guess that is a professional necessity, but it makes me mad at them.
I go back downstairs to see the midwife who has said that she can schedule a version (an attempt to turn the baby from the outside) for the next day. I call Ayano, call my acupuncturist friend Jeff, and go home and cry a little more.