labor nurse has been reborn and shares her experiences as a new nurse-midwife, woman, and blogger

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Road to Nowhere

It's weird how things just pop into your head; random thoughts of things long forgotten. The other day I suddenly found myself remembering this scene:

Me, a nursing student in the mid-1990's, in a corner of a labor room. A woman pushing, her husband at her side looking very nervous and unsure. And the labor nurse and doctor at the foot of the bed, their arms crossed, discussing the woman's progress.

There may have been another student along with me, I can't remember, but I know that I was told to stay out of the way. Looking back, I see this as rude because I was quite capable of helping do little things, but I was so grateful to be in on this experience. Seeing a birth is like striking gold in nursing school.

I can't remember if the woman had an epidural or not, but I know she was left to hold her own legs while she pushed on her back. Her husband helped hold both legs but it was clearly awkward and difficult. She was clearly using every bit of strength she had in her- her face was sweaty and red, veins were bulging in her forehead, and she grunted and groaned even when not pushing.

The nurse was clearly from the old school and had seen many births in her time. I am sure that 99% of the births she attended were of a sterile, medical variety that were on timetables. The doctor was also very old school (he was the same doc that pulled me out of my mother with forceps 20 years earlier) and had a horrible bedside manner.

The thing that bothers me the most is the vision of seeing this woman, vulnerable and worn out being looked down upon by the nurse and doctor. The nurse and doctor were going back and forth on whether or not this woman could "do it". It was almost an hour into pushing. At this point the baby's head was beginning to be visible with her pushes but hadn't yet made it under the pubic bone so it would slip back when she rested. I didn't realize this was normal at the time, so I listened to what the doctor and nurse were saying with great interest. Could she "do it"? The nurse said yes, the doctor said no.

They spoke as if the woman couldn't hear them, as if she wasn't really there, or that they were looking at a zoo display behind some plexi-glass thinking that the animal behind the glass wasn't aware of being stared at. The doctor even spoke with a disgusted tone that this woman had yet to birth her baby. "Ah, this is a road to nowhere!" he said, waved his hand in frustration and stormed out of the room.

When the doctor left the room, the woman started asking if she was going to need a c-section. The nurse gave some vague answer and did some documentation while the woman went on pushing.

I don't know what the outcome was of this birth- I am sure the baby was born healthy one way or another, but whether by vaginal or c-section I don't know. But I think it is scenes like this that make me so glad there are midwives.


I am a Monkey's Mama said...

So so sad. And I am so so glad that you did not let this become your "normal".

Yay for midwives (not mEdwives)!

doula_char said...

I had a similar experience with a mom last year:

doctor came into the room, watched through two or three contractions and announced, in front of everyone, that : "she's selling more contraction than she's having" and that contractions couldn't possibly last more than 60 or 70 seconds (the strip showed her contractions lasting 2+ minutes).

It completely changed the attitude of everyone in the room, nurses suddenly became suspicious and unsympathetic, and her husband became impatient, and she ended up with pit, an epidural that didn't work, and a c-section.

Jody said...

Yep. I def. prefer seeing a female doc. I think they have more compassion; esp if they've given birth. No Way in heck can some male doc understand..

Labor Nurse said...

This particular doctor was exceptionally horrible in regards to his bedside manner. I actually believe that he disliked women and looked down upon them, so I think this played a big role in this case.

In regards to male ob/gyns- I work with some very nice ones who are not only clinically very good but connect with their patients. There is one in particular that has been tagged as more of a midwife than most midwives; I think that speaks volumes about his practice.

Iris said...

Even before I finished reading your entry, I was thinking, thank goodness we have midwives.

Joanne said...

I don't understand why women put up with this kind of treatment. I'm sure some women change doctors after an experience like this one, but others return to the jerk for their subsequent pregnancies.

If women stopped going to doctors who treat them so badly, and told their friends not to go to that doc, then these people would not have much of a practice left after word got out about them. Word of mouth is SO important for OBs, we should use that to our advantage!

publichealthdoula said...

And yet, it's so possible this woman saw nothing wrong with her treatment. She may well have gone home saying, "The baby was too big to be born. I was so exhausted; we would have died without a c-section. Thank god for my doctor! Birth is awful, you might as well schedule a c-section and get it over with."

Women know so little about birth that it is easy for them to accept what happens to them as necessary - and, I think, sometimes vital to their psyche and guarding their emotions around a traumatic experience.

Labor Nurse said...

you make such a good point. I hear this often- women recounting their birth story and they frame their c-section as a life saving event. I am sure sometimes it is, but not all the time. And I know that if I ever had to have a c-section I would have to try and process it in my own mind as truly medically necessary for the survival of myself or baby.

Melodie said...

This is sick. It's always outraging to hear these kinds of stories, even though I think they are very important to tell to let moms know what can happen in L&D rooms, especially when not attended by a midwife. More fuel for the fire that homebirths are an excellent option for low risk mothers.