In effort to avoid the traumas that we have faced within our own lives, we turn off to the suffering of those in our care. We are taught that “turning off” ensures us that we “don’t burn-out”. The fact of the matter is that the loss of our ability to empathize removes a critical safeguard in the treatment of human beings. We, the people of the world, actively choose to emphasize the differences between us, intensifying the dissociation that allows crimes against humanity to take place. It is time to expose the cost of human neglect and ignorance in the care and treatment of our brethren.
ACT I: Western Childbirth: the Butchering of Women
I was in the midst of my first Nursing rotation. The topic of our placement was: The Care of Healthy Clients. I was placed on the Maternity Unit of a local hospital where I was told to follow a woman who had begun labor some time earlier. The only way that I knew that she was having contractions was by watching the fetal monitor. She showed no connection with the experience that had taken hold of her body. Numbed from the epidural, the contractions took place without her participation or knowledge.
As she shifted her body, the fetal monitor lost the fetal heart beat… A nearby nurse sprang into action. After a quick call to the FEMALE obstetrician, they decided to rush the mother to the operating room for a caesarian section.
I accompanied her to the operating room where they pulled out the perfectly healthy baby boy who exhibited NO SIGN of FETAL DISTRESS!!!
I followed her to the recovery room and began monitoring her vital signs every 15 minutes. She shifted uncomfortably.
“My shoulder hurts,” she told me.
I took another couple of blood pressures and watched as her b/p began to drop. At the same time, her pulse was becoming faint and thready. I decided to go get some help…
“Can someone come in the recovery room? I think we have a problem!”
It took 3 attempts to get anyone to take me seriously. By that time she was unconscious. I continued what I had done when she was losing consciousness, stroking her hair and talking to her soothingly. When they finally determined that there was something wrong, several brusque men pushed me aside and transferred her to a gurney to go back to the operating room.
I gowned up and entered the operating room just in time to watch the obstetrician pull out an 8 inch hematoma from below her uterus. In the haste to perform an UNNECESSARY caesarian section, the obstetrician had nicked the artery under the broad ligament. If the hematoma had burst, she would have died.
A week later I went back to see her.
“You know,” she said looking at me with emotional and grateful eyes, “I didn’t know if the baby was there or my husband. All I knew was that you were there.”
MY RESPONSE: I had seen enough… Armed with the knowledge of what constitutes bad practice, I left to find myself in Vermont. I read as much as I could about being self-sufficient; spent time making my own bread, tofu, past and bought books on root cellaring and building earth homes. I saw myself living more simply, closer and in harmony with the earth and myself. After becoming pregnant I began researching natural childbirth by following the work of Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives. I gave birth to my son Tristan Joshua at home January 5, 1991. I had begun to take back my life!