Phase V: The Professional Nature of victimizing others

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.

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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!

I don’t mean to be a problem but….

I start every statement I make with this caveat. I have learned to do this over years of coming to  understand the broad implications of every day social interactions to the larger concepts of culture and community.

There was a time not long ago that my utterances would reward me with a smack across my face or an inevitable departure of my intended target, in the early days, my adoptive father.

“You know you are crazy,” he would say as he turned on his heels to walk out of the room.

Frantic to be heard I would chase him, tears streaming down my face. I was the family scapegoat! I was forced to spend 5 days a week in psychoanalysis and, little to my knowledge, would be forced to do it for 7 years of my life. I was the family’s holder of secrets and pathology. I was the one that was silenced by being trivialized. I was never given respectful attention because the conclusions that I was making about life were strikingly different than the people around me who felt interrupted by my presence.

Every interaction I had that trivialized my experience, labeled me as “crazy”, insisted that I was the problem, caused great turmoil in me and I was forced to retreat inside myself to decipher the meaning of my plight. It was clear that there would be no relief in relationships.

Despite my wish to isolate and withdrawal from the toxic evaluations being made of my thoughts and understanding of my own experience, I was forced to interact daily with a whole horde of people invested on keeping me silenced by the imposed shame of ridicule, harassment, labeling and abuse. In fact, it was the very nature of my thought processes and desire to be heard that seemed to justify the mistreatment by family and “professionals” alike.

I have a lot to say. I have been silenced too long. My perspective is unique and maybe disturbing. It is said that great genius can only follow chaos. From my vantage point, there is no greater time for the creation of chaos then now. I don’t mean to be a problem, but….Image