March 22, 2015
Jacob turned 33 yesterday.
At 7:29 am, thirty-three years ago I gave birth to my second son. Those were the days when the sex was a surprise and there was competition for the birthing room. Seriously, a laboring woman had to be 5 centimeters dilated before she was allowed one of the two birthing rooms. If they were full, she had to labor in one room, then transfer to the delivery room. At fully dilated, she had to move from the labor bed onto a stretcher, leaving the other three laboring women in the room behind. This would be a relief for them because the fully dilated woman was usually screaming. She was wheeled on a stretcher (not allowed to walk), banging into at least one doorway, trying not to push, and usually screaming, through the hallways, past the nurses station, to the delivery room. She had to transfer onto the hard, cold table, and awkwardly get into a position that was convenient for the obstetrician to perform the delivery. She had to do this during the most intense part of labor. Barbaric. Inhumane.
I really wanted to avoid this.
The nurse I had with me during that labor was wonderful. She had me walking in the hallways trying to get to 5 centimeters before the other women in labor, who, also wanted the birthing room. God, when I think back on this now, how ridiculous it was. I really wanted that birthing room. And we are not talking birthing tub or glamorous bedding. We are talking just a room where I would be allowed to labor, deliver, and recover without switching rooms or beds. That’s it. That’s as good as it got back then. I didn’t want to move during the most difficult stage of labor. I didn’t want my baby taken away from me.
Good God. I would have had a home birth, but we didn’t have the cash.
With my nurse cheering me on like a racehorse, I made it to five, got the birthing room, and had my beautiful (big!) baby boy. It was Sunday. There was only one midwife on staff there and she didn’t work weekends. I had really wanted her there. The obstetrician was kind and respectful and I was grateful for that, but I had really wanted a midwife. Today they have twelve midwives working in that hospital, and they work weekends.
In the years since my kids were born there have been vast improvements in childbearing and childrearing. (Like microfibers, they came along after my kids were forced into those straightjacket snowsuits.) My childbirth experience made me more dedicated to changing things for other women. I was available on weekends, etc., but my kids and family paid a price for that. I was gone a lot. And though my kids are independent and self-sufficient because they had to be, it took a toll.
I have few regrets and revel in the improved care that women receive. But so much of that effort has been upstream. Why is that? What is it with our culture and society? We are so money-driven that we are willing to sacrifice women’s well-being? Some of it is unconscious, but much of it is deliberate.
In a meeting this week I saw the services for vulnerable women evaporating for financial reasons. Critical staff unwilling. Our arguments cut off because of the “level of our voice”. We reflected afterward, “Notice how were were cut off when we presented actual data and facts?”
What year is this?