Sunday Morning~turned to afternoon

February 22, 2015

Another week of snowstorms, ice dams, and midnight rides on windy starlit roads; frozen fiords and fast labors, hidden road signs and toppled trees. Something in the universe is shifting.  I shovel and shiver. I watch my roof and hope it holds.  So much weight.  There is so much weight on top of me. On my roof, on my car, on my shoulders. It will give way at some point, either melting gently or blowing wildly, it eventually disperses to where the weight is evenly distributed and things move freely again. Everything in it’s own time.  Be strong.  Hang in there. Hold on.

Daisy arrived on Wednesday. Over terrible roads and frigid cold they made it on time. Her arrival will herald change somehow.  Not exactly sure what form that will take, but all this bullshit is not going unused. When all were safe and tucked in together, when gratitude was expressed, and nay-sayers sidled away, we took a cleansing breath and talked about how we could use this to help others. She’s on-board.  She agreed to tell her story.  We’ll work on that when she has had time to recover. For now we celebrate snowplows and furnaces and insulated pipes, snow tires and good neighbors and mothers with reliable cars, older children who can help out, nearby clinics with pediatrics, and glimmers of hope that keep us from giving up.

My women’s writing group met yesterday for the first time in a long time.  We wrote, we read, we laughed, we cozied up by the fire when the afternoon light faded. I absorbed the strength from these women, their stories remarkable and raw. We were women on ladders, at our wits end, with a piano, at midnight, windy, with sentences “good enough to eat”.

We read a poem by Pamela Alexander.  A line leaps off the page:

Do not lean the ladders of reason against a burning house.

No. Don’t.


Sunday Morning~Blizzards and Babies

February 15, 2015

What happens when you get a weekend blizzard in rural Maine with medical staff covering two different hospitals 25 miles apart? Tension, difficult decisions, and anxiety.

It was bound to happen. A woman’s water breaks when she is at her due date.  She is having contractions and lives a few blocks from our little community hospital.  A blizzard is raging and it is the middle of the night. This wouldn’t be an emergency necessarily, except that she has had a previous c-section. In our world this is a problem.

She has a very good chance of having a vaginal birth.  Her previous c-section was done in a big hospital in a different state where she wasn’t even given a chance to have labor. She doesn’t even understand why she had the surgery as it wasn’t fully explained to her. She told me she thought it was because she had asthma.

So our plan was to have a trial of labor.  Then the blizzard hit, there was another emergency in the other hospital, and the surgeon said we can’t wait for her to deliver, she needs to have a repeat c-section so he can leave.

I was sick. I asked how we would document this? That she would have an unnecessary surgery because we are short staffed? How can we use that for rationale? He agreed it was a difficult decision.  He said he would explain it to her.  The case in the other hospital was urgent as well and couldn’t be put off all day.  A few hours, yes, but not all day.

He made his way here through the blowing snow and presented the situation to this laboring woman and her husband.  He recommended that she agree to surgery since there would be no surgeon here if an emergency happened during labor. I held my breath, waiting for coercion-type language.  There was none.  He honestly explained it is very difficult in rural areas with so few surgeons and this was not optimal, but he felt it was the safest thing to do.  She looked at him between contractions and said clearly, “I don’t want surgery if I don’t need it. I refuse.”

He was stunned.  (Actually, so was I.) This had never happened before.

This scenario is something we’ve always dreaded but have not had to deal with––the need for him in both places. In their pre-delivery visit with the surgeon, women are told they will have to succumb to a repeat surgery if the surgeon is busy with other cases and can’t wait for labor to take it’s natural course. They understand this, but always hope it won’t be necessary.  Then today, with the worst possible driving conditions, here we are. And she refused. Awesome.  Her husband backed her up.  ”Nope, go do your other surgery, we’ll wait.”

So here we are, supporting her through a very normal labor with a very healthy fetus happily beating away.  She breathes through each contraction and dozes in between. She is confident that her body will do it’s job. She believes in this process and is grateful for the support. I am grateful for her strength and courage. Grateful that she is using common sense and not fear for this process.

The data tells us this is a safer option than the risks of surgery. Pregnancy puts women in a vulnerable position and often makes them consent to procedures they don’t need or want. As women’s health options in rural areas become more and more scarce, we have a looming public health crisis. Will it be called a crisis if only women are affected? Is it considered a hardship for poor women to have to travel hundreds of miles to get obstetrical care? In a state where winters are harsh and unpredictable? Where jobs are low-paying and many can’t afford gasoline? When they have no child care for other children and have to travel on dangerous roads?

I write as I wait to welcome this child. His life will be a factor in changing the resources for women and their babies. I’ll make sure of it.

Sunday Morning and More Snow!

14285_10155187275200383_3143842298216709941_nFebruary 7, 2015
It’s snowing again, and again, and again. This is really winter and I love it. I want to be trapped in the house and forced to organize and clean and wrap myself in blankets and read and finish old projects and catch up on the movies I missed. I want to cook and curl up by the fire and sip scotch.
It’s not only snowing, but it is cold. Bone chilling bitter cold.
I went for a long snowshoe today. Breaking trail through the woods and out onto the heath, it felt wonderful to be out and moving and catching up with an old friend I haven’t seen in years. She is here to tuck in for a few days and have some winter activity. It’s been six years since we’ve seen each other and the stories to share are many. It’s an interesting process winnowing out the least important and deciding which to recount, trying to gauge how much detail to include and how to color it for interest and clarity. The stories chosen relate to each other, tit for tat, tat for tit, you then me, oh that reminds me, yes yes, I know exactly what you mean, same thing happened here, oh wait till I tell you, how did you make that, oh really, I didn’t know that, oh my god, you are kidding…
It weaves in and out rather seamlessly and the hours pass and daylight fades and the fire burns and it seems a rich and valuable gift, this long, long friendship. With years between visits or even conversations, the annual Christmas card or Facebook glimpse of milestones, events, adventures, and losses, are enough glue to hold us together until we revive the bond without it seeming like there ever was a lapse.