We transported the young mother to hospital because the baby had passed a lot of meconium. Every midwife does this a few times and then realizes that the worst place to be with a meconium stained baby is a hospital. As soon as we arrived, (granted, there was no paperwork, no history, no pre-registration) the nurse on duty wanted to do an exam and, as she was doing it, I realized that she already had an opened scalp monitor in her hand and was about to screw it into the baby’s scalp. I raised my voice and said “Don’t put that in the baby’s head without the parent’s permission.” She threw it aside, glowered at me and announced that the mother was fully dilated. The doctor was on his way but things were proceeding pretty quickly.
As the baby’s head crowned–the moment when the perineum is stretched beyond all possibility and the mother is deeply focused inside just barely hanging in with all the strange sensation–that same nurse said “Do we have a name for this baby?” What possesses people to come out with a question that is completely inappropriate to what is happening? Fine question, completely weird timing.
Another similar moment of disbelief at a hospital birth: Woman pushing her VBAC baby out in a lovely darkened room, everyone calm, serene, peaceful, in complete awe and admiration of birthing woman. New nurse comes through the door, walks past the birth bed and says “That’s a big baby in there!” Whole atmosphere in the room disintegrates into fear and apprehension. Now, think about it, at that moment in history can we make that baby smaller? Is the baby that is being pushed out of that vagina the absolute perfect size? YES, it is because it’s the only size it can be at that moment.
I wasn’t there for this next one, but one of my friends told me what happened when she was being stitched after her cesarean. Her husband knew she was very disappointed and so he said to her, “Honey, don’t worry next time it will be a vaginal birth.” The surgeon who was stitching her said “Not unless she’s having a two pound baby, she won’t.” When she had her seven and a half pound VBAC baby without problems, I asked her to write to the surgeon and remind him of what he had said.
I’ve been guilty of saying dumb things to birthing women, too. I’m grateful that women have told me some of the insensitive things that disempowered them so I could become more aware and spare others. There seems to be lots of blogposts on the net right now about what not to say to pregnant and birthing women and I hope it helps people to think before inserting giant foot into mouth.
Words are so important and they can make or break an experience. I remember one of my friends telling me about her lovely homebirth with a registered midwife and she said “Linda (her midwife) said me and my baby are a match made in heaven.” Now, that is something she will always remember. My own midwife, Judy Loyer, said after my youngest daughter’s birth “Every baby should be born that way.” Thanks for that treasured gift, Jude.