After an emotionally taxing day at the hospital, I was pretty wiped out. I slept pretty well, but my dreams were filled with a lot of strange images; episiotomy cuts, seeing my nanny kiddos as newborn babies, and leading some sort of workers rally for better conditions at the Chinese restaurant where I was working, which I can only assume is a metaphor for the hospital. The only thing that was consistent throughout this strange string of dreams was Gloria. Gloria was the mother that I attended last night. She was in my dreams and on my mind when I woke up this morning and now I feel compelled to write about her.
I introduced myself to Gloria during my first round of hellos when I arrived at the hospital yesterday. I came back to check on her after accompanying another woman to the expulsivo. She seemed slightly unsure of my purpose after she realized I wasn’t a doctor or nurse. I offered to dim the lights and close her curtain and she seemed to like that. During her first really tough contraction, she instinctively reached out for my hand. She seemed surprised when I didn’t pull away. That first contact seemed to create trust between us, and she scarcely let go for the next several hours.
Throughout labor, Gloria tried to stay on top of her pain. She breathed deeply with me and also did a lot of low moaning, which many women do as a coping technique. I tried to ignore the numerous times she was told to stop crying. When things really picked up, she reached out and began to pull herself up. Before I knew it, she was standing and hanging her arms over my shoulders. I swayed back and forth with her to try and help relieve some of her discomfort. When the nurses saw us, they immediately instructed her to get back in bed. You know, because standing is the worst thing you could possibly do while in labor… (insert major side eye here). We spent the next twenty minutes or so with Gloria sitting on the edge of the bed with her arms over my shoulders, rocking back and forth-a seated version of what we were doing previously. As her labor progressed, Gloria clung to me. In those moments I felt so protective of her, not unlike my nanny kids. I remember once I had to take K to get her TB test to start preschool. I had spent the time leading up to the nurse’s entrance telling her that it would be okay and what a brave girl she was. When the nurse told me I had to lay my body on top of hers to make sure she didn’t move for the test I was none too happy. Neither was K for that matter. I was the person who was supposed to comforting her and protecting her and here I was aiding in causing her pain. When Gloria had to get a catheter last night, she kept squeezing her legs together in fear. I had to help the nurse hold them open, and once again I felt like a traitor.
When it was time for Gloria to go to the expulsivo, the doctor unlocked the wheels of her bed and I went around the back to help push her into the other room. I let go of her hand for just a moment, so I could push the bed. She looked at me with such fear in her eyes, I haven’t been able to get that image out of my head. I assured her I wasn’t going to leave her and then helped her into the birthing chair. The baby came relatively fast, after only a few pushes and she was beautiful. They laid her across Gloria’s stomach and I encouraged her to open her eyes and look at her daughter. She reached out to touch her, but they wouldn’t let her. The baby was “too dirty.” Because the baby was delivered by Dr. Episiotomy Lover, Gloria had to spend even more time in the delivery chair getting stitched up. Finally they brought the bed to bring her to the recovery area.
After they wheeled Gloria into her spot, I went and got the baby for her. She felt too weak to hold her, and so I carefully placed the baby at her side. I stood there silently for a moment, staring at the teeny little baby who had only been on earth for about 45 minutes (I told you, this will NEVER get old). I wanted to give Gloria some time to rest, and my shift was over in a few minutes anyway, so I began to say goodbye. As I did, tears welled up in Gloria’s eyes (so of course I started to cry too, I need to get a handle on this lol). “You were the only person who was there. You were the only person that helped me. Thank you for everything.” I told her that she was welcome, that she did great, and congratulated her. I hugged her as best I could and went to change out of my scrubs and head home.
DONA’s vision statement is “A doula for every woman who wants one.” I truly think every laboring mother should be offered a doula, regardless of age, number of previous pregnancies, socioeconomic status, regardless of anything. Because what I’m learning here in Honduras, is that many woman may not know that they want a doula. But when transitioning during labor and there is someone there who’s sole responsibility is to help you breathe, or stroke your hair, or just hold your hand, a woman responds to that. And I think every laboring mother deserves the opportunity to have that.