Strong words said by a mother…
Then another mother says to me, “There’s no way I’m going to the hospital!”
And then another mother says, “I don’t want to go to the hospital for even one check up. Everyone I know ends up with caesareans…”
Three different mothers. Three very different scenarios. Three very different backgrounds. Three different belief systems.
And yet this very strong underlying feeling from all three. And all in the same week.
What do I do? What do I say in these situations?
I sit and write this whilst waiting for my students to arrive. I am part of a group of women who teach the 4th and 5th-year medical students ‘compassion’ as part of their obstetric training. It is a programme that was started several years ago by midwife Robyn Sheldon (www.mamabamba.com).
The students arrive and I put away my pencil and notebook. They are chatting amongst themselves. I hear the words, “I am so tired.” repeated several times.
We begin the tutorial by sitting quietly and comfortably in chairs in a circle. The pressure is off and all we need to do is observe our individual breath as it moves in and out of our nostrils. We allow ourselves to just be. We observe or thoughts, emotions and feelings as they arise and drift in and out of us. We note the hustle and bustle taking place around us in the hospital. The clanging. The announcements. The hurried footsteps. The cars in the road outside. We notice these things but each time we go back to our breath, allowing that to be our centre and anchor.
After some time, we open our eyes. Now it feels like we have truly arrived. It feels like we are truly present and can now truly see each other.
We begin the tutorial by going around the circle and checking in. How has their week been in the labour ward?
One by one, we go around the circle and what I hear is distressing story after distressing story. They are exhausted. They feel overwhelmed. They do not like how they are being treated and they cannot bear how the women in labour are being treated. They cannot wait for this part of their training to be over. Some had really looked forward to being in the labour ward and being part of birth and babies, bringing new life into the world. But right now, it feels like a war zone and something they need to get through and survive.
I tell them briefly about the blog post I was working on when they came in and the title,
I never want to go near that hospital again!
I tell them about the three different women who shared these sentiments in three different settings and all in the same week.
I say it is a pity because, in an ideal world, these women would live in a society where they could trust and feel supported by the health care system.
What has happened when seeking help from places meant to heal and support comes as a last resort? Or is stressful and traumatic? Or something to be avoided at all costs?
We discuss this further for some time when one student pipes up,
“You can add one more person to your blog post who never wants to go near a hospital again, a fourth-year medical student!”
by Ruth Erhardt