A Tip Of The Cap
What was a slow call night changed with a simple tug, as the residents decided it was time to break the water of one woman in labor in order to help her proceed with the delivery. For those of you who don't know, this involves taking a plastic stick with a little sharp edge at one end, sticking it into the vagina, latching it onto the bag, and tugging to your hearts content until a nice wad of mucous and urine bursts onto your (hopefully) gloved hand. I hope you aren't grossed out yet, because this gets much worse (and by "worse" I mean more miraculous, of course!).
We left the room soon thereafter (because there is usually a few hours of delay between bag rupture and the actual delivery), returning to the call room and the comforting confines of Sex and The City reruns while we casually glanced at the fetal heart rate monitors. However, five minutes later, we heard some serious moaning from the delivery room we had just been in, and everyone raced to the room to discover that the delivery was now imminent. When I arrived in the room, the patient was moaning, her legs bent and spread, revealing a pulsating vagina that was bright red. She started groaning in agony as the next contraction began while the residents encouraged her to push as hard as she could. Her face turned bright red, while beads of sweat trickled quickly down her face. Meanwhile, her husband stood there, hopeless and helpless, watching the proceedings with eager anticipation and a drop of guilt for being the reason why she was in all this pain in the first place*.
And then, something started happening. A baby's head emerging from the orifice that marked the origin of its creation one lusty, bourbon-filled evening approximately nine months prior? No. Actually, it became apparent that the fetus's heart rate was dropping dramatically. Using a complicated formula that weighed various metrics, data points, and fetal heart scores to determine a subsequent course of action (simply summarized as "Holy crap! Crap crap crap!"), the residents decided an immediate intervention was necessary to save the baby and the mother. Interestingly, the intervention at hand can be found in homes across America. Yes, using the finest technology that the American health care system can buy, the senior resident took a suction cap, stuck it on the head of the decompensating fetus, told the nurse to "let her rip", and started bringing the baby out with each contraction using a modified vacuum. She was literally sucking the baby out of the womb, and my mouth was gaping wide open out of shock and a tinge of fear, because, lets face it, I once broke a vacuum accidentally sucking up a penny on the floor, so I can't imagine what kind of damage it could do to a baby's head.
After three attempts at tugging, with one trial that resulted in the vacuum popping off the baby's head because the resident was pulling so hard, the baby finally started emerging. A few more maneuvers later, and the baby was finally out, a NICU team waiting to receive her and make sure her decompensating heart or sucked out head were not reason for long-term concern (they weren't). However, on the way out, the baby did leave a little goodbye note to the mom in the form of ripping the mom's vaginal wall all the way down to her rectum. Ya, you read that right. Making the phrase "Hey baby, can I put it in that other hole tonight?" all the more complicated, this poor woman now had a direct communication between her vagina and her rectum, a complication of pregnancy that will almost universally lead to bowel incontinence (in other words, poo all over the place, all the time) for the remainder of this woman's life despite the best post-partum surgical correction.
Then it got even more fun: the placenta still had to be removed. Except as a result of a prior C-section, it had adhered to the muscular layer of the uterus (called placenta accreta - Does all this fancy doctor talk turn you on? I'm really that desperate. But I digress.), so all the tugging of the cord wasn't helping in the slightest. The resident knew what she had to do, something so shocking, so vile...ah screw it: basically, she stuck her hand up the woman's vagina, reaching in further and further (and further!), until her arm, all the way up to her elbow, was inside this woman's nether regions and fishing around to pull out the fixed placenta. She then repeated this same arm exploration two more times. My mouth, previously wide open, had now fallen all the way to the floor, as I had never seen anything quite like that (although I guess this can't be too shocking to you porn fiends out there). I must admit, reader feedback notwithstanding, an "I shit you not" is in order here.
Luckily, the placenta was removed, the baby delivered, and the mom still in one piece, quickly calmed by the cries of her new baby and the chance to hold the baby in her hands for the first time.
What did I learn here? Well, basically, it can be summed in two succinct thoughts:
1) Thank God I don't ever have to go through that. As suggested by the title of this post, I have a newfound respect for what women have to go through to deliver a baby vaginally, and I can't even begin to imagine how terribly painful this must be for them. Now of course, not all deliveries are riddled with complications like the one I just described, but still...well, I'll take the prostate, thank you very much. I realize this newfound appreciation I have for the pains of childbirth may be simply stating the obvious for many of you, but this is really something that is hard for any 20-something male to appreciate unless you actually witness a live birth fraught with complications (and my hunch is the vast majority of you have not seen a whole lot like this), hence my desire to share.
2) That whole miracle of life thing really doesn't begin to describe the mucous, urine, poo, smells, pain, vacuums, and so on that are actually inherent in the process of delivering a baby. So maybe instead of "miracle" we could refer to it as "The unfortunately designed method of life delivery, full of bodily secretions, that I guess is a miracle but is still really gross." Just thought I'd throw that out there.
*That sounded nice, eh? The husband all caring and stuff? Well, it turns out that's just me drifting into fantasyland and not actually a representation of reality. Do you really want to know where the husband's eyes have been focused in the three deliveries I have been involved with so far? The Apprentice, Monday Night Football, and that bastion of riveting television, Telemundo. Christ, guys, is it really that hard to focus for like 10 minutes while your wife/significant other/whatever is pushing a watermelon out of her vagina? It's just poor form. That said, it was a damn good episode of The Apprentice.