Some days I can get quite mushy about my job. I’ve had sentimental moments of gazing at my hands in wonder at the things they have done, the brand new beings they have held, the hands they have squeezed, their capacity to soothe and to damage. I remember how they shook the first time I took blood, the first time I had to sign a drug chart, the first time I got to sign my name to someone’s birth registration papers. They have held and massaged, injected and cut, caught and pulled, flushed IV lines and drawn up drugs, pressed and lifted, carried and hugged, and pushed countless pens through countless hours of paperwork.
Today I wished they could be magic. Today there was no easing into work, no relaxed banter as women juggle breastfeeding and breakfast, no time to linger, no setting off with a woman at the beginning of her labour. Today I was flung into the middle of the storm. I arrived on the scene of a woman who had been labouring for almost twenty-four hours, who has been trying to push her baby out for more than two hours and who is bone weary. Most women having a baby get tired – physically, emotionally, hormonally, it’s pretty wearing. Sometimes, not too often, women are utterly exhausted. This woman can barely hold herself up, open her eyes, take a sip of juice. Her body keeps labouring but she is far far away, eyes distant, arms and legs heavy but pliable. She neither speaks nor understands english. Her anxious partner has a few words – no power, get the doctor, too long, danger? Two hours later, her baby is born under the fluorescent glare of the theatre lights, a chubby baby girl, heavy in my gloved hands. Another hour later, she and her baby lie skin to skin in recovery, recovering. Her hands on the blanket are pale, too much blood lost in surgery. Another hour later, she and her baby daughter are back on the ward, still tucked up close, muddling their way through their first breastfeed. Three hours after this she sleeps, one hand resting on her sleeping baby in the cot beside her bed. And all this time the only words we have shared were yes? thank you, baby stay or go away?
So, today I wished my hands could be magic. I wished they could say ‘your baby is okay’, ‘you are strong and brave’, ‘I know it’s hard but it will end’, ‘we won’t take your baby away from you’, ‘I won’t leave you on your own’. I wished they could explain that I knew she needed help, that she hadn’t been forgotten, that I knew she had done everything she could. I wished they could help her feel safe and heard and not alone.