who's the mommy around here anyway?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Courage of Your Convictions

I was at Blogs are Stupid reading this particular post which brought back my own memories. I sit at the computer, crying. I remember this incident every now and then, and it always hits hard.

As you may know, I was an operating room nurse. I practiced for many years and participated in thousands of procedures of all types, no exaggeration. I have very few memories of individual procedures. They all just blur into one big amalgam of surgical experience. A few things stand out, though. This is one of those things.

I've always been a supporter of the Roe v. Wade decision. As a teenager I would have told you that I supported abortion, but as an older and wiser woman I can tell you that what I support is not abortion, but the right of a woman to make her own decisions about what is best without interference. I am not going to use my blog as a soapbox, and if you go to the aforementioned blog, she states the case much more concisely and eloquently than I'm capable of doing. Suffice it to say that because of my convictions I was often called upon to participate in abortion procedures performed in the operating room where I worked. Nurses were allowed to refuse to participate based on religious or ethical grounds, but I was not one of those nurses. I didn't find it pleasant to participate. I didn't find any high moral ground in it. I also didn't judge the women undergoing the procedures and treated them as courteously and caringly as I would treat any other patient. These women were neither young nor old, rich nor poor. There was no unifying characteristic among them except that they were having abortions and I was not always aware of the reason for the procedure.

Abortions performed during early pregnancy are fairly uncomplicated and quick procedures. One does not generally get emotional while watching them. There is no baby as such, usually just blood and tissue. Late term abortions are another thing.

I took care of a woman having a late term abortion. She was having the procedure because her continuing pregnancy was endangering her life. She was pretty sick. If you're squeamish, skip this part. The baby was removed from her uterus in pieces using metal instruments and force, and it was barbaric. I don't remember the details, but I remember that finesse was definitely not involved. I do remember tiny body parts and the horror I felt, not because we were there doing this, but because as this tragedy was occurring, and indeed I did believe it was a tragedy that we all had to be there, but because of the callous attitude of the other caregivers. The doctors, an attending OB and his resident and an anesthesiologist, were talking about their vacations and laughing about something or other throughout the procedure. There was no dignity in the OR on that day. The baby passed into oblivion with no one to mourn, never to be held or cuddled or kissed. It was awful.

I cleaned up when it was over and I was alone in the OR. My good friend, another RN, came into the room. She's a devout Christian and someone who would not participate in the procedure. She's also an incredibly special person with a big heart. I was in a mood. I told her what had happened, how terrible it was and I broke down. I think I said something like "...and no one cared." She held me while I cried.

To this day, I mourn that baby. I don't even know if it was a boy or girl. I just think that I should remember. I wonder how the baby's mother did, if she recovered and went on to live a long life. If I had to do it again, I would, but I wouldn't be silent. I'd be strong enough to tell the others in the room to show some respect for the life that was leaving this world. Even the tiniest and most unwanted of us deserve that much.

11 Comments:

  • I came over from your comment on Blogs are Stupid. I agree with you and aI think your way would have been better. But, I am trying to give the doctors the benefit of the doubt here... maybe they have to be that way and disconnect somehow to even be able to do that. I think if I was doctor I would have to try to think about something else while it was going on. To be solemn and focus on the actuality might be too much to handle.

    By Anonymous Alice-Anne, at 10:09 AM  

  • Hi Alice-anne, Thanks for stopping by. The truth is, you're giving the docs too much benefit. They behaved typically for the people they are, I'd worked with them numerous times. You're very kind, but they don't really deserve it.

    By Blogger molly, at 11:22 AM  

  • Molly,

    You are a wonderful person for providing love and care to women who need it so desperately. I know it must be so difficult to witness such a sad thing time and again...you have my utmost respect for your dedication and for suspending judgement to help women in need. Thank you for your story.

    By Anonymous blog_antagonist, at 1:15 PM  

  • Thanks for this. I'm much in the same camp with you -- I don't really support the idea of abortion, but I will vigorously defend each woman's right to decide for herself which choice she could make. I know that sometimes, there IS no choice.

    Thank you for remembering that baby. I know that it must have been SO hard to have to be there for that, but your keeping the flame of that child's soul lit all this time is life-affirming in of itself. I appareciate your warm heart in that regard.

    I'm glad to see that you are back among us. I was beginning to worry about you!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:14 PM  

  • Dear Molly, My youngest daughter suffers from the effects of the diethylstilbesterol that I took when pregnant with her. She has had five miscarriages, 2 handicapped children that died and 1 living pretty normal son. Her second pregnancy produced a little girl, who had almost no brain, but good care enabled her to be trapped inside a wretched body for almost 10 years. When she was 6 months pregnant with her 8th pregnancy, it was discovered that the child was handicapped like his older sister, but worse. The fetologist told us that if she tried to make it to her C-Section, the child's head would rupture and my daughter would die. Instead of doing an abortion, they decided to have a prostiglandins induction. If you are familiar with that--- it is a terrible thing for the mother, but is a normal delivery for the baby. Her other children were C-Sections, but this little guy was allowed to be born and cuddled in our arms for the short time he spent in this world. I respect womens' right to choose, but I think my daughter chose the right way for her baby.

    By Blogger Kacey, at 5:17 PM  

  • As someone who has had to have a D&C, when I was 25 yrs. old.
    May I say I agree with you about the little caring Doctors have. When they were doing the D&C all they were talking about was getting them selves white cars.
    Not realizing how I as a patient whos heart was breaking as I so wanted to have that child and couldn't carry it to term. I felt like it was my fault, even though it wasn't.
    I do believe women should have a say over their bodies, and I do believe in abortions when a child is not wanted or a mother is unable to care for that beautiful being.
    Well written as only an OR nurse
    can do it.

    Cheryl

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:29 PM  

  • Blog Antagonist - Hi and thanks for the inspiration. I think you're a wonderful friend. Thanks for the kind words

    Klee - Good to hear from you. Thanks for the comment. Your words are thoughtful and intelligent, as usual.

    kacey - Wow. She's gone through so much. The prostaglandin induction, it sounds awful, knowing what you're going through and what the outcome will be. What heartache. I have no words. Thanks for sharing.

    Mom - you never talk about it. It must have been awful. I know you wanted another baby. I'm sorry.

    By Blogger molly, at 6:29 PM  

  • Molly, i am really moved by your post...i teared up thinking of that baby..nothing more i can say..it is so sad..i hope the mom is still alive and well.

    By Blogger Summer, at 10:56 AM  

  • Wow. What a story.

    There is so much to be reformed in the medical establishment ....

    By Blogger jo(e), at 1:49 PM  

  • Hi,
    Just wanted to post that I happened upon your blog today and I enjoyed your writing. Trish

    By Blogger mom of nymphs, at 3:48 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:56 PM  

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