Rambling Road Family Wellness and Chiropractic specializes in chiropractic wellness care for all age groups and continued support as patients journey to optimal health and wellness.

Rambling Road Family Wellness and Chiropractic specializes in chiropractic wellness care for all age groups and continued support as patients journey to optimal health and wellness.

Assault Under a Spotlight

* This piece of creative nonfiction is not a description of any one woman’s experience; rather it is an amalgamation of stories contained within a single, common narrative. *

It’s a strange experience to stand off to the side – the glow of the spotlight before me renders me invisible to everyone in the room. He stands before me, his blue scrubs and paper booties pulled up to his knees, as though he’s about to wade into some bio-hazardous wasteland. He adjusts his spotlight and alternates his gaze between her gaping vagina and the swishing machine to the left.

To his side, the tray with seemingly endless silver tools. They mostly look the same – scissor-looking ends with some deviation of curvature or straightness. He stands fiddling with two of them – one in each hand. Flat on her back, head deep in the valley below her large, round belly, she can barely see him. Maybe she hears the clip, clip of the tool in his hands; maybe she catches the glint of light that bounces off of the metal. She wants to know what he has – what he’s going to do with it. He laughs that school-boy laugh and confesses he’s just playing; just busying his hands.

He waits, bored, like the twelve year old child in his sixth hour class who taps his foot, fervently, anticipating the end-of-day-bell; the announcement that something worthy of his precious attention is about to begin. The nurse chides him about his toys and I can’t help but note the aloofness in the room.

The focus on his personality, his toys, his experience. She lays, the juicy, oozing centerpiece on the table before them, waiting to be carved, severed and served.

He puts on his rubber gloves – blue to match the rest of his suit. He’s like a giant, distorted Smurf. I can’t be sure that he gave her warning before he thrust his two fingers inside of her. She objects by recoiling; she shuffles toward the top of the bed, and pleads for him to stop. His hand rotates around, in and out, and in further still. The rest of his fingers rub against her anus, oblivious to her experience, to her discomfort. He looks to the side, away from her face, away from her too-obvious humanness.

He holds his hand there, and I wonder how or if he has learned to disengage the clear and obvious assault overtones – the non consensual one-sided sexual engagement.
Painting by Helen McGuire, used with permission.

Painting by Helen McGuire, used with permission.

She lays, splayed open and pinned down – her legs held high in the buckets of the stirrups, her arm chained to the IV pole, belly bungeed to the fetal monitor. She is trapped, contained, held by accomplices on either side who tell her to comply, to stop resisting, to let him do his job.

It’s time, they say, to do what’s best for the baby.

She flops back in defeat and I watch a single tear trickle down her temple and into her hair. I recognize her far-off gaze – how the buzzing in my head overpowered every other sensory experience when I, too, had been inadvertently accused of being selfish during my baby’s birth. How the injustice and anger and sadness went off like mortar fire, burying me under rubble so thick I could hardly breathe.

Do we desensitize fledgling OB’s like we do Marines preparing for war?

It is challenging to see mysticism in a laboring woman confined to a bed under the glare of a spotlight. It is hard to tap into the writhing, primal woman beneath. She is lost beneath boxy gown, elastic straps and plastic lines – an entanglement of de-humanization. Here, she is machine-ified; a sterile object – immobile and unfeeling – displayed for observation and manipulation on a petri dish.

Does he ever see beauty if he looks at her?

Is he ever fascinated by the wonders of her?

This entry was posted in Activism, Birth story, Birth trauma, Feminism, Hospital, Human Rights by Kathi Valeii. Bookmark the permalink.

5 thoughts on “Assault Under a Spotlight

  1. Wow, this post is simply beautiful. There are tears. When I was a hospital midwife this scene was my bread and butter, a daily occurance. However, I was always the little voice in her ear telling her what was happening. I was always the hand holding hers even when it restricted what I was meant to be doing. I was the advocate that said when it was OK to perform a VE or apply the forceps. I hope I made a difference.
    This scenario is all too common with the way we focus on medicalised care for labouring women. Enough. What we need is a drastic paradigm shift towards how nature intended labour to be which begins with teaching women how to approach their labour. How to avoid the cascade of intervention that leads to the scenario posted today. How to be confident in our ability as women to birth our children as nature intended. Uterine smooth muscle was never designed to cause the sensation of pain when contracting under normal conditions. We make labour painful by the way society teaches and treats pregnant women. Enough.
    http://www.painfreelabour.blogspot.co.uk

    • Thank you, Ann. Those of us who must bear witness hold an incredibly weighty responsibility. I’m sure that you did make a difference. I remember one time in particular that I was with a woman – the entire room was shouting at her and there was such panic in her eyes… I remember thinking, “I can either start a conflict with the staff about their mistreatment of her (which would produce nothing more than tension in the air) or I can very intentionally connect with this mama.” I chose the latter. I believe it was the right choice. Enough is right. It’s high time that we stop making women endure this kind of treatment, and stop making those of us who support them make these kinds of horrific choices.

  2. The best way to make a statement for this abuse to stop, is to not go to hospitals, to have a low risk pregnancy/baby.
    You just admitted, creating a conflict during the labor does not help anybody.
    Did the family complain or file a complaint. Did You? as the witness to it.
    If not you have not changed anything for women in that hospital , for the future.
    Unless witnesses speak up, the birthing women speak up, complaining, to freinds and other doulas or midwives will achieve no change whatsoever.
    Was the original post sent out to all hospitals? Give it out as a hand out t6o all local practicing OB’s
    Whining, crying changes nothing. Actions only and confrontation, being passive and complaining will not work
    Gail johnson

    • Gail, thank you for your comments. Two things.

      1. This piece, as I stated in the intro. is not any one woman’s account, and though I am the author, I am not necessarily the narrator of this story. The literary style is creative non-fiction, which means that there are elements of truth and there are liberties taken by the writer to add in not necessarily factual pieces. I look at this article as a way to explore through one story a very common narrative of abuse in the birthing system.

      2. I disagree that sharing stories changes nothing. Sharing our experiences, calling out injustice on a grand scale is a necessary part of the revolutionary process. Many women, when they hear another’s story, wake up to the fact that these are ABUSES, not just a simple standard of care to be expected. Women need the space to start sharing their experiences, to raise the consciousness so-to-speak of this oppression. Then, and only then, can we have a broad demand large enough and intimidating enough to be heard.

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