* 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.
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.
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?