How do I tell you?
How do I tell you that in the last year I have heard five stories of people pulling babies heads from their bodies during the birth. I am trying to get into the spirit of the holidays and I am trying to listen. No one wants to hear about this. This is not the kind of thing one ever talks about. I did not ever hear of such a thing in all my years as a midwife. I am not sure I thought it possible.
You are talking. I watch your mouth move and the doors open and shut behind you. It is warm inside. I cannot say what is on my mind. It is too terrible and too lost. I can tell no one wants to know this. What could they possibly do about it even if they knew? I do not even want to know this but it is too late, I do.
In Vietnam and Cambodia, the midwives and the women along the road at the small market, seem to want to tell me this. They want to tell me about the baby’s head being pulled from the body and what I might suggest.
I try to recover quickly from my horror. A small child is sitting at a pedal sewing machine while her grandmother tells me this story. In the schools and clinics they say “and then the baby’s head came off.’ I am trying to enjoy a warm cup of tea but I am still sitting by the road listening to the story. In the back of the house there are pens for baby pigs the family is raising. I stop and visit with them when I go to find a bathroom.
I include shoulder dystocia in my workshops. I wear pants and get down on the floor and show them a few things to try like getting the woman up and on her hands and knees or pulling the legs as far back towards the womans head as you can. I show them super pubic pressure. I say never pull on the head. It won’t work. I say lying on a too small table flat on your back with feet in stirups is not the best to prevent this kind of thing.
I am thinking about this while you are discussing your home remodel and your problems at work. I cannot say. “Yes, I like that color for a bathroom and by the way can you believe they actually pulled the baby’s head off.’
I need to dance, to sing and pray out loud; to fall on my knees and sleep in a den made by the coyotes in the forest last summer when it was warm. I need to let the rawness of my heart find its way.
I am told that the trick is to wear a nice black coat and good shoes and no one will pay attention to what you are wearing underneath.
I think about the medial table making its way into the birth rooms of low resource countries. They are flat with stirrups and sometimes very old. They look like someone cleaned out a warehouse and sent them to poor countries. The medical directors, place them in small rooms and, like the black coat, think that now all is well. No one dares to give birth off the flat, too small table or to get her up or change positions. It is the sign of civilization. I am thinking about this while you are explaining the problems at your job and with your boss. It deverts my attention for awhile but I am going to Haiti in a month. Do I bring a birth chair or get a design and have one made. Is that possible? Of course its possible.
I am not a good friend. I think about how to prevent baby’s heads from being pulled from their bodies as you talk. I am afraid to go to sleep for fear that the babies will come to me there. I wonder if anyone has a birth chair they are not using anymore.
I remind myself that people are sick of Haiti. It was suppose to get better by now. Its Christmas and then New Years.
The head of the midwifery school thanks me and says she will teach everyone about these positions. That she herself, did not know this. I cannot remember not knowing this. I can feel the birthing women in my arms; breathing and moaning and turning all by themselves to get in the right position to birth.
I do not want to spoil the party. When you ask me how I am I will say fine and then at dawn, I will make a fire and write, even if no one ever reads it. I will burn it in the fire and take out the ashes and put them in my garden and I promise I will never tell you the dire consequences of the birth practices imposed on women.
A mother is talking about a doll hospital where they will fix your doll. For example a doll’s head came off and they put it back perfectly. I nod my head and agree it sounds like a magical place.