Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Dad Was Right!

When I was in High School, my Dad had this AWFUL rule that I had to spend at least 20 minutes a night on each subject.  So, even if I didn't have "official" homework, I had to do something educational.  Yeah right.  In reality, I hung in my bedroom and did anything but study.  I set up a pretty realistic scene, should he come upstairs and check on my studious ways -- with my text books open on my desk, an uncapped highlighter in the crease and a notebook at the ready.

So, as I was a few hours into a birth on Friday night with a completely, 100 percent, non-English speaking couple, I thought of my Dad and what if...what if I actually spent my 20 minutes on Spanish every night?  What if I didn't have my very best friend, native to Venezuela, do my homework for me?  What if?

Here's how it went down...I FINALLY got called into a volunteer birth, with the Chicago Volunteer Doula group.  I was on for the night shift, from 7 p.m. - 7 a.m. and left for the hospital at about 6:30 p.m.  I was giddy with excitement and nerves, as this was only my second birth and I was going solo.  There was a young, 22 year-old woman, a few days past her due date, that was induced due to her Cholestasis, a liver disease during pregnancy.  She was about 4 centimeters, didn't want pain medication and, along with her boyfriend, didn't speak a lick of English. 

When I walked into the room, I burned through all 19 Spanish words I know trying to get to know them better.  I was able to determine they were having a boy and that she was calmed by the trashy, Spanish-speaking soap operas blaring on the hospital room television.  Oh, I knew it was going to be a long night.  She was breathing well through her contractions, but was progressing VERY slow.  I knew I should get her out of bed, moving around, but I had a hard time expressing this so she could understand.  So, what did I do?  I begged for help.  My friend/co-doula is fluent in Spanish so I begged and pleaded for her to come help me for a bit, and g-d, love her, she did.

The moment she walked in, the relief in the room was palpable.  The midwife was relieved, I was relieved and the couple was relieved.  She stayed with us for about 3 hours, translating everything, as we did positions and tried to keep her comfortable and calm. 

When my life line left at about 11 p.m., my heart sank.  I so wanted to help this lovely woman, but how much could I actually do?  A novice doula (with only one birth under her belt) that can't communicate is NOT a good combination.  For the next few hours, her contractions were very manageable and there was barely any change.  It hit me, at that point, I would not be going home or getting any sleep that night. 

When the midwife checked her at about 2 a.m. and she was still 4 centimeters, they made the decision to break her water.  Poor girl, I know she didn't understand what was happening and I couldn't help.  Just imagine yourself in a foreign country, unable to communicate, in a hospital bed with people explaining things to you that you can't understand about your body and baby.  My heart ached for her, but I couldn't help and truthfully, I was starting to fade.  I hate to admit it...I thought years of staying up all night with my kids would prepare me for the all-nighter, but it didn't.  I was tired, frustrated and didn't know what to do to help.  Yuck.

Almost instantly after her water broke, her contractions hit high gear.  I mean, they went from her just closing her eyes and breathing to down right pain...moaning and crying so loud you could hear her from the hallway.  I was nervous at this point, up until now, her boyfriend had been playing games on his cell phone, not really a part of what was going on in the room.  But, thankfully, he totally stepped it up and held her through every contraction.  I did massage as best as I could, as she wanted to stay lying in bed.  She could barely keep her eyes open and her pain was worse.  At about 3:30 a.m., they checked her again and she was at 5.  She made the decision to have pain medication at that point and, since the only anesthesiologist was in a c-section, she would have to wait almost two hours for an epidural.  So, she opted for Stadol...I could tell she had NO idea the risks of this drug and I couldn't help her weigh her options.  Again, I felt so helpless and like a failure, could I have done more?

The Stadol made her so sleepy, but didn't take the edge off her pain at all.  For the next two hours, she would pass out in between contractions and was on the edge of hyperventilating for each and every one.  When the epidural finally came, she was so uncomfortable and out of it, she didn't understand she couldn't get the epidural if she didn't sit still.  The resident could speak a little Spanish and I had to leave the room.  It was 5 a.m.  It took them an hour and a half to get the epidural in, she wouldn't stay still long enough. 

At that point, the mother fell fast asleep and everything in the room calmed.  And, I made the decision to leave.  The next shift was starting at 7 a.m., so I knew if she woke up and needed help, the Midwife could call the next shift.  All that work and I still have no clue when she had the baby and if everything was okay.  I also made the decision I was quitting this line of work, on the way home.

I came to my senses after my totally understanding hubby took kid duty so I could pass out for a few hours.  So now, after my normal course of a few days processing, I am cutting myself a little slack and getting back into the game.  I'm sure a more seasoned doula would have known what to do, how to handle this situation, how to communicate without speaking.  And, the only way I can get there is by sticking with it.  And, by remembering what my Dad taught me so long ago...practice makes perfect!

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