Monday, August 10, 2009

Babies! (or more accurately, Baby!)

Hey hey hey!

It's been about a week, so I figured it's time for a post! This one is kind of graphic (not visually, just verbally) since I was able to view a birth last week and I really want to tell everyone in the whole world about it because it was so cool. If the idea of birth is just too gross for you, well, just consider this: you're either going to do it yourself or to someone else, so you might as well be prepared.

Righto, so I'd been trying to watch someone deliver for about four days. The nurses all loved having me there, because apparently as soon as a someone comes to observe, the birth rate slows dramatically. Normally, they have about three births every day. On my first day, no one gave birth. On my second day, I left to get some dinner and when I came back I had missed a birth by fifteen minutes. On my third day, again, not one woman was delivering or even looking like she was going to during the daytime (and I wasn't allowed to bunk up for the night, although at this point I really wanted to). The staff found this hilarious-- I was like the anti-birth or something. Anyway, on day four, someone went into early labor around 11 AM, which meant she would deliver around 4 PM. I showed up at 3:30 and she was right about to give birth.

One of the nurses (they call them "sister" or "brother" here, which I think is cute) showed me into the labor room. It's the only one that they have in the whole hospital, and it has five beds, all in the same room and separated by curtains. The woman giving birth was lying on the center bed, surrounded by two female relatives and two nurses, and she was panting like crazy. (I'm fairly certain the father was hiding in the waiting room, not wanting to see this). When I walked in, she was in between contractions, so she looked okay... but about two minutes later, after I had put on surgical gloves and positioned myself to get a sweet view, she was hit by one. The nurses started going "Push! Push!" in English and Dzongkha, and the woman was pushing as hard as she could, her face twisted with the pain and the effort. From all this energy, all you could see was the baby crowning. Now this sounds adorable (awww, crowns!) but really it isn't at all. The top of the baby's skull is showing, but it's all squished from the pressure of the contraction, so it looks like the back of a dinosaur-- a very red, wet dinosaur. When I saw that, I was like, there is no way this woman is giving birth to a person; not only is there not enough room in there, but all I can see is a small dinosaur back.

After her contraction the mother-to-be collapsed back, totally exhausted and looking like she wanted to hit the nurses who were telling her to push (you could practically hear her saying "What does it LOOK like I'm doing?"). As she was laying there, breathing hard, the head nurse turned to me and said, "You have epidurals in your country, right?" which makes me think this woman did not have access to that miracle of modern medicine-- and it certainly looked like she didn't. I just sort of nodded dumbly (giving birth without an epidural???) and shortly thereafter another contraction hit. Again, the woman looked like she was about to pass out, and the dinosaur back reemerged.

This happened about two or three times, and I was really doubting that a baby was ever going to come out, especially since all that could be seen was the dino back. The nurses were going "One more big push! One more!" which I figured must be false encouragement or something, when, during one big contraction, a whole head just popped out! My facial expressions must have been hilarious; one moment I'm watching this weird animal-looking thing with a confused expression, and the next my mouth is literally hanging open in amazement as I stare a baby's head, complete with a face and ears and a small amount of hair. It was a miracle. Now, I know this happens every day, blah blah blah, but seriously-- watch it sometime if you can. It's like magic; it looks like some weird alien thing, and then two seconds later, bam! it's recognizable as a baby. I wish I had words to describe it, but I really don't.

Anyway, after that the mother only had to push one more time and SCHLOOP-- out came the whole baby in a rush of fluid and blood. It was a perfect little human, with teeny feet and hands, and then it opened it's mouth and screamed like crazy. The nurses all oohed and ahhed, and the mother flopped back with a "Thank the Lord" expression on her face. The umbilical cord was really icky looking; it was the color and texture of those dead bodies they're always fishing out of the river on CSI. One of the nurses clamped it down and cut it. For a brief moment, before they whisked the baby off to the pediatric ward to be checked out and vaccinated, the nurses placed it on the mother's chest, but she barely reacted. In writing, that looks really messed up (who doesn't want to see their newborn?) but that lady had been through an ordeal, and she just wanted to rest, and I'm fairly certain anyone would have done the same thing.

And her ordeal wasn't over yet. In the movies, that's where it ends, but there's still a placenta hanging around in there, and that can get infected. The head nurse grabbed onto the end of the umbilical cord and started pulling, slowly and gently, and every once in while she would reach in and readjust. I was still staring, and as the nurse pulled, a big purple blob of blood and fleshy material popped out: the placenta. It was like a big water balloon, and in my opinion, was less disturbing than the umbilical cord.

At this point, I thought for sure this woman was finally off the pregnancy hook, but nature had one more messed-up trick up her sleeve. The head nurse called for a surgical needle and thread, and turned to tell me that there was a "bit of a tear." She administered a small amount of painkiller, and then started sewing. Throughout the entire birth, from dinosaur back to placenta removal, I hadn't been lightheaded at all. Now, the day before, I almost fainted when the doctor showed me a woman whose uterus was infected after having a C-section (the doctor poked her swollen belly--it looked like she was still pregnant, it was that big--and it jiggled like it was full of fluid, and I had to sit down). The same sensation came over me as I watched the doctor sew up the wound... I had to go to the corner and sit on a stool periodically, because I just couldn't handle it. So apparently, watching a fully-grown fetus claw its way out of a woman's belly doesn't bother me, but stitches and bloated uteruses do. Go figure.

Anywho, after she was sewn up and washed, the woman finally looked comfortable. Her baby was brought over to her, and she started breastfeeding, and all was idyllic and maternal once more. I really wanted to give her a high-five, since that whole process took super-human effort (there is no way women are the weaker sex, just no way) but since she had no idea who I was or why I was even there, I thought that might be awkward.

So, I learned that while birth is an awesome, amazing miracle, it is simultaneously an awful, painful experience, so consider both sides of the issue before you get knocked up.

Hopefully you're all having as much fun as I am, even if you aren't watching babies be born, and of course I'd love to hear from any and all of you if you have time!




  1. Damn! You kept me reading till the end...scary,I am a would-be father and you already scared the hell out of me.
    I was always wondering about the placenta part of the birth...well thank you, now i know.

    So, what does it make you feel? ha ha ha

  2. You Just Gave Birth to an Enjoyable, Nice Narration...But Had to Stop..a Mate Came in..Will Continue From "all I can see is a small dinosaur back." But Jesus! Its Both Fascinating and ...(understand the father probably was hiding behind the curtains!).. whats next i wonder:?D!

  3. Wow. I just read this again and I am even more wowed. Can't believe that dinos back turned into a baby. You are a fantastic writer.

    Hope you are feeling all right. Can't wait for your next post!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Man. I, like you, am also an "anti-birth." When I was 15 I was a volunteer in "Urgent Care" and "Labor & Delivery" at a hospital in Tucson and I didn't see a birth in the 2 months I was in Labor & Delivery. Totally bizarre. I did alternate days and my hours changed a lot so somehow that didn't work. Interestingly, the only thing I did see was the placenta part and the sewing of a vaginal (or perineal, I guess) tear (had just missed the birth by a few minutes). The last part is definitely the part that got me the most, too. I'm afraid. Very afraid.