Often times in life, we are our biggest critic and our own greatest set-back, allowing idealistic perceptions define what is “good enough,” and inevitably, setting our very own limitations. One of my favorite quotes speaks to this thought- “If you limit your choice only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.” (Robert Fritz)
It is not just the rare occasion in which I feel inadequate myself…Am I good enough? Am I competent enough? Am I worthy enough? Does any of what I’m doing matter? I’m tired…I’m scared…I’m unsure. These are a fraction of my own internal limitations. It is a continual effort to remove my own limitations and push myself past these internal barriers. Yes I am good enough. Yes I am competent enough. Yes I am worthy enough. Yes, this matters.
Last night we arrived on the Labor & Delivery unit to a young woman writhing and moaning loudly in pain. She hardly looked pregnant. When I questioned the Haitian midwife on why the patient was there, I was told that the patient was “4 months” pregnant, and had fallen. As I spoke with the patient and took her vitals, I suspected that the patient may be lying about falling. She had no tenderness, no bruises or abrasions. Induced abortions with Cytotec here are rampant- Cytotec is inexpensive and easily obtainable. Whatever the cause- a fall or an intended abortion- the patient’s cervix was dilating and she would no doubt be miscarrying. There was nothing we could do. Soon after our arrival, things became more intense, with it apparent that delivery was imminent. I looked to Glen and said, “I can’t do this delivery. Will you please do it?” He asked me why and I answered honestly. “I’m scared. I’ve never seen or touched such an early baby.” I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what this baby was going to look like. Would this baby come out intact? Damaged? Bloody, gory? I was afraid I did not know how to serve her well. I had no clue, and the unknown is frightening.
As we were expecting an imminent delivery, we would find out from the patient’s family who accompanied her to the hospital that she had indeed taken Cytotec. The loss of this baby was intentional.
Around us, all Hell breaks loose. Four patients, all near delivery, are contained in a small room the size of my master bathroom at home. The walls contain the yelling, screaming, moaning, and shouts to Jesus. “Jesus, I am dying!” is exclaimed into the air.
The patient begins pushing and in two pushes, the baby’s butt becomes visible, revealing to us that this baby is breech. Glen delivers the butt, legs, and abdomen, and as this limp baby girl hangs out of her mother, she suddenly wiggles and kicks fiercely. Glen and I both startle. Glen looks at me and states the obvious, “THIS BABY IS ALIVE.”
He delivers the baby’s head, and places her in my blanketed hands. I gently place the baby on her mother’s abdomen, gently wipe her dry, cradle her body in the blanket, and place my stethoscope over her. Her heart rate is strong and steady at 160 beats per minute, and she is making an effort to breathe.
Her heart pounding strongly.
My heart racing wildly.
I am dripping sweat and nauseous, my stomach contorted, feeling as if it is in my throat.
The stagnant air is relieved by a breeze coming through the window from the storm that is brewing outside. “Camille, can you close the window? I don’t want her to be cold.” Camille closes the window. Dripping sweat, my back is aching, I’m leaning over listening to the baby girl’s heart beat. I begin to cry and don’t even try to refrain myself. Tears are streaming down my face; big fat tears fall to the already saturated, filthy floor beneath us, joining the mom’s blood, sweat, urine, and every other patient’s blood, sweat, urine, and vomit.
This floor knows my sweat well, and now, my tears join it all. This, THIS, is the definition of Blood, Sweat, & Tears. I am sweating and crying for this baby, and my heart aches so bad for this baby girl that it could bleed for her as well.
She wasn’t just “4 months,” she was probably about 22-23 weeks…but she didn’t even have a chance. Not here.
I cried as I heard her heart beating because I knew I was the first to hear her heart, and I would also be the last.
I cried because she was living. I cried because she was dying. I cried because there was nothing I could do. I cried because this didn’t have to happen.
I looked to Glen, me having never done this before and not knowing what to expect. “How long will she live?” He says to me that it could be just a few minutes…or a couple hours. I look into the mother’s eyes and tell her that her baby has a heart beat, but will soon die. I ask her if I can hold the baby up on her chest, and wait. She nods yes. This is a big deal. I tell her that I will continue to listen to the baby’s heart and will let her know when it stops beating. I ask her to look at her baby. I ask her to touch her baby. I tell her that I’m so, so, so very sorry. There is so much I could say, but right here, right now, it’s not appropriate and it doesn’t matter anyhow. I want to pray but my mind is not able to assemble any coherent thoughts. I simply say quietly, over and over, “Lord Jesus, please be with this baby; please be with this mother.”
I know The Lord doesn’t need my words. He knows my thoughts, and knows what is in my heart. Slowly, the baby’s heart would gradually slow…160…130…120…100…and finally, just simply stopped. Over the course of that baby’s hour here on earth, she was against her mother, and in my hands, wrapped in not only a blanket from Alaska, but also wrapped in prayer. I said to the patient, “Your baby’s heart has stopped.” She cried. I cried. Eventually, after I had carried the baby away, I placed the baby on the scale, looked her over, and weighed her. I wrapped her gingerly in her blanket, and then placed her in the box that was given to me.
In the beginning, I doubted myself and my ability to do a good job and serve this mother and her baby well. I was fearful. I felt I lacked the “right” words. But in the end, my own expectations and self-imposed limitations didn’t matter. In the end, I gave my blood, sweat, & tears…and love.
I took my gloves off, washed my hands, and walked away.