When I went to give birth to my firstborn, I was expecting a certain lack of modesty in the hospital. I’d read enough mommy blogs and talked to enough mom friends to have heard stories about how literally dozens of people might be all up in my lady bits and I won’t even care. Hard to imagine, for sure, but I was sort of prepared for that part.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how invisible I would feel all the while being so vulnerable and exposed to so many. That was the real shock of my experience giving birth in a large hospital with my first baby.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful. The nurses were great for the majority of my time in labor and delivery and since I was induced, I was there for longer than maybe most women. I also had to push for nearly three hours, which means that I was lying on my back with my legs spread and my feet up in the air showing my business to anyone who walked in for quite some time. And let me tell you, a lot of people were walking in and out. Doctors, the next shift of nurses, the pediatric team that was on standby, you name it. And only a handful of these people actually spoke to me, to my face. I never felt more like a piece of meat than I did during those three hours.
At one point, a resident came by to talk to my doctor because she had been his intern in the past and she heard he was attending to a delivery and wanted to say hello and see if he needed any help. She gestured in the general direction of my spread legs when she talked about helping him. Nowhere in that exchange did she introduce herself to me, or asked me if I wanted her to help or even made eye contact.
Towards the end, when everyone had given up on my ability to evict my baby on my own, my doctor called the on-call OB to discuss using the vacuum extractor. This other OB came in to discuss its availability with my doctor. Once again the two of them were standing by my legs, gesturing in the direction of my vagina and discussing doing things to my body without actually addressing me or looking at me.
This sort of thing kept happening over and over. After my baby was finally born (without the use of the vacuum), there was a lot of frenzy in the room. The pediatric team swept baby away to be checked out, my doctor was pumping my uterus as if trying to give it CPR, the other OB came back to help stitch me up. And no one was telling me anything. I heard bits and pieces of conversations about me, but none were directed at me.
Hey, I get it. Sometimes doctors need to work fast and you don’t have time to explain every little thing. But for the most part, things were not exactly moving at the speed of light in that delivery room. My induction and the actual pushing were all taking forever. I realize that the doctors and nurses who work in labor and delivery probably see dozens of haggard vajayjays every week and after a while they barely notice us, and can just go about their work. I know that these slights were not personal; no one was giving me the cold shoulder on purpose. Maybe some even thought that leaving me alone was helpful.
But hey, how about treating the delirious, tired, birthing woman who is exposing herself to the world with a little more dignity and humanity. It’s one thing if you’re coming into the room to bring supplies or pick up equipment; I don’t expect every single person who works at the hospital to be chatting me up.
But if you have reason to discuss or gesture at my lady parts, how about a quick “hello” directed at my face at some point during the exchange? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.