An overhead page from triage: new admit, complete and pushing.
I run back, a nurse tossing sterile gloves for me to catch on my way down the hall.
Introducing myself, I smile and take a breath, entering her space and bearing witness. She looks away.
I talk about how fast this her labor is moving, tell her I understand if it might not be entirely what she expected, that she’s doing a great job, and I’m here when she’s ready. Her facial expression remains unchanged, she never makes eye contact, never speaks.
We push her triage bed over to L&D, she easily moves into the next bed, continuously looking away from all of us.
And I wait.
I wait and try to understand what she needs. Even though I know this is never something that is entirely to be understood, I try. I wait, and I stay quiet, and know there will be a sign from her that she needs me.
Her face changes, and she starts pushing, naturally letting her knees drop open. The baby comes easily, crying and pink. Once the labor is over, she pulls her hands back, and looks away. I pass the baby to the nurses, saying he looks very healthy and how impressed I was at her strength through a fast labor.
I talk through everything I do next: placenta, massage, check for tears, wipe off blood, change sheets. I talk to ensure she knows my actions and intentions. I talk to fill the space. I talk to fill my own need to bring any sense of empowerment and informed consent and control to a situation which feels separated, disassociated, historic, uncertain. In the 10 minutes we spend together, I quickly understand how little I know her, her life, her story, and where she is going from here. I can only imagine what causes her to look away and stay quiet with all of us. I expect nothing from her, but want her to know my presence, that I am proud of her, and I am there to take care of her. No idea how to communicate this through mixed medical chatter and silence, I try to create a space of patience and empathy and honesty.
She continues to look away. She never speaks.