No seriously… I did. Actually, I saw several uterii in the early hours after midnight on my first day, but the first one and the mom it belonged to made an impression on me in a profound way. Before I tell you about her, let me share a bit of background.
In the hospital where we are serving, they have a cesarean rate that is above 50%. To help with context, there were five cesarean sections during our eight hour shift and two vaginal births. There is a prelabor room, a labor room, a delivery room, and a few postpartum rooms for moms. The moms walk from one room to the next, except after cesarean sections when they are lifted off of the operating table and taken by gurney to the postpartum room. The women in this hospital labor without epidural or pain medications, unless they choose to pay for it ahead of time.
I had only been at the hospital for a short period of time and was in the nursery with the babies when my team lead asked if I wanted go to a birth. I said, “Of course!” And followed her through two hallways. As we were headed down the corridor, I saw a woman in a thin, see-through, blue paper gown and shoes covers walking down the hallway following some doctors. She was completely naked underneath.
My team lead led me to an area with four large doors and there were doctors walking around. When I looked inside the first open door to the right, I saw a doctor suturing a woman’s abdomen. I realized I was in the area with the operating rooms and the baby I had just seen brought into the nursery before I left belonged to this mom.
The woman I had seen walking down the hallway went into another room and was instructed to sit on the bed. The doors to the other rooms were open, so the surgeries happening to other women were in full view. I stood outside the door peeking in with my team lead as they prepared her for the epidural… numbed the area… inserted the needle… removed the needle leaving the catheter in place… inserted the medication… layed her down… lowered her head below her belly… leveled the table out again…
My team lead asked me if I had ever observed a cesarean section and I told her I had not. She told me that it may be a good idea to take the opportunity to observe one or two from start to finish when the mom is taken to the postpartum just to get additional perspective about how brave these women are. It sounded like good advice to me so I stayed to watch.
The doors were open, so her body was completely exposed, except for the thin, see-through blue paper gown that had been drawn up to her chest. Someone came in and cleaned her belly, vaginal area and thighs… first with a soap, then with a disinfectant.
I must take a moment to describe what happened next because of what it reminded me of. I grew up in a Baptist church where Communion was observed each 1st Sunday of the month. The way that the two doctors collected, opened and spread out the sheet over the woman reminded me of all the Sundays I had watched my Mom and the other deaconesses prepare the Comunion for the congregation. Every motion was deliberate and in unison. One sheet layed in one direction over her bare body. Another sheet opened in unison and placed in the opposit direction. And the final sheet that only left the bottom of her belly exposed.
For me, it felt symbolic, just like a different doctor who made the symbol of the cross over a woman’s uterus after repairing it and placing it back in her body. I saw two other doctors hold hands and pray before the surgery began.
Anyway, the young doctor began to check the mom’s previous incision area, because she had a scar from a previus c-section(s). Soon after, he began to cut. He took the razor from packet and began. One motion across the mom’s abdomen right along the same line of the scar from her previous surgery. And then he repeated it exposing white underneath. He took another tool and cauterized the incision while also removing a thin layer of scar tissue. Then he cut again and cauterized small areas where there was bleeding as needed. The other doctor followed behind patting the areas with a towel and checking for blood. The doctor cut deeper. There were little clumps of yellow which I recognized as fat.
It was about that time that my team lead told me that they were fine with me standing inside the rooms and not just standing at the door, so I walked into the small room and stood beside the other observers, each of us with face masks on and heads covered. Eventually, I noticed what looked like what the pictures and diagrams show as muscle. I asked my team lead, but neither of us had the best view to verify my guess. He continued, cutting and cauterizing between the muscles. Then they manually began to pull the muscle apart until he got to a shiney something underneath and the other doctor got the suction tube ready. It was her uterus. Then the doctor with the razor made an incision into the uterus and fluids began to squirt out, which the assisting doctor began to suction. The lead doctor manually opened the incision further. And after a moment, the assisting doctor took a tool and held the uterus open. The lead doctor stuck his hand inside of the woman’s abdomen and felt around. After a moment he began to pull on something. It was the baby’s head. After a bit of maneuvering, he pulled the baby’s head forward.
As the baby began to come out of the mom’s body and began to cry, the women beside me who had been observing began to silently cheer in a way I had only observed with vaginal births. The doctor lifted up the baby to show the mom and in an instant the baby was whisked away by the neonatal team to the nursery.
This post is getting kinda long so I will continue it in the next post… because what happened next was the part I had never seen… I did not realize that the physical uterus would remind me of a super heroine… wearing a cape… with wings… that can fly. How appropriate…