“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”
I love this quote for many reasons. Least of all because I enjoy a good cup of tea (I am British after all). Jokes aside though, the strength of a woman was never more apparent to me then after spending six weeks on my women’s health placement which was primarily spent in obstetrics and gynaecology.
Being a part of someones child-birth was an honour and privilege which has changed me more than I had expected. The first birth that I was a part of will be a memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. After waiting on the labour ward in nervous anticipation I was sent by one of the doctors to a midwife who had a lady in labour. The lovely midwife asked the couple if they would allow me to witness the birth of their child and they very kindly agreed. They were having their first child which made the occasion even more special. I oddly found myself bonding with the young soon-to-be dad over us both being at our first ever birth. I did find myself panicking at one point when the midwife left me alone with the couple. The moment the midwife left the room the lady started pushing again and I found myself praying for the baby to not to make an appearance at that point because I was definitely not prepared to catch the baby. Much to the joy of the parents they had a boy (which was caught by the midwife) and I found myself swept up in the emotion of sharing this moment with the first time parents.
A few weeks later I found myself on the labour ward again but this time the situation was different. The lady whose birth I was helping out in had been in labour for almost 3 hours with no signs of any progress. The lady was absolutely shattered from 3 hours of pushing, who wouldn’t be. So they decided to do an instrumental which involved using some sort of contraption to help along the process of labour. The decision was made to use a ventouse, something which I had never seen before. To my amazement this machine was some sort of small vacuum suction machine with a cup on the end that went over the baby’s head. Unfortunately this procedure also failed which meant this lady then had to go for an emergency caesarean section.
Instrumental deliveries are an extremely tricky affair which were hated collectively by all the midwives. I was told by one of the midwifery students of an instrumental delivery where they had to use forceps. Upon seeing the forceps the lady started shouting at the midwife saying, “THOSE ARE BLOODY SALAD TONGS! YOU ARE NOT PUTTING KITCHENWARE INSIDE MY VAGINA!” I think it’s safe to say she was not impressed by the forceps. When it comes to child-birth the midwives are a fountain of knowledge but they also have some great stories.
One of the best things I did on this placement was to assist in caesarean sections. To help bring someones child into the world was a life affirming experience. It surprised me how quick the entire operation was. Within five minutes the baby was out and in the mums hands. Putting in the epidural took longer than getting the baby out. However stitching them back up after took another 20-30 minutes. The great amount force used to get the baby out in the caesarean was shocking and seemed quite brutal to me, they literally tear open the abdomen and uterus to get the baby out. Then the surgeon reminded me that babies are squeezed and pushed out of the uterus and vagina which a very small holes.
I also experienced a heart wrenching moment during a caesarean section. A lady came in with twins, which are commonly delivered by caesarean. When the first twin was born unfortunately the baby was not breathing. It was tear jerking to see a baby not breathing lying next to her twin sister. A calm panic ensued around me and all the theatre staff as the crash team rushed into action in the theatre. After a few tense minutes the baby suddenly let out a massive cry and an enormous sigh of relief could be heard from every member of staff present there.
My stance on abortion was challenged a great deal and I delved deeply into my views on abortion, to the point of changing my opinion on abortion. This was particularly true when a lady came in to ask for an abortion for the twins she was pregnant with. Her reason for wanting the abortion was that she could not manage with twins, she only wanted to have one baby. There are many arguments to condemn this lady for this decision and just as many to justify her decision. It all depends on your perspective.
Something that I had to do on this placement was to perform abdominal and vaginal examinations. I felt extremely uncomfortable examining a patients vagina. This is probably one of the most invasive and humiliating things a lady could ever have done to her. I had to learn to overcome my awkwardness because my awkwardness would make the patient feel uncomfortable at being examined. This was a quite a big hurdle for me to overcome however I managed to become more confident and gain invaluable experience at examining women.
The staff at the hospital was absolutely incredible and I had one of the best placements ever. I never went a single day without being offered a cup of tea (and don’t forget, I love a good cup of tea) by the lovely health care assistants and nurses. The consultants were attentive to my educational needs, not something that can be said of every consultant.
I was very lucky to be on placement with people who I was already good friends with. I was very worried when I heard that one of my friends had received a needle stick injury in theatre. If I had received a needle stick injury I would have been out of my mind with worry however my friend was very calm about it all. This is very ironic since my friend is intrinsically a worrier and stresses about the most minor things, she always sweats the small stuff but not the big stuff apparently. A very admirable trait to stay so calm in such a stressful situation.
Take home message of the blog: Women go through much adversity in the pursuit of their health and continuing the human race. I have a great deal of admiration for women and their strength. A womans true beauty is in their mental, emotional and spiritual strength, not only in their physical beauty. They endure so much having to go through regular intimate examinations and scans, not to mention the burden of childbirth. I have always had a lot of respect for women but as a result of this placement I have a new found appreciation for the hardships that women endure. So for everybody out there, but especially you amazing women, here is a quote that I love from arguably the most famous female scientist of all time:
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained” – Marie Curie