What a long night. What a long, long night.
1. Knowing a couple ahead of time is important.
2. Language is important.
I wouldn't turn down a request to volunteer with a stranger in need, but having worked with this couple last night, I can see how important it is to get to know people. It's not just about comfort--that wasn't the issue, but it certainly could have been--it was about expectations and preparation. It's valuable knowing whether a couple has prepared for a birth (mentally, emotionally, physically, nutritionally, etc), because it lets me prepare myself. I know what techniques to draw upon, for example. Last night they had zero preparation, and it became clear that they had zero preparation for what to do after the baby arrived. This was a far cry from the experiences I've had working with and communing with people for whom preparation is a major component of pregnancy.
Language...had she delivered vaginally, or had I accompanied her for the cesarean, we could have communicated in those moments. There was empathy, and touch, and eye contact, and smiles, but it was in between words in another language. There was so much going back and forth through her husband, through a translator over the phone, through a family friend who showed up late, that not being able to speak her language became an impediment because I was no longer part of the team, or so it felt. The focus was on translation, and on the people who could do it, and those people in turn offered their support to her, such that what I was able to do in the moment was reduced to a hand on her arm or a smile, but I mostly felt like I was taking up space. What I was able to do was to take time to confirm that her husband understood what the nurses were saying, and to explain things to him slowly and clearly, which in turn he could explain to her.
Without going into detail, I'll say that it was intense, educational, but a little sad. I couldn't stay for the surgery and had to work today, so I haven't seen her, so insh'Allah all are well.
At some point I'd like to write about what it's like watching a c-section take shape (I keep thinking of dark clouds bundling together, the obviousness of approaching bad weather), but not tonight.