Tuesday, February 7, 2012

OB/GYN: A Dream of Women


As of last Friday, my obstetrics and gynecology rotation has come to an end, and as you've probably noticed, I've been uncharacteristically reticent to talk about it. Don't worry, nothing bad happened. As a matter of fact, in retrospect, this has been one of my favorite rotations. Scrubbing in on surgical procedures several times a week was an absolute kick and being able to act as first assist because I'd just completed surgery was like the icing on German Chocolate Cake. And, naturally, there were the babies. One, a few weeks premature, had the most beautiful, delicate, perfectly formed little fingers. Another fell asleep in the crook of my arm with her lips sealed against my left shirt pocket. No, darlin', I'm not mommy, but thanks anyway.

The truth is, I really had a wonderful six weeks and when it came time to leave, I felt almost as wistful as on the last day of my psychiatry rotation and that is saying something. What was holding me back from writing, though, took a few days to reveal itself, and unexpectedly, it did so in a dream.
I was a student on the obstetrics unit in an unnamed hospital one evening, sitting on a counter ledge in the nursing station, watching a group of women. A few feet away on my left was a new mother breastfeeding her infant. Directly across from her, on my right, seated on a soft, pillowed couch, were five other women -- nurses -- mostly in their 40s and 50s. They were smiling and singing or chanting, I can't recall which, and clapping their hands in unison, swaying from side to side. I couldn't hear the words clearly, but they were obviously enjoying themselves immensely.

Everything was so totally natural no one, not even the woman breastfeeding, seemed even remotely self-conscious or uncomfortable because a man was present. I got up from my seat and approached one of the older women whom I knew well, just as the group stopped singing and began laughing, with the intent of whispering to her, "This is the first time I've seen breastfeeding have cheerleaders," because that's how it appeared. In the dream, of course, I thought this terribly funny and was sure she'd think it uproarious. It's easy to be Robin Williams in Dreamland.

What strikes me about the scene were the colors. Everything, including my clothes and those worn by the women, was done in shades of white. Not paper white, but more like the pastels used to depict heaven on film, with boundaries fading at the extremes and an absence of sharp lines. It reminded me of heaven as Maxfield Parrish might have painted it, ethereal yet earthly, mythic yet real.

It seemed to me, I was seeing womanhood in a way few have the opportunity. The women themselves knew this to be true and graciously permitted me a glimpse of the way they are privately, when they're amongst themselves. As a man, I wasn't exactly an outsider, but neither was I an initiate. I don't know what I was, a guest, perhaps? All I know with any certainty is, I was witnessing a young woman in the company of older women, all of whom having done as was she, feeding their children from their own breasts, and the feeling I had was of joy and serenity.

Rotations are about a lot of things, I suppose, learning and practicing new skills, adding to a growing body of knowledge, feeling more confident in oneself, but this one was far more. Frankly, I'm still having trouble putting it into words. I'll figure it out eventually; right now, I'm still in awe.


(Creative Commons image "White" by LaWendula via Flickr)
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