Blood stains. I saw them everyday for months during a certain period in my life.Blood on the floor, on hospitals gowns and on previously pristine white sheets. The room could almost be a set of a horror movie if not for the dozens of crying babies and nursing mothers..
For weeks it was always the same routine. Everyday, I would march the hallway armed with my medical artillery. Thermometer, stethoscope, a sphygmomanometer and a piece of paper. The whole bond paper will be filled with vital sign statistics after my round was done. Temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. One column for the mother, one column for the baby. Multiplied by a hundred.
I would always brace myself upon entering the ward because I know an hour of repetitive vital signs taking will pass before I get to leave and inhale fresh air again. Imagine this: 12 single sized hospital beds, 4 mothers per bed plus baby. Sometimes we get a 2-3 pairs of mother and child per hospital bed on a good day, but 6 pairs on a toxic shift. And yes, you did the math correctly. That’s a dozen people sharing one mattress. They would sleep while sitting down. Sometimes, the brazen ones would sleep on the bare floor.
I have to give credit to the hospital for doing the best they can. A few times per day, someone would wipe the floor with a heavily scented disinfectant, gather soiled hospital gowns and change the blood stained bed sheets. But with mothers and babies pouring in like giving birth is the newest craze of the nation and there is a million pesos to be won if a baby came out of your womb, there was still a lot to be done.
The odor of lochia mixed with the sharp sterile smell of industrial antiseptic would always haunt me on my way home. It stuck to my uniform and even my hair. While riding a jeepney, thoughts of these mothers cramped all together in clumps while their babies cried in discomfort occupied my mind. Furthermore, snippets of their stories would replay in my head like some eerie documentary montage about the status of women in some God-forsaken country. But this was not some African jungle miles from where I live, this was home.
I remember once overhearing a conversation, while giving medication, between my patient and her mother. A newborn baby girl was sleeping at their side. The grandmother was scolding her child because she would not stand up for herself when her husband got angry at her for giving birth, for the 3rd time, to yet another girl. He told her that he still wanted to try to have a boy, despite his meager income. I tried butting in to say that the father always determine the sex of the baby and it was not and will never be the mother’s fault for giving birth to a beautiful baby girl but they looked so heated I didn’t dare trespass.
Social Services was always in our part of the hospital. It turned out, there were too many mothers who cannot pay the hospital fees to be able to go home with their child, hence, they get left behind to stay in the ward until they have the adequate finances to settle the bills, therefore occupying precious space that was supposed to be for newly arrived patients. Many of these families have more than 3 children to raise and take care of. And I wonder, if they cannot settle a less than 5,000 php hospital fee, how much harder would it be to feed, clothe and educate their existing children?
Thirteen. The youngest post-partum mother I’ve ever cared for. Giving birth at thirteen was not record breaking by any means, but it was still bewildering for me to think how much different her life would be compared to other girls her age. I witnessed an instance one time where her baby was crying and she didn’t even know how to pick up her own child from the bed. Her ‘bedmates’, veteran mothers with 3 or more children and counting were trying to teach her how to carry her baby but all she looked was lost and defeated.
I always enjoyed watching mothers fill-out the birth certificate forms in the lying-in area. The choice of a child’s name must have been an important decision for the couple that most commonly include both party’s ideas. It will be the name the baby would be forever identified with. However, I was shocked by the percentage of women who would look at their husband’s / unwed father’s faces in a clueless haze asking him what he wanted to name the baby and even to the point of what spelling should the name be spelled in. It was the image of absolute reliance and incapability to decide that struck me the wrong way.
See, I grew up in an environment where women held all the cards and did all the decision making that has to be done. I couldn’t understand how these women could just depend everything on their spouses without having an opinion of their own. More than once, the mothers would always pass the birth certificate form to the father despite our request that they fill it up themselves. I could sense their hesitation and awkwardness in handling something important and it pained me to witness how crippled their sense of self worth were. Empowered, these women were definitely not.
She was 16, pregnant on her second trimester and was having respiratory problems. During my night shift, I went into her room almost every hour because she was having a hard time breathing despite already being administered Oxygen via nasal cannula and positioned in high Fowler’s (almost sitting). I took her Vital Signs more frequently and in the process, got to know her, and the father of the child who was watching her, a little better. She was a sweet girl, well-mannered, soft spoken, with lovely eyes. I thought that she shouldn’t be undergoing this kind of life-threatening condition at her age, that maybe, a little more guidance and information could have made a long way, but I do commend her strength in such adversities.
Shift ended. I endorsed the situation and went on my way. It was the last day of my stay in the ward and I felt pretty accomplished. I learned a lot and got to meet interesting people along the way. I wished the best to all the patients I’ve met during my stay and said a little prayer for those who may be needing a tad more help than others. I slept soundly that night. The next day, I learned that Lovely Eyes and her baby died in the delivery room due to respiratory complications.
So call me whatever names you want, threaten me with eternity in the fiery depths of hell.
These are the reasons why I support the RH Bill.