Women and health

Free Maternity: A big fat lie

It is all quiet except for the blip blip of the anesthesia machine and the chiming of the clock. Standing on the right side of the patient cutting through skin, fat, fascia et cetera, I almost feel alone with my thoughts.

It is three thirty six hours, and the four humans in theatre four are either too lost in their own thoughts or too tired for small talk. Soon, the fifth person arrives and without respect for the silence, announces his arrival with a shrill cry. This brings a tired smile on the human lying on the operating table. He is wiped and wrapped with warm and fluffy blankets then placed under a warmer. He kicks and throws tiny pink fists punching the air, and then realizing he has been ignored, breaks into a continuous monotonous newborn cry.

Nobody tries to soothe him. I am stitching the uterus, the scrub nurse is busy massaging it, the anesthetist is trying to maintain the pressures, preventing them from falling, and the circulating nurse is on phone, calling everywhere she thinks we can get even a single bottle of oxytocin. Her pleas for oxytocin are punctuated by calls to the lab for blood. This woman walked to the hospital to have her second child. Her first child was born vaginally but this one wouldn’t just come out. Her uterus won’t contract on it own, and the last oxytocin dose was used on the previous patient hence nothing is left for her. So she is losing blood slowly but steadily, in other words dying, becoming a statistic, one among the many face-less women who die while giving birth. Her baby is about to become motherless, her husband is about to become a widower.

Women from her village or estate will have too much to talk about caesarian section. For many, it will re-affirm their strong hatred for c-section. She will be used as a warning, and so most women will prefer delivering under the watchful eyes of their mothers-in-law and traditional birth attendants. Most husbands will warn their wives against signing those theatre consent forms and we all know that maternal mortality will remain high.

Free maternity is a good campaign slogan that is currently a big fat lie; it has been a lie for the last one hundred and Fifty one days that nurses have been out of work. It was a lie for the one hundred days that doctors were on strike. It is a lie in many hospitals that make women to carry their own water to the hospital, their own cotton, their own examination gloves and their own infusion fluids, oxytocin, sometimes even cord clamps!

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