Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Curse of the Black Crow

I had a student a few years ago who was attending births with me, and every one of the first six births she attended ended in a c-section. The sixth time, she ran out of the room and down the hall, convinced she had somehow caused the natural birth to go sideways into the operating room.

A friend of mine was standing in the hall, a family physician with a heart of gold, and she caught my student and looked her in the eye, and told her "You do not have the curse of the black crow!" and proceeded to explain how difficult it is for a care provider to accept that their patient's journey is sometimes not what anyone has planned, and that most of the time it is not the provider's fault.

I was taking care of my sister, who was in the hospital after a difficult surgery and several setbacks which were scary for her and worrying for us. She finally made it out of the grey place and we were sitting talking to the surgeon, who apologized to my sister for the fact that things had been more difficult than expected. When my sister reassured her that she had no feelings of blame, and further that the surgeon wasn't responsible, she replied, "Oh no, but I AM responsible. The buck stops here".

But it doesn't. The attendant has a huge responsibility, indeed, to care for her patient. She needs to do everything she can to facilitate healing, or in the case of childbirth, to carefully observe nature at its task. But if she has given her 100%, she has to know that there is always that element of mystery involved. The buck does not stop with us. We do not know why one woman will have a three hour painless labor, and another one will struggle and strain for two days. Yes, we can read blogs galore about how the happy, accepting woman who is comfortable with her body and open to experience will have a quick and easy birth, and the resentful and complicated one is more likely to have a c-section. But these easy generalizations are not true.

No, we don't know why some women have easier births, or why some surgeries end in easy healing and some don't, or why some treatments work on some people and not on others.

When you really believe that the buck stops with the surgeon, then you are closing a door to the mysteries of healing and the mysteries of life.

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