I spent all day Friday at our county hospital's OB / GYN clinic. I took a 17 year old girl who was a bit confused about whether or not she was indeed pregnant - for the second time - and who had contradicting reports about her last two medical appointments. She is in our YMCA parenting education program - part of the requirements for trying to get the court to return her 7 month old daughter, who removed the child for neglect a little over four months ago. I have taken two girls through the GYN screening part before, but never have I spent an entire day day in the actual clinic. It was an eye-opener for me.
I saw two women who had been brutally battered. I saw a woman nearly crawl into a corner, (where staff could not see her) and cry from the pain in her abdomen - but could barely speak up to tell me her name so I could try and get help for her. I saw a woman on a gurney in the hallway in apparent discomfort, who was too meek to call to a passing nurse - who was too busy to see the problem. When I approached her, I found she spoke no english, but that she was cold. I stopped a nurse to ask if I could get her another blanket and was met with an appreciative nod and concern that the woman's fever might be back up. Had I not seen this, she would have lay there unattended for a while longer. I saw a young girl - a teen - protesting to a nurse that the nurse was wrong - she didn't have gonorrhea and later saw this same girl in the hallway with a young man who was verbally abusing her and who physically "escorted" her out of the hospital. I wondered if she would be able to come back for the shot she needed or if his denial would keep them both away.
I saw a room full of changing women, who for the most part, changed little. They were meek and tired and unable to speak up for themselves. They stared down at the floor and spoke softly. I wanted to reach out to each of them and tell them how special they are - but of course, I could not.
The girl I was with can not be blamed completely for her situation. She ran away from an emotionally abusive situation, was in the state hospital for 7 months, (therefore dropping out of school in the 8th grade - as far as she had made it by age 15) to go home and be "raped" by her mother's 28 year old lover - who is also the father of the child she is now expecting. She also has a veneral disease. And a 16 year old sister, soon to be on the same track, from what I hear. She was born 2 and a half months early - her mother was 16 at the time - so received little nurturing early on - if ever. Of course her grandmother was only 15 when her mother was born.
I didn't see women there who needed punishment - though I would love for them to have a few less children - but from what I see - for many that is the only time of joy or attention they may get in life. So do I then wish the children to be born and rapidly forgotten just to satisfy this need? Certainly not. But I do see them with more compassion.
I must also say, that my admiration for the individuals, doctors and nurses and staff, that provide the care is greater. I know they may seem a bit cold in some ways, but from one day there, I don't know that it is something I could face day in and day out. If they have to detach a bit to be able to stay and do the work, then better that then not to be there.
Me, I came home and cried for all of them. Then said a prayer of thanks, for but for the grace of whoever or whatever, that could have been me.