There will be a lot of milestones along this journey towards becoming a midwife, and two pretty major ones happened this week. The first one was on Monday during our pelvimetry lesson, when we measured each other’s hands with tape measures to find out how long our fingers are. The length of my right hand from the knuckle of my thumb to the tip of my middle finger is 13.5 cm. The length of my fist from one knuckle to the other is 8.5 cm. The length from the tip of my middle finger to the first joint is 2.5 cm, and the length from the tip to the 2nd joint is 5 cm. These numbers are the span of my hand, the measurements I’ll be using to gauge a woman’s pelvis from here on out. They’re important numbers, and it was an important moment; it seemed like it needed a ritual or ceremony to mark the occasion—the first time a student midwife measures her hands. My knowledge of a woman’s pelvis is only as good as the knowledge of my own hands, and with time, I will hopefully get quite adept at measuring with my hands, judging space and shape and proportion, learning that certain touch, knowing how to help a woman birth a large baby through a smaller pelvis, learning where the give is, where an extra millimeter of room can be squeezed out of a tight pelvis if she changes positions or squats or rocks, and knowing that this mililmeter can make the difference between a vaginal birth and a cesarean. These hands will be measuring diagonal conjugates, pelvic outlets, cervical length, the thickness of a woman’s pubic symphysis. These hands will be doing pap smears and collecting specimens and checking cervical tenderness and dilation. These hands will hopefully be catching babies someday.
The second milestone happened today: I inserted a speculum into a woman for the very first time! It was nervewracking and beautiful and humorous and tense all at once. I was so concerned that I would accidentally catch the walls of my partner’s vagina in between the blades of the speculum when I was trying to close it that I accidentally panicked and pulled the entire speculum out without closing it first. Good thing I had a very understanding patient! I was able to find her cervix, though, on my very first attempt. I opened the blades, and there it was, popping into view. It was adoreable: small and round and glistening, like a tiny, pink button mushroom with a small dimple in the center. Sadly, we didn’t have a mirror, and my partner had never seen her cervix before. I’ve made a note to bring a mirror with me next time we’re doing pelvics on each other, because it’s such an amazing experience to see your own cervix for the very first time. I can still so vividly recall seeing my own cervix for the very first time, only a year ago, when I was letting another student midwife practice her pelvic exam on me, and we happened to have a mirror. Afterwards, this is what I wrote about the entire experience:
It was much smaller than I thought it would be; I was expecting a big, plump, juicy pink donut, when in fact it was a rather small and prim looking pink donut. But still very cute, and very….good. I don’t know how to describe it, but seeing my cervix was unbelievably empowering. Like looking inside yourself and finding this secret, hidden part to you that you knew about but had never actually seen before, and then coming face to face for the very first time, and recognizing it as “you”, in a very deep and fundamental way. If that makes any sense at all. My cervix has been there all along, just humming along, doing her thing, but now I have actually *seen* what she looks like. Men are in love with their penises, for good reason; penises are amazing things. But women…women: love your cervix, because it is the heart of you, and every bit as amazing! It changes position each month, and opens just slightly to let the uterus bleed, and will someday keep a baby tightly sealed within for 9 months, and then miraculously dilate, the first gateway to the world. To quote Nzoake Shange: “I found God in myself, and I loved Her, fiercely.” That’s what it’s like to see your cervix for the very first time. Honestly, every woman should have a chance to look at her own cervix at some point in her life (just ask for a mirror next time you’re having a pap done). It was truly astounding.
Damn straight. Wow, today has been a good day.