A tale of two births

It’s a holiday week at TIE, but I’m manning the shop, and thought I’d post an essay I wrote some time ago, but never published. It gets a bit graphic, so I’m going to make you click through to read it, but I think you might enjoy it.

As you all know, residency didn’t totally agree with me. I came out a little burned and a little bitter. But I’m working on it…

Number one

A scream shook me out of my daze, and I realized that I was actually sleeping while standing up. Quickly, I ran through the details I could put together in my head. I was an intern. I was tired. It was 4AM, and all the sleep I’d had in the last 24 hours I’d just taken standing up in the middle of a delivery room while a mother was giving birth. I’d been summoned because the poor Ob/Gyn resident that night was nervous. The mother wasn’t in any danger. Neither was the child. But each night they put the doctor with the least amount of experience delivering babies in charge, and that meant that each night I kept getting called to stand there and watch. Just in case.

I was sweating terribly. The delivery room was always warm and humid, and it didn’t help that I was holding a hot blanket in my hands, ready to take the newborn in it. It smelled terrible. One of the things they don’t tell you when you see births on TV is that they are rarely pretty. See, when the baby comes down the birth canal, it squeezes on everything else. Anything that can get out of the way, like stool, does. I can’t remember the last time I saw a delivery where the mother didn’t crap like crazy at the same time.

Looking around, I remembered why I had shut my eyes in the first place. A twenty-five year old woman was in the bed, surrounded by a group of people who were attempting to comfort her. They were desperately trying not to get too close. She was screaming. I don’t mean the cute, endearing scream that you imagine mothers having while giving birth. I mean shrieking – like someone was trying to pull a Boeing 747 out of her vagina. She was roaring curses that I’d never heard uttered in a public setting before. Anyone who got within arm’s reach got smacked.

The husband of this woman was a mess. You always imagine men in this situation holding their wives’ hands, offering encouragement and support. This guy was only frightened. He was in the corner of the room, and was – I swear to you – sniveling and crying. Every time the woman screamed, he cringed and moaned. No one suggested that he return to the bedside. When the next contraction hit, the woman let out a string of curses that actually sent the senior resident skittering away. She pretended to look over paperwork, but her hands were shaking so badly that she couldn’t have been actually reading anything on them.

The worst part of this was the small sniffle I heard from near the sink. There were two small girls, about 4 and 6 years old. The only thing keeping them upright was the woman holding them tightly by their necks. It was the pregnant woman’s sister, their aunt. She had been charged with watching the children during the delivery, helping them to appreciate the miracle of childbirth.

The delivering woman screamed again, calling the doctor names I won’t repeat. She crapped again onto the floor. The father shrank into himself and moaned. The aunt turned to the two small children – who had no appreciation of what was going on – and screamed at them, “Isn’t it beautiful? ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL?!?!?!?!”


Number two

Years later, I was in a similar situation. I had been standing in the delivery room for so long, my legs had gone numb. I was watching a woman in bed scream louder than anyone else I’d ever heard. They had already shut the door to the delivery room, but I could see people peering in the window, fearfully curious about what was going on. The nurses were actually commenting about it, and casting worried looks at the father. He wasn’t in great shape either. After dropping off his wife at the entrance to the emergency room, he’d spend 5 minutes dry heaving in in the parking lot. He was as pale as could be, and was worried that he might pass out; he’d done that before.

He tried to comfort his wife, but she was having none of it. She was cursing and shouting, and whenever she did grab hold of his hand it was to squeeze hard enough to break some bones. The pregnant woman had been pushing forever. And, just like before, delivering a baby was a messy, smelly experience.

As the baby started to emerge, the OB called me closer. And, soon enough, the screams subsided. Another baby was born, an occurrence that could not be more commonplace, yet was still considered a miracle. The nurse took the baby over to the father. The boy was nowhere near clean, nor was the blanket he was held in.

But as she handed him over, I took him eagerly and looked at him through tears of joy. She whispered to me, “Isn’t it beautiful?”

I suppose it was.


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