Almost, my OB rotation was beginning to become routine for me–not the births themselves, but the care around them: the early stages of labor, the baby-checks, the hanging of fluid and the fetching of juice. I went into my last 12-hour day of OB without any expectations. Instead, I arrived just in time for the birth of one of my close friend’s sister’s first baby, and the reality of what goes on at labor & delivery hit me all over again. Seeing a family I knew, my own neighbors, crying and laughing put it all back into perspective. After this rotation, I don’t think I’ll ever think about birthdays the same way again.
I spent the rest of that last 12-hour shift with a bilingual patient and her Spanish-speaking family, a young but very ready mother surrounded by siblings, friends, parents, and her partner. When it came time for her to push, I realized that I was sympathetically clenching my muscles with her contractions, still focused on doing my job but also so absorbed in witnessing her experience that I was reacting to it viscerally. The particulars of the women I’ve worked with on OB–names, faces–will be lost amid a sea of patients before the year is out, but I know that I will never forget how being there at their deliveries made me feel. I understand what midwives and other childbirth professionals mean when they talk about being “birth junkies.” The adrenaline rush I got from watching another patient bring a baby into the world took me all the way home to Baltimore and kept me awake late into the night.
I spent 7 weeks on that labor and delivery floor, and it was a wild ride. People have opinions about OB in a way that they don’t about so many other areas of practice. It’s emotional topic, one that is strongly socially and culturally guided; people don’t get fired up about “the right way to treat heart failure” the same way they get fired up about “the right way to have a baby.” Few people are apathetic about childbearing. Even fewer people are apathetic about babies. The tragedies are harder, the victories are bigger–and almost everyone has an opinion.
At the end of the day, I loved OB because it was about women, it involved a lot of choices, and it was about major life changes. It wasn’t always pretty. There were stillbirths and emergencies, transfusions and infant resuscitations. Doctors and nurses made choices I didn’t agree with; mothers made choices I didn’t agree with. But they were all things that I talked about, learned from, and bore witness to, and it all made me think.
cross-posted with megbeingthere.wordpress.com