At 1:33 am on Thursday February 18, 2016, a beautiful baby girl was born. It was the first delivery I witnessed and on the first night of working/learning in the hospital, and it was a wonderful introduction to real-life medical care. Thanks to primacy, I’ll remember the baby’s name (which obviously I can’t type here) and what happened in that room for a long time to come.
Ehhh, maybe not. I’ll probably start to forget pretty soon. Just three nights later and the eight deliveries/C sections I’ve witnessed or assisted on have already begun to blur together. Isn’t that so striking? The schism between a patient’s and a healthcare worker’s recollection of a hospitalization? The patients will have images and impressions forever seared into their memories as they go through one of the most significant, traumatic, and memory-worthy instances of their life. The mom was using the word “surreal” a lot, but the dad favored the term “crazy.” The dad had a camera in the room and he took some shots, but most of the time he has busy holding his wife’s hands or cradling his new baby. A much better memory than .jpgs, I’d say.
Even the daughter — who wasn’t even forming memories — will remember this date forever! Her birthday will be celebrated by friends and family, be used for horoscopes, and appear on every form for the rest of her life. It’s like piece #2 of her intellectual identity. But the phrase “happy birthday” was never more true than when the baby nurse uttered it as she filled her lungs with air for the first time.
Meanwhile, for the physicians, the nurses, and the rest of the staff, it was just another Wednesday night. Mundane. On nights when there are lots of deliveries back to back, there’s a lot of wheeling patients and babies back and forth, admitting or sending home triage patients, reading monitors, ordering and infusing drugs, medical discussion, we can get kind of tired. Nothing compared to the mothers, of course.
On such a momentous night for the mother, our little gestures can make a huge difference. Be it fetching a cup of ice, helping her roll onto her side, getting extra blankets, putting a book under her pillow during delivery, they’ll remember that. They’ll remember even the routine ones, like knocking when entering, greeting them by name, warming our hands, explaining procedures. They’ll remember being wheeled out of her room with her baby in hand, past a smiling group of nurses and residents who look up over their screens and mutter “congratulations!” And then the staff will go back monitoring the other rooms or writing notes or chatting or napping, depending on the time. It’s just… a funny mental dichotomy.
Often, a mother will have a particular image of how she wants her delivery to happen. For example, with only her husband and only her chosen obstetrician and her nurse present, for her to hold the baby first and to initiate skin-to-skin contact immediately. Thankfully, this pleasant couple was totally fine letting a green med student (I was indeed wearing green scrubs) tag along and bumble around during their delivery.
Thanks to them, I successfully witnessed my first birth on the first day of rotations. What a great start!