Monday, May 9, 2011

My First Baby

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...

Today I delivered my first baby -- sort of. I had the guiding hands of a resident on mine and for good reason. I've read enough about damage to the brachial plexus (a web of nerve roots between the neck and shoulder that enable feeling and movement in the hand and arm) to know that the last thing I wanted was for this sweet little gal's arm to be twisted round with fingers bent as though she was a waiter expecting a tip -- because of anything I'd done. The tension distracted me from the elation I felt, but that doesn't change the fact that the hands that caught her were mine.

Ordinarily, fathers are offered the opportunity to cut the umbilical cord as we place the baby on mom's belly and witness the miracle of mother-child bonding take place before our very eyes. My baby, though, was a premie -- born a little too early and a little too small for her own good -- and destined right off for an appointment with the neonatologist, followed by a few weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. Since dad was busy assisting his wife and timing was critical, I cut the cord and then we proceeded to deliver the placenta. My first time at bat and I have to swing at another pitch, but I'm not complaining, not one bit. I've been looking forward to this for a long, long time.

My imagination had this entire experience enshrouded in a mystical light accompanied, almost, by the voices of a heavenly choir. The reality was more sobering and it took me all day to put it together. 

Delivering babies is something doctors do. I know, midwives do it, taxi drivers do it, policemen and sometimes fathers who can't get to the hospital soon enough, do it., too. Even though the division of medical labor results in many doctors only delivering babies during an OB/GYN rotation, as did I this morning, in my mind, being a doctor is still characterized by certain key tasks and delivering babies is one of them.

Whether I ever have the privilege of delivering another, I'll never forget this one nor will I ever cease to be grateful for the chief resident who stood behind me and said, "Go ahead, you can do this."

(GNU Free Documentation image via Wikipedia)

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