Patients Make This Profession Worthwhile

I’m exhausted beyond my mind, starving because I haven’t eaten anything solid since 9:30 Saturday (yesterday) morning, aching everywhere from standing and running around the labour ward all day, cold from the air conditioning temperatures of labour ward and, at the moment, happier than words could imply. Why? Because I just got a reminder of why all the incredibly hard work and sacrifices make this profession absolutely worth it: the patients.

Patients are of all types: mean, upset, frustrating, aggravating, kind, funny, moody. On my current clerkship, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, I have a set quota of deliveries to perform. Tonight (technically yesterday night since it’s about 1:30 AM Sunday) I delivered my final baby and it was, by far, the most memorable in more ways than one.

This morning I arrived on labour ward and saw this surprisingly sweet and cheerful young lady and I thought to myself, “I’d like to see her through to her delivery.” And so, I did. She became an entirely different person, as most women do, with the progression of labour…more intense and frequent contractions. I have to say though, she was still exceptionally wonderful during labour (I’ve seen many women screaming down the place!) and her husband (quite a young couple) was so very kind and supportive.

As evening approached, she slowly progressed to full dilation and we wheeled her off to the delivery room. Here, I spent exactly 2 hours delivering a beautiful baby boy. Due to the baby’s head position, it was difficult for the mummy to push, resulting in a two-hour wait before we saw anything more than the top of the baby’s head. In case you weren’t sure, any delivery should take no longer than an hour…and even then, an hour is quite a long time. Here’s a little play by play of the experience:

30 minutes in…mummy was exhausted from all the pushing…and we realised why it was so difficult to push…but daddy was there to give her much love and support.

45 minutes in…daddy had to leave as nursing shifts changed and would return later on. I was left alone with mummy who was told to push only when she felt the urge to do so…and not with every contraction as usual.

1 hour in…I started to feel this urge to cry. I felt discouraged and felt like I wanted to just give up and leave the delivery room and go home. My back ached. My stomach rumbled. I was beginning to grow impatient.

1 hour 45 minutes in…a midwife finally returns to aid me and the poor exhausted mummy who I was trying to keep encouraging so that she could keep going. Honestly, I was surprised she still had any energy to push.

2 hours in…a wonderful baby boy was born, gorgeous as can be. And me? I stayed with her to the end…not because it was my final delivery but because I knew she needed support.

I came to realise that my urge to cry, discouragement, feeling to give up and impatience weren’t my feelings…but hers. Quite often one person’s strong feelings mingle with my own and, if I’m not careful, I would mistake them for my own. Whenever I felt those negative things, I would pray to God for guidance and continue to encourage young mummy and they would eventually pass.

Once the baby, named Amari, was all cleaned up and returned to his parents, mummy told me the most uplifting words a person in my position could’ve possibly heard. She thanked me and continued with “I could not have done this without you. Every time I felt like I was ready to give up, you were there telling me that I’m doing well and the baby is almost here and that I can do this. Every time I felt like I was too tired to press on, you were there reminding me to breathe deeply and regain my energy between pushes. You were so patient with me the whole time and I could not have asked for more. You were so amazing with me.” And she ended her sentiments with “You are the sweetest person. I believe you’re in the right profession because you have a perfect personality for it. You’re so sweet and caring and patient. Thank you so much for everything!” Her sentiments touched me deeply and all of a sudden my exhaustion, aches and pains were gone, replaced by a renewed vigour…a reminder of why I chose to be a doctor: to help people through their greatest trials. I, personally, felt as if I was of little use to anyone in that room except for human company. Knowing that I was able to help her get through such an extraordinarily difficult time period, made me realise that even when I can’t help very much physically (I’m not exactly an experienced midwife, after all), I can help in other ways…provide a strong support…and that’s what I want to do for people…give them the support they need.

I could not have taken in all her praise without uttering my own praises for her. She was an amazing girl who pulled through the most painful experience of her life…an experience many women only know less than 30 minutes of. She endured 2 hours of pushing and contractions. If it were me, I would’ve been too tired to push after 10 minutes. She was strong…she handled herself well, handled the pain well and had a wonderful husband backing her up. I continue to marvel at her endurance and admire her strength because…labour? It’s not exactly a walk in the park. I will remember her for many years to come.

By the way, I believe that if you’re concerned about a teenage girl getting pregnant, be sure to let her volunteer on the labour ward for a little while. I think it would serve decently as a relatively good contraception method. Jus’ sayin’. 🙂

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