Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Child Was Born

Even with the relative anonymity afforded by this blog, I won't say very much about what happened today. The baby made it out in one piece, which was about as much as anyone had hoped. It was just the parents there. They wanted to deal with the situation by themselves without having to be concerned about other relatives. They probably would have preferred that the medical personnel not even be present, but it would have been stupid to have attempted the feat without medical assistance, and they're not stupid people.

The mother didn't want as much pain medication as I would have wanted in her situation. All of her suffering with very little in the way of pharmaceuticals did her baby no good at all, but it must have helped her in some way or she would not have chosen to go that route.

The baby had not been gone for as long as I had been led to believe.  His death occurred three to four days ago.  The reason for my having been "invited" to the birth ended up being under totally false pretenses. Someone in the department had it in his or her head that I was seriously considering OBGYN as a specialty. I don't know where anyone got that information, as OBGYN was never near the top of my list of prospective specialties. Anyway, if anyone is seriously considering practicing obstetrics, the program would choose  -- if it had the luxury of choosing -- for the physician-in-training to observe a birth without a happy outcome. 

It makes sense. If someone wants to be an obstetrician based on the premise that the end result is always a healthy baby, it is wise to find out if the person is able to deal with the reality when the end result isn't a healthy baby, except that in my case, I have no designs whatsoever on a career in OBGYN. The slot I filled today was wasted; it should have been given to someone who might actually have used the experience to determine if he or she was made of bricks or straw, metaphorically speaking.

Last night I studied the procedure for bathing a stillborn baby, so I was prepared for all it entailed. As the doctor finished up with the mother, the labor nurse and I bathed, dressed, and photographed the baby and prepared him to be held by his parents.

We dressed him in an outfit from my personal collection of baby clothing. My grandparents, even though they dislike me rather intensely and probably had begun their enmity toward me by the time I was born, gave me a cedar chest with my first initial embossed in a paler shade of cedar than the rest, as they did all their female grandchildren.  Most of my cousins used their cedar chests as traditional hope chests. My cedar chest was used initially as a church pew in a game I invented to torture my brother. When we were about three-and-one-half, I used to tell Matthew we were playing "church" and that the cedar chest was a pew. You had to sit quietly in church. I would time Matthew to see how long I could get him to sit silently on the cedar chest while I left the room to play with something else. I think his record was twelve minutes. I've been messing with his mind ever since.

Later, my cedar chest was used as a surface to store my troll collection. My mom didn't want me opening and closing the lid because the lids to the chests were so heavy that one of my cousins lost a finger when she accidentally closed it inside the lid; nothing was kept inside my cedar chest until I was almost eighteen. At that time I decided that even if I never married, I would probably want to have children someday -- probably adopted if I didn't marry, as I'm  too much of a puritan to be intentionally impregnated out of wedlock no matter how artificial the means of conception. I began collecting things for the baby or babies I hoped one day to have. Sometimes I used something from my collection as a gift for a baby shower or for when a baby was born to a close friend or family member, but mostly I kept the blankets and outfits that I purchased. My mom eventually gave me things she had saved from when my brother and I were babies to put into the chest along with my purchases; she asked me not to give those items away as gifts, but instead to save them for when either Matthew or I had a child.

So last night when I blogged that I bought a baby blanket for the baby that was to be delivered today, I wasn't speaking the precise truth. I did buy the blanket, but not on Monday. I bought it probably three years ago. I also took a tiny boy preemie outfit from the chest, along with an old-style cloth diaper and diaper pins. this baby would never know the discomfort of diaper rash; he would be fine in a cotton diaper.  I didn't know if the baby's parents would bring an outfit or a blanket, but if not, I wanted there to be something special for him.

After the nurse and I had bathed and diapered the baby (a meaningless cosmetic gesture; the baby would never fill the diaper) using the soft cloth diaper with old-fashioned teddy bears on the ends of the pins, she reached for a generic preemie onesie that the hospital provides. The hospital-issue blanket was similar.  The hospital baby blankets were adequate -- certainly better than no blanket at all -- but the outfit and blanket I had brought were prettier and more cozy. It wasn't that the baby would ever feel the coziness of the outfit or the softness of the blanket, but as a parent, I would want my stillborn baby in the softest outfit and most plush blanket ever made. So I grabbed the bag containing the blanket and outfit, along with a cotton undershirt from my supply, and asked the nurse if we could use them for the baby instead. "Where did you get those?" she gasped. I told her that I'd brought them from home. "They must have been expensive," she commented as she placed his tiny legs into the legs of the outfit. I shrugged. I don't even remember what I paid for them. 

I softly swirled the bit of hair on his head. The nurse took tiny scissors to get a lock of the pale brown duck down-like hair for his parents to keep. We then put the matching cap atop his tiny head. The nurse gently wrapped him in the soft blue blanket, then handed him to me. "Take him to his mother," she said. 

I carried the blanketed baby over to his mother's bed and placed him in her arms. "Here is ------, " I whispered to her. I had tried not to cry, but everyone else in the room was crying, so I gave in and cried as well. 

My work was finished. I left the hospital room. 


  1. I'm not particularly into babies, but that was sweet and sad.

    1. Thanks, Jono. It was the addest medical encounter i've had yet. It was made a little less sad, or at lest less shocking, by the knowledge going into the delivery of what outcome would be. I still have at least 1 1/2 more weeks of OBGYN rotation, plus however long I'm stuck in OBGYN my intern year. I'm crossing my fingers never to be involved in a delivery that goes wrong. That, to me, would have to be just about the worst ever. There's the shock and raw emotions, then there's the natural need to look for someone to blame. It has to be ugly.

  2. :( What a sad story. I hope the parents are coping well.