The Case for Storks

I’m going to tell you a secret.

O&G has a lot less to do with babies than everyone thinks it does.

I grant that this is partly because obstetrics only accounts for half of the specialty, while the rest of it concerns  itself with prolapse and smears and weird bleeding and, I suppose, the prevention of babies. It is, however, also partly because although obstetricians are terribly interested in potential babies and in safely getting those potential babies to the outside world, that’s pretty much where that interest ends. Children? Well, those are someone else’s department.

But this is a five week rotation and I felt I ought at some point during that time to see a ‘normal’ delivery. Not only because I’m supposed to. Not only because I think it would be fairly appalling to graduate from medical school without having a least made an attempt. Rather, because when the inevitable day comes that I’m flying home from somewhere warm and beach-esque and they ask if there’s a doctor on board, nobody will be too appalled when I admit that I cannot perform a coronary bypass at three thousand feet (or at all), but they will be if I’m forced to confess that I have never seen a baby delivered before and have no idea where to begin.

It was with that thought that I went off to labour ward and found myself a friendly midwife and an understanding set of parents-to-be who weren’t remotely fazed by the prospect of having a medical student sit in the corner for the next several hours. The mum had already been in labour for the better part of a day when I got there, hadn’t slept or eaten in more hours than I care to imagine, wasn’t using pain relief, and announced cheerfully between mouthfuls of Entonox that she had long since given up on the idea of being embarrassed about anything pregnancy related. For the next six hours, she chatted to me about all manner of things and occasionally paused to have a contraction before picking up the conversation right where she had left it. And once she reached the stage of what they call active labour, she gritted her teeth and got right down to it and pushed that baby on out with barely a whimper.

It’s not to say that it didn’t look like hard work. I was vaguely horrified by the whole thing, especially when the doctor brought out the episiotomy scissors, and I’m beginning to feel that evolution should surely by now have reached a point where storks really do bring them. I have never been through the childbirthing process myself and have no particular wish to do so, but I suspect that I wouldn’t handle it with an ounce of the grace and stoicism that this woman did.

And suddenly there was a baby and a new mum and dad and even I got a bit teary.

Incidentally, I learned at this point that if the inevitable day does come when I’m on the plane, the only thing I’ll really have to do is catch.

O&G isn’t as much about babies as everyone thinks it is, but it is a little bit about babies and the part that is is a wonderfully happy thing in a way that so much of medicine tends to not be. And although I think that most of the things that I do and see as a medical student are a privilege, there is something of an extra special privilege in being there at the very start of a new life and I was very proud to have been there for this one.

Welcome to Planet Earth, little one.



  1. Oh you must see the beginning of life as well as the end and the bits in between, if you are to keep things in balance, Beth. Good luck with the revision and the exams when they come.

  2. Scissors.
    GAH!!… just…. gah!
    I think I would have been horrified by the point of the enema I’m told occurs. And something vile about a mucus plug… (I’d say, “Sorry, TMI, but hey..)

    Yep. I’ve pretty well sorted it: I’m too lazy and selfish to be anyone’s parent, and I’m TOO DARNED COWARDLY to give birth to ANYTHING.

    Good Lord. (I do think we must chat with him further about those storks. OR — hey. Cabbages.)

  3. The mucus plug isn’t really vile – it’s the stuff that comes afterwards . . . it’s called a plug for a reason. :) I love this post. Having been through the process from the other it’s-really-true-you-do-forget-probably-cause-the-pain-puts-you-in-shock end, it’s interesting to hear the med student perspective. I do recall making more fuss over the stitches than the delivery, and definitely make more fuss over the initial exam (I was in transition to second stage labour before arriving at the hospital – NOT recommended) than any of the rest of it. The baby is definitely the most spectacular bit.

    • I think it probably is because the pain puts you in shock. I also suspect that, on a practical evolutionary level, you have to forget or else nobody would ever do it a second time.

      And yours is pretty spectacular. :)

  4. If you ever ARE on that plane – here is a tip. When the woman is pushing,tell her to relax her legs, not push with them. Tell her to relax her mouth too – to push as though she was -how to put it in a public place – tell her to push as though she was shitting a football. (where you would not try to push it out by bracing your legs)That way, with any luck, she will avoid the stitches. But yes,the baby is the really stunning bit.

    If I was not old and partner-less, I’d do it gain tomorrow.

  5. The midwife phrased it as, “push as though you’ve got constipation”, but that’s a rather excessively pedestrian way of putting it. In terms of literary merit, I do prefer the imagery of the football…

  6. Pingback: 2012 in Review | The Road Less Travelled

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