I was just as excited as they were.
By the calm look on their faces, I could tell they had done this before. Two times, in fact. This would be their third child, but they said it was just as wonderful as the first. Their older daughters were ecstatic to finally have a baby brother to play with.
Throughout the morning, I tried to support them in any way possible. "Is there anything I can get you?" "Would you like the TV on or off?" "How about a cup of water?" I was grateful that they would even let me — a medical student, a stranger, and a new face to them — join them in the room.
The mother braced herself for the next contraction, and active labor ramped up. She gripped her husband’s hand so tightly, I could see him slightly wincing, but still with a hopeful grin on his face, expectantly awaiting the arrival of their child.
The contractions seemed to increase in frequency and intensity. Soon enough, the doctor entered the room and chatted with the patient. The rest of the team came in. An examination showed that the cervix was 100 percent effaced, fully dilated, and the baby’s head in the right positioning.
“It’s time,” the doctor called out. Everyone gowned and gloved, including me.
With all her might, the mother pushed and pushed — and with every passing moment, it was as if a flicker in my heart began burning brightly. As if more and more pieces of wood were stoking the fire of my excitement. The anticipation was building. To think that I would be one of the first people ever to welcome this new human being to our world.
I thought I would merely just observe from the side — and already I was content with that humbling privilege of bearing witness. But turns out, my attending called me over and had me stand right in the middle of it all. “We’ll do this together,” she said, explaining to me where to put my hands and how to steady my feet.
“Push!” the nurse said, and we encouraged the mom to keep on going. “Wonderful job, amazing, once more,” we’d tell the mom, cheering her on. The nurse pulled back her legs, while her husband continued to hold her hand and stroke her forehead. And then...with another push…my eyes widened at a sight I had never seen before.
The baby’s head.
There it was — yearning to break free. The doctor and I quickly mobilized our hands to the right positioning, and on the count of three, the mother commenced pushing again. In my mind, I recalled what the residents had taught us earlier that day: the cardinal movements of delivery. Head engaging, then descending and flexing; internally rotating then extending; restitution and finally delivery.
It seemed like the baby even knew what to do, dancing to a rhythm he was made for. With my hands being guided by the attending’s, I goaded the baby’s head, all the while smiling quietly to myself as I felt the slippery cranium and tufts of hair beneath my gloved palms. Soon enough, we delivered the shoulders, and with a final push, out came the baby. As directed, I handed the baby to his mother, who breathed a sigh of joyful relief.
Within seconds, the whole room echoed with the sweet cries of newborn lungs.
The birth of a baby reminds me of our journeys in life. There may be much pain and tribulation, sweat and tears and challenges — but there is also so much joy. Amidst the trials, there lays a beautiful gift at the end of it. So too in medicine, so too in life. And there is even beauty in the journey. Nine months of patience and waiting, commitment to caring for both mother and the unborn child. That day, I met the family in only a snapshot of time, but so much had happened long before I entered the room, so much had transpired in preparation for the baby’s arrival. Doctor’s visits, check-ups, labs and tests, eating healthily, preparing the nursery, gathering diapers and a car seat, and everything in between. Pregnancy, and the birth of a child, take a lot of patience and perseverance.
I will never forget the first time I witnessed this miracle of life. We were knit together in our mothers’ wombs. We were wonderfully designed, created with meaning and born with purpose. When I look back and reflect on my third-year rotations, this will be one of my most memorable experiences.
In the building over, there lay older patients in the adult hospital. From my previous rotations there, I had witnessed death and dying, the sick and the hurting. But here, for just a moment, I stood still in quiet awe, in newfound wonder and admiration, marveling at the sight of a newborn baby. Just his presence brought so much joy, with a lifetime to come. The sweet cries of his new lungs intermingled with his mother’s cries of happiness, his father’s gleeful laughter in the sight of his new son. And I, a medical student, standing in the room, teeming with wonder at such a miracle as this, hopeful for the more to come.
Anna Delamerced is a medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, she enjoys exploring the crossroads of writing and medicine, and listening to patients tell their stories. Anna is also a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.
Illustration by April Brust