This is part of the Medical Humanities Series on Op-Med, which showcases creative work by our members. Do you have a poem, short story, creative nonfiction or visual art piece related to medicine that you’d like to share with the community? Send it to us here.
I watched in excitement, the start of their day,
As Twin A was whisked away.
Twin B was next on the scene
I held my breath as she came to me.
She was blue in the face with hardly a cry,
With some strokes of her back, she started to try.
Her color pinked up, she started to breathe,
Twin A was elsewhere, I could not see.
I whispered to Twin B, “There is someone special for you to meet.”
Little did I know, Twin A had no heartbeat.
I swaddled her up good, her eyes looking around in wonder,
I took her over to meet her father and mother.
An ominous face neared us to say,
Twin A was no longer with us today.
I choked up and stared, no words could I muster,
Some moments leave you with not even a syllable to utter.
What was your inspiration? How does this poem relate to your medical practice?
This piece was inspired by the first twin delivery I attended as a resident. I was on an overnight shift and knew the delivery was going to happen soon. When the pager woke me up, I jumped out of bed without a moment's hesitation, excited to receive not one, but two new lives. Both of the twins were expected to survive. I performed the resuscitation for Twin B. I had no idea that right next door, the resuscitation for Twin A was going poorly. It was an odd experience to be part of only half of the resuscitation experience. When I took Twin B over to meet her parents, I had no idea that in those moments of joy, they had already lost their second child. The emotions behind this experience that I hoped to capture were both joy that Twin B flourished and utter grief that Twin A's life was lost.
Babies are my passion. I love the unfiltered moments after the delivery of a newborn baby when family members experience such raw joy. That joy is doubled at the delivery of twins. I will forever remember the emotional turbulence that accompanied my first twin delivery.
How long have you been writing poetry? What got you started? What interests you about it?
I started engaging with narrative medicine in medical school, when I felt the need to constructively write about the experiences I was having as a medical student. Poetry is not a medium I have ever dabbled with, but poured out of me in the moments that followed this event.
Poetry was the way I processed this strange, joyous, and heartbreaking event in the immediate aftermath. Painting the experience from my point of view, where I only had contact with Twin B, better shows how shocking, cruel, and strange it was to suddenly be told that Twin A had a much different trajectory. I purposefully did not describe more details about Twin A because in the moment, I did not know what was going on. Being blind to Twin A added to the chaos of the experience and heightened the injury of the news that followed.
Sara is a first-year pediatrics resident at Seattle Children's Hospital. She is an aspiring neonatologist.
Illustration by April Brust