OBGYN. Most people cringe when they hear these letters together… and after hearing that I’m on that rotation, they promptly ask “have you gotten to deliver any babies?!?”
The answer is a resounding YES! And it is so exciting and special. I can’t really explain what happens in detail for those of you queasy folks out there (to sum it up, it’s just shy of a murder scene… very messy, but necessarily so!), but it is truly incredible how much work goes into labor and C-sections and how rewarding it is for all of the people involved. To be honest, I’ve teared up every single time I see those babies for the first time [Don’t worry, I hold it together enough to help with the stitches (yes, there are usually always stitches *shudder*) and afterbirth clean-up.]
What I’ve learned is that this work is physically exhausting for more people than just the mama- holding back a woman’s legs makes my arms tired. And I work out. And the Labor and Delivery nurses work WAY harder than I ever realized. (Shout out to my friend who does that for a living!)
The work is also emotionally exhausting. To tell a woman you see the head, then watch as she pushes for another 2 hours is just difficult. And the poor dads (I used to not feel sorry for them at all!). They just stand there, trying to be supportive and not knowing what to say or how to feel, and just generally feeling stress, fear, and weariness. It’s exhausting for me too. Seeing people experience a moment they’ll never forget over and over wears on me. It’s difficult to make each person’s experience a “once in a lifetime” special moment when I’ve been working for 12+ hours, my feet hurt, and I haven’t eaten more than a crumb of granola for 8 hours.
OBGYN is also really difficult ethically. So many situations came up that made me cringe. The teenage pregnancy with the father of the baby looking completely terrified, and the mom needing a note so she can take the elevator at their middle school because she’s almost to term. The woman whose dad had a heart attack in the waiting room and we had to decide whether or not to tell her while she was about to deliver her first child. The mom of quadruplets who was faced with the choice to carry all 4 babies with the risk of severe disabilities, or to selectively reduce to 1-2 babies (how do you even choose?). The 21-year-old with 2 children whose 39-year-old fiance was insisting on her getting a tubal ligation… and wouldn’t consider a vasectomy himself, even though he has 3 kids from another woman before her. And her womanly bits were super swollen because “they like to have rough sex” (and it seemed borderline abusive). The women who can’t afford insurance, but can afford a Louis Vuitton purse (not a knockoff) and a way nicer car than mine and my doctor’s. The 20-somethings who want irreversible permanent birth control when there are other equally effective and reversible choices (patient autonomy versus the doctor’s ability to sleep at night knowing she did no harm… when she’s had patients in the past who have regretted the irreversible permanent birth control decision they made at a young age). The women who want to schedule their due dates around their lives, not understanding that a baby changes everything and isn’t something to be “just penciled in.” The women with positive urine drug screens… who don’t understand that a marijuana card doesn’t make it legal to smoke during pregnancy.
It’s a tough job. I have really loved my doctor, too. She’s from the northeast and is definitely not the warm cozy “omg your baby is soooo adorable” type like I am (when a patient asked if she was pushing hard enough, my doc said “eh, not really. I’ve seen better”!!). But she’s effective and her patients adore her, which is all anyone can hope for. She’s genuinely concerned for her patients’ wellbeing and they know it. I feel so grateful for having the chance to experience the miracle of a woman’s body- it’s pregnancy and childbirth, sure. But there is so much more that makes us women. I am amazed at the strength, endurance, beauty, and fragility of the women I get to see everyday on this rotation, and am looking forward to 3 more weeks of it!