Sep 14, 2010

My First Baby

Here is the (long overdue) account of my first baby. Not one that I carried in my own body, but one that I cared for and delivered. The baby that changed my career as a doctor.

I thought I wanted to be a gastroenterologist. My background in clinical nutrition led me to an interest in the GI tract and how nutrients were absorbed and how nutrition affected health. Throughout my first two years of medical school I planned on become an internist and subspecializing.

And then I delivered this baby.

I was poised at the woman's vagina, easing the head, one shoulder, two shoulders, a body, and feet out of her body, clutching the newborn tightly against my too-big surgical gown. And my first, illogical, thought was "wow, this baby is really warm." Which was really stupid. Of course the baby was warm- he came out of a toasty uterus, insulated by his mother. But the first thought of a student doctor is often an expression of something that should be obvious, but just has not yet been experienced. It was a surprise to me when I first held him.

This has been kind of a funny story to friends, family, other patients, myself...I think in part because it illustrates that doctors start as children in medicine. We have these first experiences and have normal human reactions to them, instead of calculated medical answers. I think being a student gives you a unique perspective too, for your first delivery to coincide with a mother's first birth, where you share in the newness of this experience together. After that point, you are on unequal footing; the doctor and the patient, but as a student, you appreciate things along with the patient.

And I loved it. That feeling of cradling the warm, slippery baby and the happiness of laying the infant on his mother's belly was one of the greatest joys I had ever known, and ultimately changed my career in medicine.

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