Do you want to hold her?

Today I had a truly special experience. I am finishing my eighth straight week on labor and delivery – six weeks of nights, and now I am finishing week two of six weeks of days. A certain very memorable patient ended up in triage at least once or twice a week. She had a lot of medical problems and there was usually something legitimately wrong with her, but it was also always a challenge to sort out what was normal from her from what was pathologic. How do you rule out UTI in a patient with nausea, vomiting, and back pain, but whose urine is chronically colonized? How many times do you need to rule out rupture of membranes in a patient with urinary incontinence who felt a gush of fluid?Do you want to hold her?

Well, she came in on my day off and was actually in labor this time. She had her repeat c-section overnight, and I was paged the next morning when she had decreased urine output post-op. As soon as I walked into the room, she beamed at me. She was clearly exhausted, but she immediately said “Dr. [Indy]! It’s you! You came to see me! I was so sad that you weren’t here yesterday! I asked for Doctor [Indy] when I got here but they told me you weren’t on!” Her husband was sitting in the chair next to the bed, holding their newborn baby girl. He smiled at me and said “Do you want to hold her?” As soon as I picked her up, they asked if they could take a picture of me holding her. This is that picture, censored for my privacy and theirs. It’s too bad you can’t see the smiles on both of our faces.

Why does this picture mean so much to me? Because I didn’t deliver this baby. I wasn’t even here the day when this child was born. But after all the hours that I spent taking care of this patient, she still thought of me as her doctor. Me, the intern. Her doctor. I was the doctor she wanted a picture of, holding her baby.

I’m not going to lie, I felt a bit ashamed. The last few times her name appeared on the tracking board, I caught myself thinking “Again?? What is it this time?” After all the times she came in for a two-hour preterm labor rule-out and had to wait for me to finish a c-section for her second check, she still wanted me to hold her brand new baby. She wanted to share the most precious thing in her world with me. She said I should just spend the morning sitting on the couch in her room holding the baby. I asked her to take one with my phone, too. I only wish I had asked her to be in the picture with me. I wish I had captured the look on her face – exhausted but so happy.

I work really hard, and sometimes I just can’t believe it’s that patient. Again. But in the end, people trust me with the things that matter most to them in the world, their babies. I am so honored that she picked me as the doctor she wanted to remember from her pregnancy and delivery, the doctor who she wanted to hold her newborn baby. Trying to become an OB/GYN is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I’m still pretty sure it’s the best job in the world. 

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