It was 6:15 in the morning when the hospital called to inform me that my patient Peggy Austin had been admitted. Her labor pain had begun and knowing this was her second delivery following her twins, I could not afford to dawdle.
I arrived at the hospital an hour later. I dropped by my office to don my white smock and grab a cup of coffee before enquiring about Peggy’s progress at the nurses’ desk.
I walked to her room where I found Steve rubbing a soothing hand over his wife’s tummy, who was breathing heavily to quell the pain left by the last contraction.
“Hi Peggy, Steve!”
“Dr. Karnes. Sorry to get out of bed this early,” Steve said with a slightly embarrassing smile.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m used to it. Babies don’t tell time. When they want out we must indulge their wish, no ifs or buts about it.” I slipped on my gloves and lifted the bed sheet off Peggy’s legs. “Bend your legs for me, dear. I want to check the cervix dilation.”
She did as instructed.
“They tell me at the desk that you’ve only been in labor an hour before you arrived?”
“Yes. We didn’t want to take any chances, this being the second birth. I know they can come pretty quickly.”
“Three centimeters dilated. You’re doing fine, Peggy.” I pushed her knees down and put the sheet back on her legs before removing my surgical gloves that I tossed in the wastebasket.
“Could easily be a few hours, three, four or more. Once in a while we come across those mule-headed ones who tend to stay in longer then they should.”
“If that’s the case, then he must take after his father,” Peggy teased with a wink that didn’t go unnoticed by Steve.
“Or maybe SHE takes after her mother?” Steve retorted, clawing playfully at his wife’s belly.
“Dr. Karnes, you already know what I’m going to have, don’t you?”
“Of course, Peggy. The foetus’s sex is usually the first thing I see when I do an ultrasound.” I swiveled my eyes back and forth between the two faces staring at me in eager anticipation. “Do you want to know?”
Peggy and Steve looked at each other, their eyes speaking their minds.
Steve cracked an amused smile and looked up at me. “We’ve waited this long, what’s another few hours? Besides we want to be surprised.”
“Can you tell me one thing, Doctor; I’m not expecting twins again, am I?” Peggy queried with a tinge of fear in her voice.
“Relax Peggy. Rest assured, there’s only one in there.”
She rolled her eyes into her head and heaved a sigh of relief.
“I bet the twins are excited at the prospect of a new sibling?”
“James wants a baby sister, while Troy insists it’s going to be a boy,” Steve said.
I chuckled. “It’s obvious one is going to be sourly disappointed.”
“Don’t worry. We have a sure fire method to wipe the pout off the loser’s face.”
“You got it!” Steve said with a smirk and a wink.
“Well you two, keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing. I’ll go visit with my other patients and catch up on some paperwork, then I’ll be back here in about an hour to administer the epidural. Don’t worry, everything is proceeding nicely. But if you require assistance, call the nurse and she’ll fetch me.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
Nearly six hours later, I ordered that the expecting mother be wheeled down to the delivery room when her cervix dilation was complete.
During the delivery, the baby suddenly went into respiratory distress. On the monitor, I noticed that the umbilical chord was wrapped around the baby’s neck.
“Get an anesthesiologist in here in case we need to do a C section,” I instructed the nurse with a composed poise to avoid adding to the mother’s stress.
Keeping an eye on the monitor, I slipped my hand inside and groped at the baby’s neck to untangle the chord choking him. My quick intervention proved successful and the crisis passed.
“Alright Peggy, I need one last big push. This one’s for your baby,” I egged on as I gently work my fingers around the tiny shoulders to help the exhausted mother in her efforts, which were rewarded by a healthy shrill.
“Peggy, you have a daughter,” I informed happily.
“Is she alright?” she asked between two gasps.
“She’s perfect.” I placed the squalling newborn onto her stomach to alleviate some of her physical pain.
“Oh baby girl, your father’s going to be so proud of you,” she cooed while delicately fiddling with the tiny fingers.
My heart brimmed over with joy at this precious moment of a mother’s first physical contact with her child. It’s times like these that make me proud of my chosen profession.
A few minutes later, I left Peggy and the baby in my team’s capable hands to go tell the father the good news. I found Steve wearing a hole in the floor of the waiting room, his boss Oscar Goldman, equally anxious, sitting on the sofa.
“Congratulations Papa, it’s a girl.”
Steve exhaled a long drawn-out shuddering breath, one I suspect he’d been holding for quite some time, before he fell into Oscar’s arms.
“Congratulations, pal!” Oscar gushed, patting Steve on the back.
“Peggy? Is she alright?”
“She’s fine. Perhaps a bit tired but otherwise she’s doing marvelously, both of them are. All 10 toes and fingers.”
“Can I see the baby?”
“They should have her in the nursery by now. Sure, come with me.”
I led both men down the corridor to the nursery. There, I rapped on the glass window to the attending nurse and beckoned her to show us baby Austin. She picked the baby up and gently cradled her in her arms as she walked to the window to the two elated men.
“Steve, I’ve got to hand it to you, pal; you do make beautiful babies.”
“Don’t I know it,” Steve boasted absently, his mind going into raptures over this fragile human being that God had bestowed upon him.
“She’s a cutie, Steve. Just you wait, in a couple of year she’ll have all the boys swarming around her like bees to honey.”
“Not so fast, Oscar. Let me watch her grow up first. I want to treasure every moment.”
I smiled and congratulated myself for another job well done.