Acton, Saskia

Phone ringing, calling me out of a deep sleep. The clock says it’s 1:20am. “ Who would be calling at this hour ?”my husband murmurs, still asleep. He always says this, even after 16 years of sleeping beside a rural doctor, who gets calls randomly at all hours. Of course, it’s the hospital. My heart rate shoots up immediately. “Brian has this girl in. She’s about to deliver. You need to come in and help.”

I know for a fact, that Brian hasn’t done a delivery in about 15 years, and that he will not want to refresh his skills just now.

As I pull on my clothes in the dark, I try to explain to my husband. “ Some 16 year old who didn’t know she was pregnant is having a baby”.

“She, what?” he says. “ how can that happen?”

“I guess I’m going to find out” I reply, leaving him to lie awake wondering, keeping the bed warm for my return.

Driving quickly through the night, I am suddenly taken by the memories of the many trips I’ve made to the hospital, seeing young deer in the headlights, Northern Lights dancing eerily in the sky, Halley’s comet , and all sorts of other celestial wonders hardly seen by those who usually stay inside after dark. I think of the trucks I pass on the highway, their drivers oblivious to the small dramas unfolding in each of the towns they pass by. I feel like I am making a connection between the outer world, and the secret happenings going on within the private confines of the hospital.

I pull my car to a stop right outside the hospital front door and unlock the door to let myself in to what appears to be an unmanned nursing station. All hands are tied up helping. As I burst into the delivery room, the baby is emerging. I pull on a pair of gloves and walk her over to the infant warmer. She looks just lovely: pink, crying, chubby legs unfurling at their first chance to stretch. Brian looks decidedly shaky and pale.

“ I didn’t do an episiotomy, there was no time” was the first comment he has.

“ No worries” I reply, not wanting to inform him that that routine went out of style at least 10 years ago.

“ She has a tear” he concludes.

“ Let me take over. I’ll fix it for her, and get the placenta delivered”

I now notice who is here in the room. A bewildered looking 16 year old is at the other end of this scene, Her mother caught beside her looking quite uncertain whether she should cry, rejoice, or scream in horror. There’s and older sister beaming with delight.

“You have a beautiful baby girl” I tell them.

“ But how did this happen? I can’t be a grandmother. I’m not ready for that! I saw her 2 weeks ago in a bikini. She really did not look pregnant at all” The girl’s mother I notice, is about my age. I can’t seem to get my head around that fact at all.

Corrine, her daughter, had come into the hospital earlier that evening complaining of low back pain. Sue, the ER nurse had asked her if there was any chance she could be pregnant. She always asked the teenagers that. They always say no.

Corrine’s urine test had shown signs of infection, so was sent away with some antibiotics after a short phone consult with the doctor on call. An hour later, she was back. The pain wasn’t any better. In fact, it was worse. Much worse. It felt like, well, like she was having a baby. She didn’t know why she said that. She claimed she had only had sex once, and had used protection. She couldn’t be pregnant. She even said that it felt like something was coming out “ down there”. It was green.

Dr. Brian finally got called in. Doing call from home meant that he didn’t typically see everyone who came in. The nurses could manage the regulars who would show up at all hours with minor complaints, allowing the doctors to have some chance at sleep. But this time, something was definitely amiss. It no longer seemed to be a 16 year old with a bladder infection.

The doctor decided he had better have a look. This might not be so easy. There was no way this 6 foot tall, grey haired man was going to get an easy look at his patient. It took a lot of calm encouragement by the two nurses on duty, to allow any semblance of an exam. He was not permitted to touch anything, just glance at the offending anatomy. But a glance was all that was required to reveal a crowning head of hair, obviously not belonging to the body being examined.

“ I can’t be having a baby! I don’t want to have a baby!” Corrine screamed as they wheeled her into the delivery room. That was about two minutes before I got there.

The baby checked out fine. 6 lbs,12oz, full-term. Perfect.

Corrine had a few stitches, and then was asked,” Do you want to hold her? What do you want to name her?”

At this point, I become the observer to this pageant of life. I am the connection with the outer world, full of possibility. Here is this ordinary teenager, who went to classes today, takes hip-hop lessons, and is looking forward to her upcoming high school graduation. She is holding a baby, who is undeniably her daughter. There is a bond forming: I can see this transformation taking place before me. It seems like discovering that you have a sister and meeting her for the first time, only she’s your daughter, and she just emerged from the womb you have never even thought about once.

“ Let’s see if she’ll try to breastfeed” I offer, believing at this moment that anything is possible. Soon, I have a 16 year old breast in one hand, and I am guiding a baby’s head to it with the other. This is when the connection solidifies. The baby, now named Ella, unaware of her tenuous circumstances, confidently latches onto her young mother’s breast. This is all she knows. At this moment, a family is formed: grandmother, mother, aunt and daughter, each taking on a new identity not considered by any of them an hour ago. The curtain of uncertainty is lifted, and a clear, confident group of women come together because of this remarkable accident.

In the following days, the new family will gain momentum, Corrine will make it to her prom in a borrowed dress, on a pass from the hospital in her second day post-partum. She will come back early because she misses her baby. Baby Ella will become quite a hit among the high school students, and will find no shortage of love and affection. And, in a way that is possible only to a teenage mind, a future will be planned, incorporating Ella into this uncertain world that she has boldly come into.

This world full of more hope and acceptance than I could ever imagine.

Theme: Birth | Naissance
Theme: Family | Famille
Theme: Patients | Patients

Stories in Family Medicine | Récits en médecine familiale [Internet] Mississauga ON: College of Family Physicians of Canada. 2008 --.




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