Monday, February 8, 2010

Disappointed Babies

I haven’t seen many babies so far, so I am looking forward to this afternoon with the GP-obstetrician. The day looks promising when the first patient comes in, a new mum with a 5-week-old son. As the doctor goes through his examination, all I can think is, “Look at the little baby!” so I am caught off-guard when he turns to me and asks what I would do next. “Ummmm ... would you measure it?” A good enough guess. And then I am asked to hold the baby while he examines Mum. I’ve not had much experience with holding babies, but I think I do ok. The baby does not hit the ground and does not squeal too much, which is encouraging. And then it gets hungry. “Uh, uh, uh” it declares, and mouths the empty air before spotting my bare arm. And then it gets frustrated, starts to squeal, because my arm isn’t giving it dinner.

No more babies until the end of the day. “You don’t have to stay for this,” says the GP. We have taken care of all his consulting sessions, and I have just (under his close supervision) sutured a man’s leg and sent him on his way. It's been a long day. The treatment rooms are empty. The nurses have left in protest – they don’t want to stay for this. I stay.

The young couple sits in the waiting room with their brand new baby boy. Their oldest, about 3 years old, runs rampant through the near-empty clinic. They are relaxed, and the baby is sleeping, for now. The GP has tried to talk them out of this procedure, but they have insisted, and so he will do it.

Dad brings the baby in – Mum refuses to enter the room. Dad is brave. He chatters away, jiggles the little baby and soothes it as he takes a secure hold of its little legs. The doctor prepares his equipment ... forceps, probe, scissors, bell, gauze, and lays a sterile sheet over the baby’s lower half, exposing only the area to be operated on. And then he begins the operation. The baby is unhappy with its situation, and begins to cry. Dad talks, soothes, and kisses the little face. I am surprised when the baby actually manages to fall asleep, but the Dad just grins, as if he expected it. Dad is not quite so happy when the baby wakes up and begins to scream in earnest. And now there is blood flowing from the baby’s sliced foreskin. I can see little beads of sweat beginning to form on the Dad’s face, when he suddenly declares that he needs to lie down on the linoleum, so I step in to secure the baby. I stand at the baby’s head, wrap my hands around his little knees, and find myself inches from the circumcision procedure. It’s not pretty, the baby doesn’t like it, but it is soon over and the baby is back sleeping in Mum’s arms. Dad is alright too, after his rest. I thought it would be worse.

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