Making Babies

64

I technically have never actually had a baby myself. Up close the experience seems terribly unpleasant. Jonathan Borba.

Delivering babies was one of the more rewarding things I got to do during medical training. I actively sought out the experience and caught sixty of the slimy little rascals before I moved on to other things. It was equal parts satisfying and ghastly.

This evening’s Mom was originally from someplace in South America. She spoke some kind of jungle language but nothing else. Her husband spoke the jungle language as well as Spanish. One of my nurses spoke both English and Spanish while I speak English or nothing at all. Once all these pieces of the machine were in place, we had a telephone chain most tenuous. This was her sixth baby, and he was coming, ready or not.

The interplay in the delivery room was truly comical. Mom would say something, and dad would translate to the nurse. The nurse then translated for me. My responses followed the same circuitous path. I suppose we were communicating after a fashion. There’s literally no telling exactly what made it back to mom.

I had the very best of intentions. I was occupied on the south end, while dad managed the north. Whenever mom did anything particularly well I would enthusiastically give her an OK sign with my free hand. At each iteration her eyes would grow wide with surprise. I found out later that the OK sign meant something very different in her culture than it does here. Awkward.

Translational challenges notwithstanding, we got the baby into the world safe and healthy. When I departed later to clean up, I bumped into one of the labor and delivery nurses. She had clearly been crying. She said, “Come look at this.”

I accompanied her into the waiting room and found five Hispanic children. The oldest was maybe nine and was clearly serving admirably as the ad hoc mom for the rest. The youngest was less than two. They were all well-behaved and sitting quietly on the floor. These were the older siblings of the baby I had just delivered.

My nurse who spoke Spanish inquired when they had eaten last. It had been more than a day. Mom and dad were both occupied, and they didn’t have anyone else.

We gathered the kids up and moved them into the break room. We then bought a big bag of hamburgers at the hospital McDonalds. Those kids ate every scrap and all but licked the wrappers clean. Once mom recovered sufficiently, they all disappeared. We never heard from them again.

All little babies look cute and cuddly. Getting them to this
point is typically unfiltered chaos. Damir Spanic.

Who Saw That Coming?

On another occasion, a lady collapsed unexpectedly in front of a local KFC. An ambulance was summoned, and the woman began complaining mightily of belly pain. Once in the hospital, the ER doc did a pelvic exam and was surprised to find a little baby with a full head of hair just waiting to launch. That’s when she and I met.

That one went quickly. I found out later this was number twelve. The lady in question claimed she had no idea she had been pregnant.

I’ve never technically been pregnant, so I’m really in no position to judge. However, I have known quite a few pregnant women. I have actually been married to one through three iterations of the ordeal. In each case there didn’t seem to be a great deal of ambiguity, particularly toward the end. This lady just said she had been too busy to notice.

Now busy, I have been that. Back when I was a soldier I went four days without sleep on two different occasions. I also ground my way through medical school with a wife and three kids in tow. I know what it’s like to be busy. However, I simply struggle to believe that anything that unemployed lady might have been up to would have been adequate to distract her from the fact that she had been pregnant for nine months.

Regardless, the kid was fine, and mom had plenty of experience by then. I added it to my list and catalogued the bizarre story as something about which I might someday write. I guess that means there was a happy ending.

If approached properly, parenthood is the noblest of callings. If done poorly, it is the most unimaginable mess. In my time delivering babies in an inner city hospital I saw the best and worst humanity had to offer. It was enough to make me swear off baby delivering forever.

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