Monday, May 5, 2008


Frequently the response when I tell someone I am an obstetrician is "What a wonderful job!" It is a wonderful job however not in the way most people who make that statement believe it to be. Here are reasons that I believe my job to be wonderful:

First, obstetrical patients are the most appreciative people on the planet. Even if all the obstetrician did was show up as the baby is being born (let's face it, in a large percentage of cases childbirth could happen without an obstetrician), the mother, the father, the grandparents all think that this child could not have made her way into the world without the assistance of the obstetrician. I generally stop to remind the parents (and myself) that their job is much more difficult and much more important than mine. I know. I have been a parent for over eighteen years.

Second, I like my job because when complications do arise during delivery or if it is a difficult pregnancy and the outcome is indeed a good one then I do feel as if I have contributed in making life better for all involved. In these cases the patient may not be as grateful. Perhaps it was not the story book pregnancy she imagined for herself. She and her family may have struggled through some difficult days or even months where she did not feel well, was confined to bed or hospitalized. If she has a healthy baby and she herself is well at the end of the process I will celebrate and then commiserate with the patient and her family for the next several years about how a truly awful pregnancy produced such a wonderful child.

Finally, when the outcome of the pregnancy is terrible, when the baby is born much too early, when he doesn't survive the neonatal period or she is stillborn, I have a chance to be with the family as they begin to heal from a terrible loss. I have learned in my more than twenty seven years of practicing medicine that I will never be able to make sense of these outcomes. I should not expect these people grieving the loss of their child, to make sense of this either. Until the baby is born, I am working as hard as I can to find ways to prolong the pregnancy or treat the condition threatening the baby's health. Once the baby has arrived my job is one of emotional support. If the baby is disabled or dies then the parents will still need care.

Healing comes on many levels at different times through a variety of sources. At times the physician plays a very active role deciding, prescribing, preforming. At other times it is just as important that the physician be present and be still.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are in ministry. Period. No other way to look at it. :)