6 months: An early passing

Karina and I had the blessed opportunity to visit the gynecology/labor and delivery unit at Hospital Civil on Thursday (211113). The unit was pretty different than the one that I visited at ISSSTE. The biggest difference was the number of patients at Hospital Civil—there were A LOT.

Everything was going smoothly. Karina and I witnessed the birth of a beautiful baby girl. We got to help the nurse dress her. She absolutely captivated us with every move she made. She spent her time squirming around in her pastel yellow pants and top or crying. It was mind-blowing to imagine that the little girl lying in front of me had only been on the earth for less than an hour!

The second labor that we witnessed ended very differently. The labor started off normally. The lift team transported the 18 year old mother to the delivery room and the nurses cleaned and prepared her. A few minutes later, I saw the frail dark body of a neonate with a 6 month gestational age. I let out a sharp gasp as the OBGYN handed the thin and delicate body into the arms of the pediatrician. Soft, weak cries echoed through the delivery room—then quite. A heavy blanket of seriousness descended upon the room; a small foreshadowing of the coming event. The doctor softly told the pediatrician to hand the baby over to her mother. That was when we knew—the baby wasn’t going to make it…

The mother tightly cradled her child against her breast and started sobbing— the pain in her heart overriding the pain from just giving birth. A weighty silence filled every crevice of the room, only to be broken by the distant cries of the other neonates and the sobbing of the woman. The head OBYN moved close to the woman and comforted her with a warm and gentle voice. He never left her side.

We later learned the circumstances of the woman’s birth. Her baby had massive amounts of fluid buildup within the brain and had a very low chance of survival. Furthermore, the mother had preeclampsia and, as a result, had hypertension. According to the head OBGYN, the two #1 causes of maternal deaths in Mexico are hypertension and hemorrhage.

It turns out that the women had discussed her situation with her doctor beforehand. The woman faced the hardest decision of her life—save her baby’s life or save her own. I can’t imagine half the pain that she went through making the decision that she did. Even though the baby was not full term, the baby was still hers and a part of her own flesh.

After this occurrence, I couldn’t help but wonder how I would handle a situation similar to what this woman experienced, as a mother. I acknowledge that my personality, situation, reasoning, motivations, and outlook vary from those of the woman. So, at this moment, I don’t have a definite answer.

Also, I couldn’t help but contemplate how I would address a situation like this as a doctor. A career in medicine includes situations where one must face death. If a time like this ever arises, I hope I could handle the situation with the similar respect and warmth that the OBGYN handled it with. I greatly admired the sensitivity and comfort that he offered to the woman while she grieved. The whole staff worked together to help the mother go through the grieving process.

Life is a beautiful but also fragile gift. My heart and prayers are with this incredibly strong woman and her family.

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