Four months into medical school, I had an experience I will never forget: I helped deliver a baby. I had just started medical school, and never would have expected that I would experience something like this so early in my education.
On most days for my clinical work, I assist a family practice provider, Dr. Carpenter, in her rural clinic. However, this day was unlike most. I received a message from Dr. Carpenter asking me to come to Carle Hospital in Urbana because she had a patient in labor. Dr. Carpenter is a family medicine physician that specializes in obstetrics and gynecology and, on certain days, performs deliveries at Carle Hospital. This was one of those days.
When I arrived at the hospital around 1:00 p.m., Dr. Carpenter was under the impression that the delivery was going to progress quickly. Labor is unpredictable though, and the mother’s contractions began to slow down. For that reason, we spent most of my shift doing other things around the hospital while frequently checking in on the mother.
Before I realized, it was 5:00 p.m., which signaled the end of my shift. The mother, unfortunately, was still in labor. Dr. Carpenter said I didn’t have to, but I was welcome to stay. I chose to stay in hopes of witnessing the birth. Knowing what I know now, I definitely made the right decision.
Shortly after 5:00 p.m., things began to pick up. Dr. Carpenter took me into the mother’s room to show me what would happen after the birth. We talked about where we would put the baby and how we would perform the physical examination. Suddenly, Dr. Carpenter alerted me that we needed to change into our scrubs very quickly – the baby was coming. We resumed our conversation when we returned to the mother’s room. Dr. Carpenter looked over to check on the mother and saw the baby’s head coming out!
Dr. Carpenter got into position, ready to deliver the baby and laid out the sterile drape. She delivered the baby, but I was right there beside her. It’s frequently said that childbirth is one of the most amazing events to experience, but I did not think it would be as exciting as it’s made out to be. In witnessing it, I really could appreciate how awesome of a moment it was.
After the baby was happily in the mother’s arms, Dr. Carpenter told me, almost matter-of-factly, “Now you’re going to deliver this placenta!” This was something I didn’t even realize I wanted to do, but when the opportunity presented itself, I was excited. Dr. Carpenter guided me through the process, so I felt comfortable taking action. This is why I hold Dr. Carpenter in such high regard: she entrusts her students with enough responsibility for them to learn in the best way possible. Obviously, I was a little nervous, but with Dr. Carpenter by my side, I felt reassured.
When the delivery was over, I looked up at the clock to find it was just about 5:30 p.m. – I could not believe how fast everything had gone. I examined the baby – also a first – and listened to the rapid pace of its tiny heart.
While I went into this experience interested in women’s health, I had no idea just how fascinating I would find delivery. I cannot say for sure whether or not I will end up working in obstetrics and gynecology, but I can say that I am definitely intrigued by the field.
Working with Dr. Carpenter has been an amazing experience. Not only have I gained more confidence in myself, my clinical experience has also bolstered my studies. I believe the best way to learn is by doing, so while my extraordinary day makes a great story, it was also a valuable learning experience.