I saw an old familiar face this morning. It was over 20 years ago that I first met him. His was not a friendship to be forged or even the ingredient for a casual acquaintance. He was my gynecologist—that dreaded doctor of whom most women grimace at the thought of what his (or her) job entails, albeit necessary for good health. He was always polite and professionally thorough. He had an excellent reputation as a retired army doctor.
He was also an obstetrician. When going for those monthly check-ups when pregnant with my first child, it was policy that all patients see all the obstetricians in the practice. Each month meant that I saw a different doctor, and if memory serves me correctly, there were at least four. I remember that he wasn’t my favorite. The other doctors in the practice seemed more friendly and easier to talk to, although he wasn’t cold or unfriendly, just not as friendly. Perhaps the best way to describe him was ‘stoic’ and all-business.
As luck had it, he was on call the night that I went into labor. Everything went smoothly with the delivery of our first child, a son we named Wesley Kyle, although I didn’t have any pain relief except for Demerol; I was too far along to receive an Epidural. There was a part of me that wanted to blame this doctor. But nonetheless, our son was healthy and full-term and beautiful, in spite of coming 2 ½ weeks early. And I soon forgot about that painful part, as all mothers do!
Life went on. He was still my gynecologist. And then, 20 months later I became pregnant again. The rotation routine was still in order, but again I hoped that one of the others would be the doctor to deliver my second child.
When I awoke in the wee hours of October 14 due to my water breaking, I knew we shouldn’t waste time in getting to the hospital. Wesley came in less than 7 hours; this one was sure to be faster. Plus, I really, really wanted that Epidural! Blaine called the on-call nurse and as instructed, was to await the doctor’s call back before proceeding to the hospital. After waiting at least fifteen minutes, without the phone ringing, I insisted that we leave for the hospital. I knew that this was no false alarm.
We didn’t know which of the doctors from the practice would be the on-call obstetrician. When we arrived at the hospital, we again found that this same doctor would indeed deliver our second child. Strangely, I was relieved. I remember telling Blaine, “Well, at least we know what to expect. We know he knows what he’s doing, as long as I get that Epidural!”
It wasn’t to be. “Too far along, Beverly,” he told me. “I’m sorry.”
“But I reallllllllllyyyyy (yes, I said it exactly as is written) wanted one this time,” I whined.
Less than three hours later (not pain-free hours!) our second son, Andrew Joel, arrived—healthy, vibrant, and handsomely beautiful. I thanked this doctor and was glad that he was there, that second time.
He retired years ago. I decided to find a female gynecologist. He became a memory…one that now, twenty years later, I smile about.
When I saw him today I couldn’t help but speak to him, to tell him that he had delivered both of my sons, and to see if he remembered that they had both died in a fatal car accident. He was not gruff or stoic, but polite (he even gave me a hug) and said he remembered me, but he didn’t remember the accident. I filled him in and then told him about our adoption plans as well.
He called me tonight. He told me how touched he was that I would share my story. He told me that I had made his day, in spite of the sorrow we have faced. He told me that he wished Blaine and me much happiness with the adoption of this little girl and that he would love to hear about her when we bring her home. He said, “God bless you Beverly.”
Before he called tonight I had this thought: Since I have grown up somewhat in these last nearly 21 years, I now realize that he wasn’t so gruff…maybe somewhat stoic. I now appreciate the stoic souls of this world. My obstetrician was doing his job with efficiency and professionalism. His hands pursued their training with skill, discernment, and reason. His hands delivered many, many children.
And, most important to me now is this—his were the first hands to touch our sons…to bring them into this world…the caring, dedicated hands of an army doctor.
Thank you Dr. Anderson.
Carol Henderson said:
Thank you for sharing this Beverly. Doctors’ hands are so important. I remember watching the hands of the pediatric cardiac surgeon who was going to operate on Malcolm’s tiny mal-functioning heart. Dr. Casteneda drew pictures of our son’s heart valves on the back of an envelope, using a fountain pen. His fingers were long and slender, his motions smooth and confident, his illustrations clear. When we left that appointment and he shook my hand again–his was smooth and strong–I finally felt a bit of peace. We were delivering our very-sick little boy into good hands. And then two surgeries later, when Malcolm died, Dr. C. sat with me in silence for a long time, holding my hand.