People ask me why I’ve become so cynical and unhappy with everyone since being in hospital. I just don’t know what to tell them….
There was a phone call to the paediatrician asking to come perform a newborn examination on a baby born in a difficult circumstance. The young mother was unaware she was pregnant until 2 days prior and showed up to hospital just in time to give birth. In the early hours of the morning, she went to the bathroom and locked herself in for a long time. Eventually the nurses banged on the door to ask what had happened to the mother. Later still, she opened the door claiming she had already had the baby. The baby was found, still attached to the umbilical cord which had been wrapped around his neck, fully submerged upside down in the commode of the bathroom.
The baby was retrieved. He was alive and well. However, the mother left the hospital shortly. The baby was to be put up for adoption.
Hearing this story made me cringe. Sitting with the paediatrician as he received this call. It filled me with sadness. We hurried to the birthing suite to examine the baby. He was perfectly normal. Ticked all the boxes and was very healthy. It should have been a relief. But the midwives happened.
On arriving to the birthing suite, a group of midwives approached the paediatrician. “Oh you’re here to examine him?” one of them said. “We named him Louis!!”
I stared at her for a few seconds. As did my paediatrician.
“Do you get it?? ‘Loo-ey’!!” The look on her face was in absolute glee. As though she was extremely proud of herself for coming up with this.
The paediatrician gave her an expression that was an attempt to smile “Yes. I get it”
I have no idea what was going through this woman’s mind, but I soon realised it wasn’t just her. Another midwife added “Yeah. We would have named him ‘Little Sh*t’ but he’s just been so good and quiet!” They all laughed. My paediatrician was already walking past them to the baby. And I followed suit. I wasn’t sure it was safe for the midwives if I stood there any longer.
After the examination, we returned to the office to write a note, where, incredibly, the midwives were still at it.
“I hope the name Louis follows him through!”
“Yes. I really think it should! It’s perfect”
“Yeah. Whoever adopts him. We should let them know. It’s so sad he’s up for adoption.”
“Did you see him though? He’s quite black. Maybe that’s why the mother didn’t want him. She’s white. The father must have been black”
I raced out of the birthing suite with my paediatrician as quickly as I could.
Millions of thoughts resonated through my mind at the atrocity of the situation. But something came through loudest. “If you can’t say something nice, zip it”. “Grow up. Get a life. This is reality. Get used to it.” We all have to have thick skin by now. It means we have to not react to such situations. But I just wonder if the midwives knew how inappropriate the things they said were. Does being thick skinned mean that you are no longer aware of other peoples’ feelings? That you can just say whatever you want just because you have a mouth and freedom of speech?
Or maybe I’m just not used to it. Maybe I’m blowing it way out of proportion. But all I know is that if I was the baby, I would not appreciate hearing these women talk about me that way.
In a field where we’re constantly taught about being compassionate and being professional, I just don’t understand how this would come about. Maybe it’s a way people cope with difficult situations. Maybe the midwives were trying to make this setting a bit lighter. Or maybe they think that it’s enough to maintain professionalism and ‘appear’ compassionate in the patient’s presence.
I just don’t know. I’ve mentioned several times on here how important I think it is to think about what you say before you say it. In a world where we have no other way to know what someone is thinking other than what they have to say, and how much impact words being said can have, I hope so much every single day that I never say something that comes across as cringe-worthy as what I heard the midwives say.
And I hope the little baby goes to a good home where no one ever tells him this story.