“Alright, Espino, you’re up!”
It’s the start of day two during my obstetrics/gynecology rotation, and my preceptor tells me those words as we get paged into labor and delivery. A surge of anticipation rushes through my body as I realize what those words mean – it’s time for me to deliver a baby!
During the first day, my preceptor oriented me to the hospital and reviewed a number of pertinent topics, fortunately including labor and delivery. Although months had passed since I first learned these concepts during didactic year, the material remained surprisingly fresh and familiar. With this bit of reassurance, I proceeded during my first day helping with admissions, documenting histories and physicals, assisting with prenatal care and rounding on postpartum mothers.
The amount of information coming my way all at once seemed initially overwhelming, but I did my best to retain as much as I could and made notes of what I needed to review afterwards. The final hour of day one proved to be the most exciting part as I witnessed the delivery of two beautiful babies. Prior to that day, I had only seen the birthing process in lecture videos, so to be blessed with the opportunity to see the event in person was absolutely amazing. Even more amazing was when my preceptor told me that the next day it was going to be my turn to deliver a baby – something that not every student gets the opportunity to do.
True to his word, it’s day two, and the aforementioned scenario unfolds. I warmly introduce myself as a Duke PA student to the soon-to-be parents, who enthusiastically tell me that their entire family is filled with Blue Devil fans. Hearing such an immediate connection, my preceptor verifies that the mother is comfortable with me delivering the baby and assures her that he will be overseeing the entire process. Much to my excitement, she graciously agrees, and I immediately gown up and get ready for the big event.
The nurse tells us that the mother’s contractions are increasing in strength and frequency, meaning that the baby could arrive at any moment. Sure enough, I barely have time to glove up before the baby’s head starts crowning. Doing my best to maintain a calm exterior in spite of my racing heartbeat, I grab a sterile towel and get ready to support the baby’s head. My preceptor quietly reminds me of the cardinal movements of labor as they are occurring, and encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing. I pay the encouragement forward as I tell the mother that she is doing a fantastic job, and together with the nurses, we instruct her to time her pushing with the next major contraction. This proves to be the final push as the baby’s head comes fully into my hands.
I make the necessary maneuver to deliver the shoulders as my preceptor had previously shown me, and the beautiful baby boy is now in my arms, letting out a healthy cry. I give the newborn to his mother, who is crying tears of pure joy as she meets her baby for the first time. The parents express such heartfelt gratitude to me and the staff, causing me to nearly tear up from the beauty that had just occurred. In my opinion, there is truly no greater miracle to witness than the miracle of birth, and I walked away feeling even that much more honored to have been a part of it.
Hearing my classmates’ stories as we share experiences with one another reminds me just how fortunate we are to be in a PA program such as Duke that offers such wonderful rotations. Everyone’s experiences thus far seem to be so rich and diverse as we approach the middle of second year. Personally, I look forward to seeing where the rest of clinical year takes me, as I do my best to represent the Duke PA program with an eager mind and a humble heart.
Alejandro Espino is a second-year student in the Duke University PA program.