I always regale you with stories of death, disease, sexual perversity, and self-destruction, which is pretty much what I deal with on a day-to-day basis in A&E. But sometimes there is a fleeting reprieve in the otherwise grim monotony of bodily failure. Last week I delivered my first baby, which, to be fair, was just as gruesome and proved humanity to be just as pitiless.
As an A&E doctor, I don’t deliver babies and don’t know anything about delivering babies apart from that they come out your vagina with considerable amounts of pain, tearing, and incontinence. If a woman comes into A&E in labor we will do everything we can to get her to the maternity ward to give birth, but last week we didn’t have time.
The ambulance brought in a 15-year-old girl with bad stomach cramps. She had a baby-faced boyfriend, like a wannabe teen-dad Alfie. She was also unequivocally pregnant. She wasn’t even fat. Just pregnant, and exercising a stupendous power of denial.
Despite swelling breasts, 28 pounds, and a lack of periods, some women suffer from pervasive denial leading to the one or two surprise births in the average A&E department each year. Classically it is a chubby teenage girl who gets bullied and had sex once in the dark with her friend’s acne-ridden older brother. She refuses to believe she is pregnant right through her contractions until, thinking her body is telling her to pee, she runs to the loo and delivers in the bog. A fine start in life. For that reason, savvy nurses often put chubby teenage girls in the waiting room on bog-birth watch.
This was the case with my pregnant girl. We rushed her straight to the examining room, leaving her child boyfriend outside. She wasn’t just having contractions but already crowning. With the baby’s head making a break for freedom it was too late to send her to maternity – she was going to give birth in A&E now. With no idea what they were for, I asked the nurse to fetch hot water and towels, because that’s what midwives do on TV, right?
I stood between her legs bracing myself for whatever was about to happen, desperately calling out for help from anyone else in A&E who had ever delivered a baby before. Panting and in pain, she called out for her boyfriend. I presumed someone had told him, but he was waiting outside, still thinking his girlfriend had a stomach bug. He finds out that, duh, you can get pregnant while having sex standing up or whatever other contraceptive stupidity he employed, by walking in to see a baby’s head popping out her vagina amidst the usual horror of blood, shit (almost all women shit themselves during delivery), and amniotic wibble.
He was understandably alarmed, not just by his imminent fatherhood but also seeing his girlfriend’s previously pretty teenage bits torn to shreds by this writhing alien invader, so we ushered him up to the head end where she was incredibly still refusing to believe what was happening, even though she was screaming in pain. She did a stellar job without any help from me or the registrar (aka boss), who had luckily turned up.
Within ten minutes, her body popped out a perfectly healthy boy. What had not even been known to exist a few minutes before was now looking up at me like a mini person with funny chubby arms and legs, and even I, cold-hearted bitch that I am, felt that choking emotional feeling.
I carried him up to meet his mum and she immediately declared, “This is not my baby.” Shocked, we reassured her it is her baby and she just gave birth to him, to which she replied, “It is not my baby, now please take it away.”
This is called disassociation and is quite common in women who suffer from pervasive denial of pregnancy. Nonetheless, it caused my warm gooey feeling to be swiftly replaced by the usual antipathy to the whole of humanity. I cleaned off the icky birth goop, wrapped him up and sent him off to the pediatrics department, who will look after him for two weeks while she chooses if she wants to keep him– after which, if statistics are anything to go by, he will most likely face a lifetime of care homes, juvenile detention, and teen fatherhood.
This blog was not as cheery as I first intended. Sorry about that.
DR. MONA MOORE