Whenever asked, I hesitate to tell people what I do because when a young man says: “I’m a gynecologist,” he never seems to be taken quite so seriously. “No, really, I am” – “Oh.” Instead, I opt for the more charming “I deliver babies” line. Works every time.
And why is that? What about birth and babies triggers a sense of astonishment in people? Whatever it is, it seems to magically soften even the roughest exteriors. Because everything stops for that one instant when a new life comes into the world. Just for a moment, we forget about our problems, our stresses, and our pains. We’re unthreatened and uninhibited. There does not seem to be a more natural, honest, and unrestrained expression of love and emotion than new parents welcoming their children into the world. Watching a father cry and a grandmother break down in tears as they hold their own future in their hands is unparalleled in the human experience.
During my short time on the receiving end of life, I’ve had the incredible privilege of delivering poor and rich moms, experienced and first-time moms, single and same-sex moms, native and immigrant moms, famous moms, and even convict moms. At all hours of the day and all seasons of the year. Hail or storm – you can bet we’ll be there on this most important day of your life. And in that privileged position, I have learned that birth is a great unifier. In that sense, we’re not more special than each other. In a world where we are constantly pushed to stand out and move ahead of others lies the greatest irony: When it matters, we are all the same.
We all swam our way into life in a great pool of amniotic fluid, unable to walk, speak, and fend for ourselves. At birth, we knew no prejudice, no bias, or discrimination. And upon being placed in mom’s arms, we learned our first and most important lessons: We’re meant to soothe, love, and be there for one another. That is what truly matters.
Had I chosen a different career path, I would be missing out on the truer miracle of life: Meeting those whose pursuit of happiness amidst adversity had been successful – even if for only a moment – in bringing them from the brinks of despair to the heights of love. Giving birth was the transformation of that effort into a life-long binding contract of bliss, and I would forever be that witness, attesting and validating struggles, which made room for future freedom and peace.
I don’t know you, but let me tell you something about yourself you may not think about so much. The day you were born, you cried, and that cry warmed the hearts of those waiting impatiently for you. At least for an instant, their world stopped, and you were at the center of it – because you matter.
As trainees, we have unpredictable schedules. Sometimes we work days; others, we work long nights. As the weekends come by, my best friend inevitably asks me: “Who’s showing up this week at work, Batman or Bruce Wayne? This week Batman is showing up to catch babies. And frankly, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing at 3 a.m.
Jacques Balayla is an obstetrics-gynecology physician.
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