The inspiring growth of a doctor-patient relationship

Some days, it is about crossing paths with others that bring a smile to your face. Here is one such individual.

Sitting in my office was my new patient and her husband. She was a just-pregnant Brazilian woman wearing a warm smile; he was an older, overweight, unkempt American who sat uncomfortably in the chair. I imagined he had never been to a gynecologist’s office and was perhaps unsure what to expect. Together they seemed an odd pair, and I wondered if this was an arranged marriage.

“Mail-order bride,” I breathed in; “Oh boy,” I breathed out. If this truly was an arranged union, how would they not only survive the stresses of a new marriage but a new pregnancy as well, with such striking cultural differences?

This wasn’t the first time I had seen a “mismatched” couple like this, but this couple was different. With previous “arranged” couples I have seen, usually the woman was quite young, early 20s and spoke limited English, deferring to her husband whenever I asked a question. This woman though, was in her 30s, a bit zaftig, and radiated joy and light. She not only answered my questions herself, but her voice carried the words to me in a song filled with her passion for life. I wasn’t prepared for her to have such a strong presence and, inversely, her husband to be so quiet. But in unison, they revealed their excitement about their anticipated child.

And thus we began, our relationship growing as her baby grew inside her. She beamed every time she heard her baby’s heartbeat and loved when she could finally feel it kick. “I can’t stop eating” or “I’m so plump,” she would giggle each visit. Sitting next to her at every appointment, her husband had a quiet, gentle presence that countered her radiant energy. At delivery, she required a C-section for her rather large baby girl. And postpartum, the whole family came, including their new baby with rosy cheeks just begging to be pinched. Mom, with tired eyes, still had her giggle and smile. Dad, with his calming presence, was rocking their baby in her car seat.

A few years later, my patient came back again pregnant. By this time her daughter had grown to become quite the precocious little girl. “I want to help!” she would excitedly say as she jumped off her dad’s lap and together we would find her baby brother’s heartbeat. Dad still came to each visit, now sitting more comfortably in my office, quietly juggling his daughter and her toys on his lap. And mom, more commanding of her English and her place here in the states. I found myself marveling at this family that truly was a loving family.

Recently, I saw the patient for her yearly exam. As I sat down to talk to her, I found myself asking her boundless questions. I wanted to know all about her children, when she visited Brazil last, if her parents came here to visit yet. Lulled in by her sing-song voice, I relished the love and joy within her stories. She truly embodied happiness. I could have sat there all afternoon listening to her. I wanted to sit there all afternoon listening her.

I realized that I had known her for 10 years. I vividly remembered her broken English and uncertain future from our first meeting. I admired the bravery it must have taken for her to leave her home country, learn a new language and way of life with a man she barely knew. But she had that sparkle about her, that despite difficulties in her life, including missing her family, every moment still deserved a smile. She loved her husband and children wholeheartedly and made a loving, joyful home for them.

I am fortunate that I have the opportunity to be a part a patient’s life through many phases. One of my favorites is watching families grow. Seeing this family, in particular, has been such a pleasure for me. And every year, it is my treat to see my bubbly, giggly, warmhearted, Brazilian patient who always makes me smile.

Andrea Eisenberg is a obstetrician-gynecologist who blogs at Secret Life of an OB/GYN.

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