Saturday, April 13, 2013


I've always kinda envied obstetricians.

I remember with my first child.  We laughed at the positive pregnancy test.  We went to the doctors visits together. So many milestones: the first heartbeat, the ultrasound, and the kicking.  The OB was like a guide walking through a foreign land.  She sauntered ahead of us merrily, advising gently but firmly.  Of course there were bumps in the road, there always are.

But the end points were knowable. She was not only our doctor, she was a mother herself.  And when the time came, she was by our side.  We journeyed together, teacher and students.  Our eyes bleary at 2:30 in the morning when the pushing, sweating, and clutching were interrupted by the sweet vocalizations of a little boy.

One phase of our lives over, another was about to begin.


I also journey with many of my patients.  The beginnings, however, are of a more bitter nature.  The voyage starts with an incomprehensible diagnosis, a lopsided prognosis.  And I, like Charon the ferryman, usher the lonely souls onto my boat.  I steer through the uncertain fog, my hands wrapped solidly around the oar. Belting through turbulent waters, the bumps jar even when expected.  The sign posts are few and hard to interpret.

I coo soothing words and hold hands, even with the realization that I am of limited experience.  No matter how often I make the trip, I only get so close to the opposing shore.

The time eventually comes.  We dock.  The family and I huddle while the courageous soul leaps out of the boat and onto the other side. 

We wave, heartbroken. 

Unlike that wondrous morning with my wife and precious child,

there is only silence. 

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