It's all in the eyes of the beholder




     I feel blessed to have a job as an Obstetrician to helps usher in life, almost always a perfect baby. I learned from Michelle what a perfect baby means.   Michelle was an older mom, 40 in a time that it was unusual to be that old.  When she found out she was pregnant she was excited, and I was worried that perhaps her baby could have birth defects, but every early test pointed to a perfect baby.  She was cheery at her visits, often bringing her sterotypical Italian husband who was equally excited while confined to the room away from  his peers.  When the time came for birth, everything seemed normal.  Suddenly the baby had a drop in the heartbeat and we rushed back for an emergency cesarean.  As I reached in for her squirming baby who cried in protest from leaving the secure womb my heart sank.  I could tell that the baby had Down's Syndrome immediately, confirmatory testing would take a few days.  The baby was wisked to the special care nursery for testing and I finished the surgery with a heavy heart knowing that I would have to break the news that their only little girl would have a life of challenges.  I allowed the nurses to take Michelle to her room for recovery and I composed myself to break the news.  Upon entering the room Michelle immediately knew something was terribly wrong,  "Doctor, are you OK? Is the baby OK?",  No,i told her with eyes filling with tears, the baby has Down's Syndrome.

As I prepared for the sadness the silence was broken by the words, "OH, thank God, I thought it was going to be something serious.  We teach catechism to children with Downs,  you know that God chooses who he gives these precious children to".  

It has been 15 years since the birth, each year I delight in my favorite patient who brings her daughter ,Annie,to every visit.  Last year Annie was featured in people magazine for her role in the Nutcracker.  Annie told me that she loves shoes (in fact her mother confesses it is a fetish!)  I happened to be wearing a pair of red patent leather which she could not take her eyes off of!  I reflected after the visit as I do each year on my judgment during her birth.

This week I glanced at my schedule for the upcoming days. I saw my favorite patient's name,  and I set a great pair of shoes aside to wear that day.