Notes from a Medical Student:

The First of Many New Beginnings

It's 4:30 in the morning, and already I've been up for half an hour, taken a shower and had my breakfast. Most people are still fast asleep, but as I have begun to learn these past few weeks, sleep is a luxury that those of us in medicine are rarely afforded.

Never having been one to roll out of bed before noon if I could avoid it, I've been surprised by my ability to awaken before sunrise and be functional. But then, I've also been waiting two years for this chance, to actually use what I have worked so hard to learn. Time seems to be moving very quickly all of a sudden. Boards are over, and I am in the middle of the first of my third-year clerkships. My days are full of new challenges, but in a lot of ways, they represent a refreshing change from the tedium of the past.

As it happens, I have chosen to begin my journey with the beginning of life. I will admit that I had more than a few misgivings about starting my obstetrics and gynecology rotation. I've always been a bit on the squeamish side, and the birthing process is known for being rather messy.

Luckily for me, the first birth I assisted in was as amazing an experience as one could hope to have in my situation. About two weeks ago, under the guidance of a midwife whose calm, efficient and confident demeanor I can only hope to achieve someday, I helped deliver a beautiful baby boy to a truly wonderful couple.

As first-time parents, this couple was thoroughly engaged in every step of the process and graciously allowed me to be a part of their life-changing experience. As expected, there were a few moments of panic, when I wondered if I was ready for all of this, if I would just be in the way, if I would be able to overcome my weak stomach.

The thing is, I didn't really get a chance to indulge in those moments of self-doubt. Unlike a multiple-choice test, with ample time to ruminate and second-guess, I now had a woman looking at me for reassurance, depending on me to take care of her and the baby she was about to bring into the world. A powerful feeling exists in the delivery room, when a wanted child is preparing to make its entrance. The love and excitement on the father's face as he looks at his wife, the words of wisdom from a mother about to become a grandmother, but more than anything, the sheer awesomeness of the woman in labor, her fierce determination.

I have to tell you that for me, there has been no greater experience than making that connection with my first mom-to-be, coaching her and encouraging her to find those last reserves of energy. I know that I will never forget this couple, the baby I helped to be born or the midwife who was such a wonderful teacher and who let me take such an active role.

The past few weeks have made it clear to me how much I still have to learn, but I look forward to the challenge and a year filled with many new experiences.