The call was to start at 7pm. It was my first labour ward call as a medical student. I was at that stage where I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to be a doctor and I was just going through the motions. However the continuous revelations of medicine still fascinated me and the mystery of birth which I was yet to witness beckoned.
It was about 8pm when I strolled into the labour ward. There was a corridor, which on the right, had a first stage delivery suite with four beds, where women laboured. At the end of the corridor was an inner chamber with second stage rooms where deliveries actually took place, and a theatre suite. It was quiet when I entered which was surprising given the tales from other classmates on how women shouted in labour. I peeped into the first stage room and there were three labouring women therein. Two of them were oblivious of my presence and the third was on her feet. Her face lit up when she saw me.
“Doctor, I feel like going to the toilet, please can I go?”
She called me doctor. In the University College Hospital Ibadan, patients had this magical way of knowing that you were an ignorant medical student which always made us feel small. However this lady called me doctor! Maybe she was deceived by the moustache I had been grooming. A glimpse of the future hit me. The authority I would have, the ability to help a person in distress, the answer to prayers, a doctor.
“Of course you can madam, just take it easy, ok?” I replied with the deepest tone of voice as reassuringly as I could with a smile to boot.
“Thank you doctor,” she said as she waddled towards the rest room.
I felt cool as I swaggered towards the inner chamber. A woman had delivered a few minutes before I came in and it was quite dramatic which was why everyone had rushed in to be of assistance. The show was over and everyone was settled talking about the escapade. I tried to catch the gist from one of my colleagues as we all, five medical students and two midwives, strolled back towards the first stage room.
“Where is the woman that was on this bed?” One of the nurses shouted with an alarmed look on her face.
“Oh, she wanted to use the toilet so I said she could go,” I confidently responded.
“Oh dear, she’s ruptured her membranes and is almost ready for delivery, the urge she had might have been the baby! I hope she hasn’t delivered in the toilet!” screamed the nurse as she and four medical students rushed to the rest room.
The fifth medical student, yours truly, who was feeling quite sheepish at that moment, did a moonwalk in the opposite direction and ran out of the labour ward before he could be arrested.
It was a tense wait for my colleagues to come back to the hostel and inform me the lady had a smooth delivery without any complications. Little did I know then that I would become an obstetrician and would suffer many more anxious waits for women to safely put to bed. Thankfully in a very large majority of cases (99.5%), it has always ended well. May it continue to be so for the would be mothers and for me and my colleagues.