Labor of Love

By Cecilia Bonaduce-Leggett, MS4

As with all writing published on Stories in Medicine, locations and names in this piece have been changed.

It took several years for my path in medicine to become clear. I knew that I wanted to pursue a path with lots of patient interaction. I explored colorectal surgery, pediatrics, and internal medicine but, ultimately, I found that I felt most connected to my patients when I rotated on obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN).

Women empowering women
Women empowering women. “Temple” by Laura Berger

As an OBGYN, performing surgery and practicing medicine are part of your job. But, when you get down to the core of it, your job as an OBGYN provider is to wholeheartedly and unequivocally value women. Value their bodies. Their choices. Their dignity. Their wellbeing.

In a world where women and girls have been chronically undervalued for centuries, it is a profound privilege to pursue a path where the prioritization of women is at the forefront.

Medicine is not an easy career path and at times I find myself fatigued not just physically but also, at times, intellectually and emotionally. In those moments, I call upon memories, little moments in medicine, that inspire me. There is one moment in particular that is unique to OBGYN that always reinvigorates me. That moment happens with each delivery that I participate in and it is a moment that I would like to share with you through the Gold Humanism Honor Society Blog.

From the medical issues at play to the people in the room, every delivery, like every family, is unique. In my experience, it is often the case that patients will ask several family members present, a whole team, during the delivery, ready to meet baby and to cheer mom on as she pushes.

After potentially hours of pushing, of pain and of anticipation, a new life enters the world. Though incredible, that moment is not the magic moment I’m referring to.  

When the baby is crowning, everyone’s focus is on helping mom push through those final moments. When mom looks up she sees the faces of her most trusted family members looking down at her. Once a baby is born he or she is often taken to a nearby crib to be examined by “the baby team” made up of either pediatricians or newborn nurses depending on the situation. And then, something happens.

The family often unconsciously shifts from bedside to crib-side. Some moms, maybe even many moms, may want the family to go with baby, the first of many selfless acts as a parent. From the family members’ and fathers’ perspectives, I understand the inclination, the curiosity and the desire to see this brand new person up close, and to walk away from the hospital bed and towards the crib. For me, the best part of the delivery is getting to stay with mom.

She is exhausted. Bleeding. Nervous. Baby has been moved away be examined, it is their first ever moments apart. The faces that had surrounded her seconds earlier, vanish.  

Choosing to stay with mom, our cheer team now downsized to the two of us, inspires a very powerful feeling. To me, it is the ultimate way to value women and their bodies. In that moment, I feel truly honored to have the privilege to stay and care for brand new mothers in one of their most vulnerable moments.

This is my story in medicine. Have you considered sharing yours? Please email ucsdstoriesinmed@gmail.com

Cecilia Leggett is a fourth year medical student at UC San Diego School of Medicine. She is one of 19 students nominated by her peers to the Gold Humanism Honor Society’s class of 2019.  

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