Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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Attack of the Meconium

5:00 am, the first time on the night shift,
six deliveries completed and only one hour remains.
A call says the patient in 14 is five centimeters dilated,
and so we enter the room to rupture her membranes.

She declined an epidural and is nervous about the delivery,
as I grab the plastic hook and slip on the gloves.
One swipe — and the bed is covered in dark meconium,
and the resident sighs — clearly not something she loves.

Baby had a bowel movement and now the vagina’s stained,
there’s a small but significant risk for dangerous fetal aspiration!
The protocol dictates that, just in case,
extra newborn care is needed to ensure healthy lung inflation.

Patient eventually reaches ten centimeters after pushing for an hour,
fetal station finally achieves the appropriate plus-two.
Over the pager system the nurse calmly calls out,
“newborn to room 14 please, meconium-stained tissue.”

A newborn nurse enters in, followed by a respiratory therapist,
another nurse pops their head in, then another, then another.
Pediatrics resident dashes in, then his senior, then an attending,
‘till there are eight people by the incubator concerned for baby and mother.

The patient’s eyes dart over to the commotion looking terrified,
thinking oh my gosh, what must be wrong with my son?
She sees a whole collection of pediatric providers,
working to prepare for the baby once we are done.

The surprise in her eyes is noticeable all the way across the room,
concern leads to panic leads to not pushing out the baby.
“There’s nothing to fear mom,” we assure, “your baby is doing just fine,
it’s just protocol for the whole team to take care of whatever may be.”

Her fear slowly fades, her eyes quickly calm down,
as understanding reignites the pain she forgot she had.
Her baby pops out easily, finger and toes all blue,
but suction allows baby to scream, breathe and move, the happy triad.

The entire newborn team smiles, oh what a  relief,
they are all overjoyed and disperse without a peep.
The OBGYN team continues to take care of mom,
as the baby is given a hat and gown and falls asleep.

The mother’s panic that day was palpable,
the scary surprise left her physically paralyzed.
I cannot imagine what would have happened,
had the potential emergency been realized.

Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.

Brian James Brian James (8 Posts)

Managing Editor and Contributing Writer

University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine

Currently, Brian is a fourth-year medical student at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine. He was born in Westchester County, NY, and moved to Laguna Beach, CA in 2007. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacology and a Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2017. Brian is planning on becoming an OB/GYN and is currently interested in Surgical Oncology. Outside of the classroom, Brian enjoys playing racquetball, reading on personal finance and nutrition, and enjoying outdoor activities at the beach and hiking.