Sweat fell from her forehead and fear spilled from her eyes. Her gaze darted from me to her husband to the nurse. Her arms flailed like snakes on Medusa’s head. Her legs pushed me away, pushing her up in the bed, as if she could push away her pain…at least, that is what she hoped for.

Her husband was crying and pale and shouting, “There is so much blood! So much blood!” He fell into his wife’s shoulder, crumbling. He didn’t know this is how women labor, how babies are born, he just saw his wife suffering.

Our muffled voices behind mask after mask after mask, hushed reassurances barely penetrating through each layer. It’s okay, you’re okay, your baby is almost here. This is all normal.

But is this normal? Our new normal?

Her labor moved so fast. The searing pain ripped through her abdomen.  Then the baby’s head pushed down into her birth canal with overwhelming pressure, stretching her vagina so fast it began to bleed. Although we stood next to her, supporting her, comforting her, our layers upon layers upon layers of masks, gowns, caps, face shields, gloves, booties to protect ourselves made us miles away.

All we had were our eyes and muted voices—they had to transmit everything we used to be able to communicate with our unhindered voices, our uncovered smile, our ungloved touch. You are doing great, your baby is coming soon, fast and furious, but all is well.

She looked at all of us again, barely registering who was who in the mass of blue. Somehow, she heard our callings, whispers floating in the air. She breathed in our strength and breathed out her fear. She breathed in fully and began to bear down.

Soon, wisps of baby’s hair peeked out when she pushed. A couple more pushes and the top of her baby’s head crowned. Her husband screamed at her side, “I see our baby, I see her!” With one last deep breath, one last contraction, and our collective push behind her, her baby popped out into the world. I put her on her mother’s belly. Skin to skin, still attached by the pulsing umbilical cord, mother and baby held on to each other, the only two in the room who could touch without any barrier.

We rejoiced with our new mother, our hero.

Behind our masks, we smiled. Behind our face shields, we cried. Behind our gowns, our hearts swelled. She was so brave and courageous and strong. She had no choice. Babies wait for no one, not even a virus.

Andrea Eisenberg

Andrea Eisenberg

Andrea Eisenberg, M.D. has been in practice for over 26 years and is certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She graduated from Wayne State School of Medicine in 1989 and completed her residency at Sinai Hospital in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1993. She is affiliated with William Beaumont Hospital which now includes the ability to deliver at the Karmanos Natural Birth Center. She has delivered countless babies and enjoys being a part of such a special time for families. Her special interests include family planning, infertility, adolescence, menopause and helping women transition through different phases of their lives. Dr. Eisenberg also has an interest in narrative medicine and originated a program with the residents of Beaumont hospital. In 2020, she was awarded CREOG’s National Faculty Award for excellence in teaching. She also has been published in Intima, Journal of Narrative Medicine; Pulse, Voices From the Heart of Medicine; The Examined Life Journal; ACOG District V Special Delivery, and After Rounds as well as having her own blog, www.secretlifeofobgyn.com.

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