It’s never easy to be a doctor -especially an obstetrician. Accouchement is just too unpredictable; babies are just too vulnerable, too fragile. Too many things can go wrong. Quickly. Unexpectedly. Too many people are affected -the doctor included.
Most of us travel through our days in the naïve hope that we will somehow escape unscathed; that bad things only happen to others; that there are probably no slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -not really. We will be, by and large, protected either by good fortune or statistics -we and our children. We rightly assume that with due diligence, and a good doctor, complications can be predicted and bad outcomes prevented. Otherwise why attend clinics? Why arm ourselves with knowledge, gird ourselves with expectations? Hope does indeed spring eternal.
But circumstances sometimes conspire to frustrate even the best intentions; the most thorough preparations are occasionally inadequate. In Life, nothing is certain; the unforeseen is just that, and only after the event is it predictable. Only after the tragedy is there a possibility of some elucidation, and even then, only a possibility of instruction. Of a lesson learned. Even after endless review -and it is always reviewed- it so often remains random and unfair.
Surely at this stage of our progress in Medicine, these things should not happen -not today, not in hospital. Anticipation. Prevention. Avoidance. Isn’t that what we always preach? That if we think hard enough, monitor long enough, and analyse well enough, most things are either preventable or at the very least, avoidable? The key word, though, is ‘most’. Some things can and do slip through the fine net of surveillance no matter how hard we watch. Some situations arrive at the door unannounced and we have to do our best to deal with them before they enter -or at least minimize the damage if they manage to knock us down as they elbow past…
But while it’s never easy for anybody involved, it is the parents for whom I grieve. They have waited so long in joyous anticipation of a life with their child. That its arrival should be traumatic after all those months and all that excitement, that all that promise need be put on hold, or stored on some high shelf as Hope, is almost unbearable.
And yet, endure it we must, until the path emerges once more from the forest and we can see again. Thank god its a route I have seldom travelled, and yet each time, as if it were the first, I am lost. We are all connected; when one suffers we all suffer. And this is how it should be: the link is strong. It’s what makes us human, binds us together as a society: we care. God forbid that it could ever be different.
And even in the darkest place, there is still hope. I remember Helena trying to explain to the King how she can help in All’s Well That Ends Well:
“Oft expectation fails, and most oft there
Where most it promises; and oft it hits
Where hope is coldest, and despair most fits.”
We all need a hint of light, no matter how dim it seems when it first approaches.