With the Name of Allah, the extremely Merciful at this very moment, and the extremely Merciful at all times
Allah (swt) says in Surah Al-Hajj Chapter 22, verse 5:
“O People, if you should be in doubt about the Resurrection, then [consider that] indeed, We created you from dust, then from a sperm-drop, then from a clinging clot, and then from a lump of flesh, formed and unformed – that We may show you. And We settle in the wombs whom We will for a specified term, then We bring you out as a child, and then [We develop you] that you may reach your [time of] maturity. And among you is he who is taken in [early] death, and among you is he who is returned to the most decrepit [old] age so that he knows, after [once having] knowledge, nothing. And you see the earth barren, but when We send down upon it rain, it quivers and swells and grows [something] of every beautiful kind.”
Ob/Gyn can be quite a drag, especially when you’re not really interested in the field (or have multiple board exams to prepare for), or when you’re stuck in the hospital on a Saturday, the last day of Ramadan, and the day before ‘Eid. In a moment of frustration, I logged onto Facebook (because I can’t vent at the wall in the lonely study room) and posted a status summing up my “I want to go home” mentalility.
Bored out of my mind and not wanting to study, I quickly looked over to the Labor & Delivery board to check the status of how far along the pregnant patients were in labor (I’ll spare you the details of how this is determined). Since they were still a little far off, I decided to take a break and get some fresh air outside of the hospital and call home. As I leisurely strolled out and took my time to chat it up with the family, I got a text- immediately I knew what it was for. It read: “Delivery now.”
Earlier that day I had seen a delivery, and because the resident on call with me was gracious enough, he told me that the next one was mine. The medical cliché’ “see one, do one, teach one” was at work. I rushed up to the 4th floor and to the room where the residents were already gowned up with the sterile field in place and quickly put on a sterile gown and pair of gloves- getting right into the middle of the action and not knowing anything about what I was about to do.
We all know life is precious and unique. Despite numerous other pregnant mothers delivering on the same day ,we all like to think our birthdays are “unique” days to us. The reality is that many others were born in the same rooms as us, on the same days us, maybe minutes apart (ironically in this case, there was a baby being delivered in the next room at the same time).
Yet even as common as births are in the human population- estimated to be 140 every minute- life remains precious and unique– not only through our unique fingerprints but with our unique personalities and character.
This individual begins with the union of the sperm and the egg- through it Allah brings out the embryo that clings to the uterus, and then the mother carries it to term- being careful to avoid anything that harms whom she carries, increasing in her weakness and hardship as the months go by. Then Allah brings the fetus to term (37-42 weeks)- or He brings it out pre-term (<37 weeks), or He causes it to be brought out post term (>42 weeks), or not at all. When the baby is brought out it knows nothing and is at the mercy of its caretakers, it grows into the toddler that plays the drums with your kitchen instruments and makes a mess of his food. This toddler grows into an adolescent and becomes arrogant, oftentimes arguing with the very people who nurtured him and loved him before he even existed. These adolescents by the grace of Allah become mature and grow into full fledged working adults, who seek the bounty of their Lord in the early morning through the late evening. Then Allah takes them at a fixed term- it may be when he is young and full of energy and knowledge or when he becomes old and feeble, hardly remembering his “glory days”, forgetting the knowledge he used to show off with, with weakened bones on once perfectly chiseled bodies. We become dust, yet this dust is not forgotten, as it is brought out once again to answer for what it used to do with the endless bounties it was given.
The baby was almost crowning- I had made it just in time. My resident walked me through what was about to happen and the procedural method, positioning my hands in the correct position as we were about to guide the baby out together. As the baby’s head came out, we respositioned it as to help the anterior shoulder come out. Keeping the baby down we gently brought the posterior shoulder out in a fashion as to not cut off blood flow to the baby from the placenta, and finally the baby gently fell onto my nervous hands. The baby started to attempt to open its eyes into its new world as it stared into my face- with surgical mask and all- and slowly started to move its arms and feet around, making a few gestures ready to cry.
I couldn’t take my eyes off her. A new life was literally lying on my hands. Meanwhile, the resident clamped the umbilical cord and cut it, motioning me to get my attention to teach me the next steps. Soon after, the baby started crying and the nurse came by with the towels. I carefully gave the baby over to the nurse who then cleaned it and started doing normal baby stuff after delivery.
From a medical standpoint, a physician is always worried about potential complications a baby (or mother) may have during pregnancy. Realistically speaking, the same can be said about the mother, but the worry is different since a problem with the baby would be considered generally as a “problem” to the layman while these problems are quite specifically described medically.
The point is that Allah chooses to fashion however He wills. A baby could have severe birth defects that would preclude it to life or be born with “problems” that are readily fixable. A common occurrence in pre-terms’, the baby might even have a stint in the NICU before being with it’s mother.
It could have been this baby. It could be that baby. It could have been us. It is estimated that 1 in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect, and birth defects are responsible for 1 in every 5 infant deaths.
Not only that, but consider where and how we were born. If a baby is born to a mother without prenatal care, the odds of survival are much lower. Moreover, if a baby was born in a rural village vs. the confines of sterile field in the hospital the chance of a normal delivery are considerably less. And what of babies born to careless mothers with unintended pregnancies?
To make it simple: embryology, pregnancy, and all of the physiological processes involved with birth are obviously miraculous processes. But the fact that you and I came out healthy is just as miraculous, and one of the greatest blessings that we should remember to be thankful for.
Shortly after delivering the placenta, at long last, anxiety was alleviated, the mother was overjoyed, and the father could breathe a sigh of relief: a healthy 7 lb 7 oz baby was delivered via an uncomplicated delivery. I walked over to the baby who was now pink and resting comfortably in her warmer and congratulated the parents.
Listen, I’ll be the first to tell you about how Medicine is definitely not as lovey dovey as this post might lead you to believe, what your parents say about it, or what happens on Grey’s Anatomy. Despite my misgivings about some of the aspects in the system, issues about health insurance, medical education, “scut work”, long hours, being at the bottom of the totem pole, etc., at that point in time all of that didn’t really matter. All that mattered was the privilege of sharing in a person’s- a complete stranger’s- happiness.
Only after letting it sink in do I sit now and reflect on the majesty of Allah and His creation. I reflect on how Allah’s analogies are the best of analogies. I reflect on the fact that opportunities come to us when we least expect it. And I reflect on the amazing blessing of life- from the moment we open our eyes into the world, to the innocent days of our childhood, to the struggles of making it as an adult in the working world, and whatever is to come- the blessings we have all been given, yet so few us are truly thankful for.
May Allah make us among the thankful, ameen.