By Genevieve Yates
The phone rang at 5am on a Sunday.
I struggled to engage my sleep-addled brain. I wasn’t on call. Who was ringing me at this un-Godly hour?
“This is Dr. Errol Jones. I’m an obstetrician at the Royal Women’s. We have a problem with one of your patients, Jessica Delaney.”
Jessica! Nineteen going on fourteen. Pregnancy was a game to her and a baby at the end would become a fashion accessory: something that would make her just like her friends. Worse, she saw a baby as a money earner – with the baby bonus, the single parent pension and Centrelink not pressing her to look for employment, she thought she’d be on Easy Street. I’d been trying so hard to get through to her, but I felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall.
I thought back to her most recent consultation, about four weeks earlier. I’d been trying to motivate her to abstain from alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana while pregnant, to little avail.
“But I have managed to, like, give up tea and coffee though. Well, I never did like coffee, but I always had, like, a cup of tea in the mornings.”
“A cup of tea each day is perfectly fine.”
“But I read in those pamphlets you gave me that excessive caffeine is, like, harmful in pregnancy. So I, like, gave up my cup of tea. I don’t want to harm my baby!”
What was she doing at the Royal Women’s? She was nowhere near her due date.
“Jessica’s just under 30 weeks and has developed severe pre-eclampsia. She was airlifted down to us overnight. We need to do an emergency C-section but she’s refusing consent unless you say it’s OK.” Dr. Jones sounded both frustrated and embarrassed. “I’ll put her on.”
“Genevieve, is that you? I’m so scared. Please tell me what to do. They’re, like, confusing me. They say that I could, like, die and that the baby could, like, die too if they don’t do the surgery straight away but they also say that the surgery is really risky for us and that we could, like, die anyway. I just don’t trust them so I made them ring you. I know you will look after me.”
The caesarean was uneventful and both mother and premmie infant did well. Jessica was very grateful for my ‘help’.
“Thanks for, like, sorting out those doctors for me. I knew you’d know what to do. You always give me good advice. I’m so lucky to have, like, such an awesome doctor.”
Jessica is unlikely to win ‘Mother of the Year’ anytime soon, but she has grown up fast and proven to be a caring and devoted mother.
It turns out I wasn’t banging my head against a brick wall after all.
Written March 2011 and first published in Going Places magazine, 2011.