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Baby Child

I saw ER the other night for the first time in many moons.  As usual, it brought back many memories of my former life as an obstetrician.  During the five years I practiced medicine, I delivered somewhere around 600 babies.  To be honest, as amazing and magical an experience it is to witness the emergence of a new life, after a while they tend to run together a little.  But there were two deliveries in particular that are indelibly burned into my memory.

I'll spare you the gory medical details, which read like a scene from the next ER, but I will tell you a little bit about them.  Both occurred within two weeks of each other back when I worked as a house doc in a small hospital just over the river from Cincinnati in Northern Kentucky.  And both involved 36-year-old mothers who were on their fourth delivery – and were about to die. 

In both cases I had to do what's called a crash cesarean section – which basically means that you whip them back to the OR, zip them open with a scalpel in about 45 seconds, rip out the baby, pass it off, and worry about sewing everything back together later. 

Both mothers and both babies survived.  I was a hero – according to the hospital.  But neither mother would even look at me after these acts of heroism.

You see, in the first case, the mother had been hiding the pregnancy from her prominent family because the baby was not her husband's and she feared what he might do if he found out.  Her son was born with several physical abnormalities that were undiscovered until the time of delivery because she had received no prenatal care. 

In the second case, the family members were all devout Jehovah's Witnesses.  Their religion forbids them from receiving blood products of any kind.  Their baby girl received CPR for 30 minutes before her heart started beating.  I had to wake up a judge at two in the morning and get a court order to override the parent's wishes so that I could give the baby blood and save her life.

Miraculously, both babies went home in less than two weeks – but to less than ideal circumstances.  The little boy went home to an estranged family and the promise of many corrective surgeries.  The little girl went home to a life as a social outcast because I had made her unclean by giving her blood.

I was the first person to hold these babies in my hands – and that only for a moment – before passing them on.  I never got to hold them again.

That was about four years ago.  Today, I don't know if these children are getting ready for kindergarten next year or if they are not even able to feed themselves because of brain damage.  And I'll probably never know.

So what do you do after you've had an experience like this?  If you're like me, you write a song about it.  This song is for anyone who works with children or young people and has to interface with them at a pivotal moment in their lives – then let them go and hope they fly – sometimes never knowing if your intervention ended up doing them good or harm.

Despite the tragic backstory, it's a really sweet song…

Do you remember me?   Probably not
I think about you quite a lot
Wondering how time has been treating you
All the big adventures you’ve been through 

You needed a hand - I gave you a boost
Held you for a moment then cut you loose
Sent you out into the big bad world 

And even though the time we shared
Was just a moment or two
You’re in my heart
And I wish for you

Green grass between your toes
Cool drinks from a water hose
Fields of fireflies at night
Lazy-day summers and water gun fights
Candy canes and homemade pies
Silly songs and lullabies
But most of all when I look to the stars above
Baby child, I pray you find love

Years have passed - time’s ticking away
We’re getting older day by day
Every year becomes a bigger unknown

So now every time
You cross my mind
I send out a wish
In hopes you’ll find

Secrets only your best friend knows
Swapping notes in the back two rows
Playing that piano piece just right
First kiss on a perfect night
Scoring that last minute soccer goal
Homecoming dances and honor roll
And every time I look to the stars above
Baby child, I pray you find love

And someday I hope you find
Someone to care for too
‘Cause the best sort of wish is the kind
That you pass on through

And you can wish someone
Green grass between your toes
Cool drinks from a water hose
Fields of fireflies at night
Lazy-day summers and water gun fights
Candy canes and homemade pies
Silly songs and lullabies
And whenever I look to the stars above
Baby child, I pray you find love

- 1999 Ross D. Martin, MD, MHA

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