October 15th, 2004

Secret Doors

Gone to young men every one...

I have not been telling so many stories recently.  My thoughts are fragmented.  Living at home again takes some getting used to; when there is a warm body curled up beside me I am less likely to bestir myself away from it.

Winter morning, soft its antithesis
dawns long and fleeting
and yet
is not afraid.

It's new.

Nobody in labor.  One induction. 
"I could go over to the clinic and tag along."
"You could also go home."
They're amused, by my need to be doing something at all times.  I feel inadequate if I am not. 
I went home.

Young mother, 23, with two children ages 6 and 1, now pregnant again and almost due.  At seventeen I was concerned with my grades, the realization that I would never again be going home to stay home, what colleges I would want to attend, and what sort of boyfriend best suited my mercurial temperament.  I cannot imagine having a child.  I had enough trouble keeping myself together.
Age eighteen. 22 weeks pregnant.  "We were going to wait on my student loans, but..."  A shrug. 
Twenty, a two-year-old.
I saw six or seven patients in two hours today, O Best Beloved, at the prenatal clinic for their checkups.  The oldest woman I saw was that twenty-three-year-old mother.  I stumbled through speaking Spanish (which I cannot write) - asking about preterm labor (¿Tiene contractiones?) , asking about pain (¿Dolor? ¿Donde?), trying to make small talk when the only Spanish I remember I learned in the delivery room by emulating the interpreter.

I believe that a young mother who is motivated, intelligent, and hard-working can succeed in this world.  I believe it because I know that a person can graduate college with $50,000 in loans and succeed in this world, I believe it because I know that there are opportunities and people to help and I know that in its heart there is good left here in this place of squalor we have made for ourselves.  But I look at my own life.  I have pursued medicine in general with a single-minded determination for twenty years.  I have pursued becoming a physician for ten.  Do I believe that if I were now caring for a child I would have had the energy and the ability to come this far?  Yes.  But I wonder, O Best Beloved, what I would have left behind.

I stand here on a moral high ground - it is a doctor's prerogative to dictate what is healthy and what is not, whether that be our true right or one we have usurped.  I do not smoke, I drink more or less in moderation, I am twenty-five years old and have only those financial burdens I have chosen to accept.  I am also approximately 70 pounds overweight; I exercise not enough; I swear and I procrastinate and I am late for the hospital nearly every morning.  Can I preach against the temptations I do not know - can I speak out against the very sins I have not ceased to commit?

I have no answers, O Best Beloved.  Not today.  Today is a day for questions.
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