Maternity Ward: It's Magic

Obstetrics units aren’t just one thing. A lot of couples come to give birth and are ushered straight into a delivery room.

May 23, 2013 22:23
3 minute read.
A PREMATURE BABY born in an Israeli hospital

A PREMATURE BABY born in an Israeli hospital 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Forum for Premature Babies)

For all intents and purposes, this event should never have taken place. No one should have allowed all these essential people to be in the same place at the same time. Had they taken a direct hit, it could have had serious consequences for the country’s population growth figures, and that’s not an exaggeration.

I’m talking about the farewell party for the legendary director of Sheba Medical Center’s IVF Unit for more than 20 years, my friend Prof. Shuki Dor. I call him simply “professor.”

Israel’s top gynecologists were gathered in a lively bar in south Tel Aviv. In addition to Shuki, who alone is responsible for the birth of close to 10,000 infants born to couples who were unable to conceive before they met him, there was Prof. Shlomo Mashiach. It’s impossible to tell how many children he is responsible for.

All I can say is that I am one of them.

“You didn’t come easy,” Prof. Mashiach told me at the farewell party, although I wasn’t sure whether he was expressing irritation or satisfaction.

He was accompanied by his wife, Ilit, a legendary midwife who assisted in the birth of my eldest son. Specialists following in the professors’ footsteps were also there.

When IVF treatments were first introduced, about 35 years ago, it seemed like science fiction, as if physicians had become subcontractors doing God’s work for Him.

To be honest, it still seems that way.

The professor once told me how he removed an ovary from a woman suffering from cancer; when she recovered, he transplanted it and gave her fertility treatments until she delivered a healthy baby (the first case of its kind in the world). I stared at him in awe, wondering how he could describe in such simple and unemotional, almost clinical, terms what appeared to me to be nothing short of magic.

Maternity wards are among the most cheerful places in the hospital.

Women leave clutching an infant, and maybe more than one, which is often the case following fertility treatments. There’s an air of optimism about them, or in the words of my army buddy Danny, better known to those who weren’t in the army with him as the gynecologist Prof. Daniel Seidman: “An ailing 80-year-old is admitted to the internal medicine ward and a few days later he leaves, and he’s still an ailing 80-year-old.”

But there’s a good chance a woman will leave the professor’s ward holding a baby in her arms.

Obstetrics units aren’t just one thing. A lot of couples come to give birth and are ushered straight into a delivery room. They are unaware of the other sections of the unit designed for women who are unable to conceive. If you don’t know a woman who is longing for a child and can’t become pregnant, you’ll never understand. And if you’re not a woman, you’re probably incapable of understanding anyway.

That’s why I always imagine a halo over the heads of the people who work in those sections. Geographically speaking, they’re not far from the delivery rooms, but for the women who need their services, the two sometimes seem very far apart.

You might assume the evening was rather lowkey.

A bunch of gynecologists are sitting in a bar? It sounds like the first line of a joke. But there was the specialist who related with pride that he had examined his daughter-in-law because he wasn’t about to trust anybody else when it came to his own grandchild.

And the one who conducted a study that revealed that babies delivered with the aid of forceps or vacuum are more intelligent.

And the gynecologist whose daughter volunteered his services to all the women soldiers on her base. Stories like these made the occasion lively and stimulating.

And finally, I have to mention the concern for people who spend years dealing with only one aspect of women, people who, even when a woman comes to them complaining of a headache, will invariably examine another part of her anatomy entirely. There is always the fear that these “women’s mechanics” will lose their ability to see the beauty in women. But that idea was totally refuted by the professor and the lady at his side.

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