When I enter Room 2, the lights are off. This surprises me, but in the gloom I catch sight of a young woman stretched out on the exam table.
“Hello. Are you OK? I’m going to turn on the lights now.” The patient jerks up. She’s a tall, thin girl with hair like a lion’s mane, golden waves framing her face. A long paisley dress hangs over the guest chair and she’s wearing the blue exam gown.
“Oh, gosh. I’m embarrassed. I thought I could catch a nap.”
“That’s OK.” I glance at the front of the chart for a name. “Jasmine…”
“I see that you had a positive pregnancy test. Are you happy about that?”
The girl shrugs. “Well, it’s not what I planned, but my mom had me when she was fifteen, and I’m almost seventeen. You might remember her. Dawn Otterman? She comes to you.”
“Dawn?” I calculate back seventeen years ago, when Tom and I ran the teen OB clinic at the university hospital. This is baby Jasmine. Now that I think of it, she looks like her mother, same hair and dark almond eyes, only Dawn didn’t have a chain of butterflies tattooed up her arm or a tiny nose ring.
“I delivered you!”
The patient grins. “I know.”
I lower myself to my rolling stool. “So have you told your mom and dad about the pregnancy? Are they OK with it? Are you OK?”
“Yeah, sure. My mom wanted to come to my appointment today, but I said no. If I’m going to be a mother, I can’t have my parents hauling me around… And Ryan’s happy about it, too. He’s the baby’s daddy, a freshman at the U.” When she says this, her face flushes. You can tell she’s in love. “We’ll probably get married at Christmas. It would help if I knew the due date. My periods are always irregular.”
I do her exam and am surprised to discover that her little tummy is already rounding. Before she leaves, I give her the OB packet with her handouts on nutrition, weight gain and exercise, then take her to the ultrasound room. “Want to see your baby?”
“Sure! Ryan will be so jealous! He wanted to come, but I said nothing would happen that he’d care to witness.”
It takes me a few moments to find a nice view of the fetus. “Look, you can see arms and legs! He’s waving at you.”
“It’s a girl,” Jasmine says.
“You sound pretty sure of that.”
“I had a dream and my mom predicts a girl, too.”
Jasmine is already twelve weeks pregnant, so though I’ve just met her and would like to keep her with me for a few more visits, it’s best to send her on to the midwives who will do her delivery.
“Be sure and let me know when you have the baby,” I call as she strides down the hallway, smiling at the photo of her unborn child. “I’ll come over to the hospital to visit.”
I picture the young woman’s mother, Dawn, now a school principal with her master’s degree. She’s only thirty-two and she’s going to be a grandma. It shows you that all teen pregnancies don’t end tragically.
It’s surprising that I can remember Jasmine’s birth at all. There’ve been so many. I didn’t want to tell my patient, but her mother was a terror in labor.
The fifteen-year-old arrived at the hospital in active labor, paced the room like a wildcat and only allowed the nurse to monitor the baby’s heart rate three times. Her mother and older sister just huddled against the wall and tried to keep out of the way.
Since she wouldn’t let me examine her, I had to go by the sounds she made. High notes, active labor. Frantic notes, transition. Sudden drop to contralto, baby’s coming! The universal birth song.
Dawn insisted on pushing while standing up. The nurse was freaked out. The attending OB, hearing all the commotion, stuck his head in the door and asked if I needed help.
“No thanks. I’ve got it under control.” Ha! There was nothing I could do but glove up and hold on. The baby’s head delivered into my hands, Dawn swung around, took hold of her wet crying infant, cord still intact, and plunked down on the bed.
“It’s OK, Jasmine,” she cooed. “It’s OK.” Then to me and her mother and the RN, she announced, “That wasn’t so bad.”
Now baby Jasmine is going to be a mother, and though she is only seventeen, the way she strides out of the clinic, confident, unafraid, I believe she’ll be OK.
I remember the tattoo, chain of butterflies circling up her arm, spiral of life.
“Jasmine” is an excerpt from Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey by author and midwife Patricia Harman.