Showing 141 - 150 of 197 annotations tagged with the keyword "Childbirth"

Out of the Bag

Heaney, Seamus

Last Updated: Aug-14-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet conjures up the image of the doctor who delivered him and his siblings ("All of us came in Doctor Kerlin's bag"), the doctor who arrived at the house in his fur-lined coat and ascended to his mother's bedroom, and later came down and arranged the instruments in his bag (a "plump ark"), which by that point was otherwise empty. In the boy's fantasy, Doctor Kerlin's small eyes were "peepholes into a locked room," in which were strung "the little pendant infant parts / . . . neatly from a line up near the ceiling-- / a toe, a foot and shin, an arm, a cock."

On a visit to the ruined temple of Asclepius, the god of healing, the poet finds himself remembering Doctor Kerlin, and also the incident when, as an altar boy, he fainted during a procession at the healing shrine of Lourdes in 1956. Now many years later, he pulls up some tufts of grass from around the temple and sends them to friends suffering from cancer. He remembers entering the bedroom after Doctor Kerlin left, his mother on the bed asking, "And what do you think / Of the new wee baby the doctor brought for us all / When I was asleep?" [94 lines]

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Summary:

This memoir begins in Africa, where Dr. Grim is with Médecins sans Frontières managing a meningitis outbreak in Nigeria. Conditions are appalling, but she has come here because of burnout: "so I won't be back home and in the ER" (11). Later in the book, she describes her other "escapes" from the Emergency Room, caring for war refugees in the Balkans.

The book centers, however, on life in an American emergency department, as Grim remembers it from the vantage point of Africa (where she does eventually become nostalgic for well-stocked supply cupboards and a more comprehensible chaos). She organizes her stories into a series of "Lessons in Emergency Medicine," in which she addresses the reader directly. After going through a step-by-step account of death in the ER, illustrated with several moving and alarming cases, she concludes: "Congratulations: you have successfully declared someone dead. Now, as an encore . . . you'll get to do it all over again" (28).

The ironic, even bitter, tone warns us of the difficulty of working in such perpetually crisis-ridden circumstances, but it does not conceal a vulnerability that seems necessary to doing the job well, such as when Grim has to tell a family that the father has died of the heart attack he had at his daughter's wedding: "you just stood there," she says, "looking at the corsage, the tuxedo and the pearls . . . You had no idea what to say and you don't really remember what you finally came out with" (26).

The stories are organized around several lessons: "How to deliver a baby," "How to crack a chest," "How to write a prescription" (which includes a discussion of addiction to prescription medication and a withering account of the doctor who overprescribes), and, as if it's as inevitable as the rest, "How to burn out."

By the book's final chapter, emergency medicine has merged, along with the vaccination of refugee children and the impossibility of treating tetanus in Nigeria, into the story of almost unreasonable determination in the face of endless frustration--but this, Grim shows in her final chapter, "Why I do what I do," is the point. Against this backdrop her final story, about the rescue of a child, makes its point: the feeling of saving a life explains all the rest.

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Complaint

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: Jul-05-2001
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator describes a housecall to a woman in labor. It is past midnight in winter time when the road is frozen. The doctor enters the house where the "great woman" is in misery; she is "sick," "perhaps vomiting," about to give birth to her tenth child. He exclaims to the reader "Joy! Joy!" knowing that the situation is as bleak as the wintry landscape, and, in fact, joyless. He will offer compassion and "pick the hair from her eyes."

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Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Warren here supposedly presents the papers of a late friend, detailing the interesting cases he had encountered as a physician. In fact, the "cases" are sensational short stories, presented as a novel due to the framing chapter introducing the narrator's "Early Struggles" to make a living as a physician. Other stories investigate typically Gothic themes like ghosts, duels, graverobbing, elopements, and broken hearts, with other scandalous problems like gambling, dissipation, murder, domestic abuse, and suicide. Medical topics include mental illness, epilepsy, hysterical paralysis ("catalepsy"), cancer, toothache, consumption, syphilis, heart disease, alcoholism, disease of the spine, gout, amaurosis (blindness), puerperal hemorrhage, measles, and stroke ("apoplexy").

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This passionate poem celebrates the home birth of the writer's son Gabriel. Baca describes the scene in sensuously rolling lines and robust language--Beatrice in the tub, Beatrice with her leg propped on the toilet, pushing, pushing: "Through vines of hair I peer, / between her spread legs, where blinding light / streams through." Gabriel appears! "Gabriel slips from her trembling loins, / filmy with juice, / thick rivulets of blood / run down our hands, arms, waists . . . " [79 lines]

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A Libation of Blood

Weldon, Fay

Last Updated: May-24-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Alison, 39 years old, is twice-divorced, with three children, on the verge of moving in with a man called Bobby. Her breast is sore and she is afraid it's cancer. Her mother tells her it's more likely she's pregnant. She says she uses contraceptives; her mother tells Alison that she was conceived when a condom broke.

Alison considers abortion, recalling her last pregnancy. Having given birth to a child with Down's Syndrome who died at three months, she had had amniocentesis and was told that she was carrying twin boys, both normal. When the twins were born, though, one turned out to be a girl. One twin, it seemed, had been tested twice. Although the female twin did not have Down's Syndrome, Alison began at that point to worry about luck and the uncertainty of medicine (and of life).

So now, pregnant again, she asks her mother what she should do, and is told to "trust to luck." But she is afraid that her luck has run out and she must take control for herself. A scan shows that she is carrying twins again. Only now does her mother tell her that she is in fact a twin, that her sister had Down's Syndrome and died shortly after birth--in fact, her mother admits, the midwife "did away with" her. (The euphemism carries the senses both of euthanasia and of murder.)

Hearing this, Alison decides she wants to have an abortion right away. Her doctor, thinking the problem is that she wants only one child, gives her the option of selectively terminating one fetus and carrying the other one, but tells her she wouldn't be able to choose which to keep and which to abort. She rejects the idea, imagining how she'd tell the surviving twin about her decision later on, and decides instead to "have them both and trust to luck."

As she leaves the clinic, she begins to bleed and miscarries. Later her mother tells her that she, too, once miscarried twins, and tells Alison she'll have better luck next time, because of the bleeding: "Blood, " her mother says, "is the libation the God of Chance requires."

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The Party

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-30-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The pregnant Olga Mikhaylovna plods through the name-day party she is throwing for her husband, Peter. The party is interminable; she is uncomfortable and tired of being pleasant. As Olga walks through the garden for a moment of peace, she notices her husband has also left the house and is talking with one of their guests, the lovely Lyubochka; she interprets their conversation as lovemaking. Has her husband only married her for her money? Doesn't he love her? She decides he is unfaithful and resolves to confront him.

Later, everyone decides to go to the island for tea. But it begins to rain and they rush back. Much later, when the guests leave, Olga and Peter argue in their room; they are both dead tired. Suddenly, Olga goes into a difficult and prolonged labor that results in a stillborn child. In the last section, Olga is "muzzy from the chloroform," but happy to be alive. Peter sincerely protests his love.

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Cesarean

Kenyon, Jane

Last Updated: Mar-27-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this eight-line poem, the speaker describes her own birth. Kenyon uses rich imagery and word-sound to evoke her appearance on this earth. Emerging from her mother's "large clay" as the surgeon "parted darkness," the newborn is assaulted with harsh light, noise, and a "vast freedom" that is "terrible."

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Summary:

This collection contains all 52 of Williams’s published stories, together with a new introduction by physician-writer, Sherwin B. Nuland. The stories were first collected in one volume in 1961 under the title The Farmer’s Daughers (New Directions); that book, in turn, included three earlier collections, plus "The Farmer’s Daughters"(1956), Williams’s last published story.

Thirteen stories featuring physician protagonists were previously collected by Robert Coles and issued by New Directions as The Doctor Stories (1984). (That volume also includes several poems and an "Afterword" by Williams’s son.) Among the stories with medical themes are Old Doc Rivers, The Girl with a Pimply Face annotated by Jack Coulehan (also annotated by John A. Woodcock), The Use of Force annotated by Felice Aull (also annotated by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan), Jean Beicke(annotated by Felice Aull and also by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan--see Jean Beicke), A Night in June, and A Face of Stone. The tales of a nonmedical nature include such masterpieces as "The Knife of the Times," "A Visit to the Fair," "Life Along the Passaic River," "The Dawn of Another Day," "The Burden of Loveliness," and "Frankie the Newspaper Man."

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A Farewell to Arms

Hemingway, Ernest

Last Updated: Feb-05-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

One of Hemingway's war and love stories, this novel takes place in Italy during World War I and is tied closely to the author's own experience as an American Ambulance Driver for the Italian Army. The story opens during a lull in the action and the reader meets a group of men who work with the wounded during battle. In the course of waiting for action, the protagonist, Henry, meets and courts an English nurse stationed in Italy.

The core of the tale is the evolution of the love of these two in the face of increasing military involvement, including an engagement in which Henry is wounded and after his return to the front, an Italian retreat from which he barely escapes with his life. Ultimately, he and Catherine, his English love, defect and enter Switzerland to await the birth of their child. Baby and mother both die and Henry is left alone, his future left by the author unplotted.

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