I have been spending the past few days in the special care nursery. I have never seen a newborn up close, let alone carry one. The first baby i scrutinized was a pair of twins in the incubators. Premature babies. I stared in fascination at their tiny toes and fingers, that these creatures actually move! They don’t just lie there and vegetate like plants and then miraculously start holding themselves up and crawling all over the place. I was astonished to see their tiny nails. I know they have nails, but i mean really??? These babies writhe, they open their eyes and frown, they emit high pitch cries that sound like cats’ meows (which reminded me of the Cri du chat syndrome. I remember this syndrome because a lecturer in pre-clinical years mentioned it in passing and i was thinking to myself that all small babies seem to cry like cats anyway, so why the distinction?).
Then my friend who has much more experience in handling babies picked up one, cuddled it and handed it to me. Clearly i needed to start getting comfortable with carrying babies if i ever wanted to learn how to examine one. To be honest, my first try was more of a lift then a carry. I was hugely surprised to discover how light the neonate was. In fact my dumbbells which i use to practice my biceps curls are probably heavier. I stared at the baby. It writhed a little and then it gave a deep frown of displeasure, squeezed its face and started crying. I stared at the yowling bundle with increasing panic. Its face grew redder and redder, almost like a tomato, and i thought that i was looking at Pemberton’s sign in real time. I wondered whether it will suffocate itself. I gazed at my friend stupidly, who at this time was urging me to cradle or do whatever it takes to make the kid stop wailing. Finally she took the baby back in exasperation and amazement at my lack of babying skills and calmed the kid down. It was…wow, i don’t know. Babies are so small but so powerful.
We made our rounds of the wards looking and pacifying (and of course a lot of handwashing with the alcohol solution, so much so my hands were dry and i started bracing myself for the sting in areas where my skin probably wore thin. My own imagination of course) the babies. I saw a lot of small babies, mostly premature neonates. They were tiny and i finally understood (and accepted) that one can fit inside a person. Anyway, one of the babies was incredibly irritable. It scrunched up its face and started emitting a high-pitched cry. I gawked at it for a split second, and then just could not help myself, i burst out laughing. My friend stared at me in disbelief.
“Oh my God, it looks just like a baby monkey!” i spluttered. Seriously a lot of the younger babies reminded me of the baby monkeys i saw back in Thailand when i was a child. The resemblance was earth-shattering.
“You are crazy,” my friend muttered, but she too could not help smiling.
I told my housemate who had done her pediatrics rotation. She gasped and told me it will be the worst thing to tell any parent (duh!) but admitted she thought the same thing.
This peds rotation is turning out to be more fun than i first anticipated!