Perfect Timing

Linda Kobert

Monday, 7:30 am, DR two. I’m circulating,
the nurse who isn’t sterile, the surgical team’s link
with the unclean world. Before the incision,
I have ten things to do. I keep the list in my head:
check suction, position lights, turn on Bovie, toe
the steel bucket next to the surgeon’s feet.

The scrub nurse and I do the count: sponges, needles, clamps.
I chart these numbers. Post op the count must match. I snag
the tips of the ties on the surgeon’s sterile gown. He spins

without a word, and I knot the gown in back. At his nod,
I bring in Dad, sit him on a stool next to anesthesia, say,
“Try not to touch anything.” As scalpel slices skin, I call
the time and chart it. They have three minutes. It skews
our QA score if it’s longer. I’ll call that, too, the time of birth.

For the rest of the procedure, I listen and respond. “What’s
her blood type?” “Sponge on the floor!” “Is Peds coming
today or tomorrow?” It’s a dance. I have to feel the lead,
turn the right way at the right time, no room for hesitation.
If he missteps, it’s my fault. The surgeon sings. Anesthesia
is mute. But the resident chats with Dad, asks
about his golf game, did he get cigars?

That there’s a new mother-to-be under
all those layers of clean green fabric
is not immediately apparent.
That this moment is an earth-tilting,
intimate family rite of passage is also not
apparent. In this cold, fluorescent-lit
room, a dozen or more strangers move
as they are choreographed. A scheduled
cesarean is one more routine. No miracles here.

The Peds nurse hands the boy to his father. Swaddled
now, round-headed, the baby bobbles like a football
in Dad’s big hands as he holds his son so Mom can see.
Charting these numbers, I think about destiny, wonder
what happens to this poor kid’s stars when the time
of his birth is set so the OB can snag a cup of coffee
and a smoke before heading off to office hours at nine.

About the poet:

For twenty years, Linda Kobert worked and taught in nursing. Now she writes and teaches creative writing in central Virginia. She also serves as prose editor for the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s online literary magazine, Hospital Drive. Her personal blog can be found at LindaKobert.Wordpress.

About the poem:

“This poem is based on my experiences as a staff nurse in labor and delivery at one of the largest obstetrics hospitals in the country.” [Note: The DR is the delivery room; the Bovie is an electrocautery machine; QA is quality assurance.]

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

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5 thoughts on “Perfect Timing”

  1. I am an OB alum; many years as L+D nurse and then as a midwife. This was lovely reflection and at the same time kind of sad. Birth is such a powerful experience, truly earth-tilting. Sometimes it get’s lost in the OR. Thank you LInda.

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