On Day 1 of my residency in the Gyn/Ob department at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, I remember feeling intimidated by all the skills that I had to develop: placing orders, writing notes, managing labor, performing vaginal deliveries, repairing lacerations, performing C-sections, placing Nexplanon implants for contraception, managing triage patients, answering consults, and more. There was a lot to learn.

Among the skills that I’ve developed, the most enjoyable is performing vaginal deliveries because there’s an important life lesson that we can all glean.

As the delivering physician, I am there with the patient during one of the most special, yet frightening and painful times of her life. Labor gets progressively more painful as the baby descends and the head begins to emerge. Many describe it as a burning sensation as the muscle fibers stretch to provide room for the impending delivery. At this point, most patients want to stop pushing. But what I’ve learned to tell them is “push through the pain.” Usually, after a few additional pushes, their beautiful baby is delivered, and most patients completely forget about their pain as they turn their attention to the baby they’ve been anxiously awaiting.

Now, consider your goals your “baby.” Like labor, working to achieve these goals is painful. It takes sacrifice: sleepless nights, missed family events, financial debt. Sometimes the sacrifice is so great that we want to give up.

But here’s the lesson: The moment we feel like giving up is exactly the time that we need to keep pushing! We’re being stretched beyond our comfort zone, but we can’t give up … we need to “push through the pain.” The discomfort we feel is just preparation for the impending delivery of our goal. Once that goal is achieved, the pain will almost be forgotten as we bask in the light of the achievement.

The Learning Continues

Up next: Five weeks of Gynecology-Oncology, one of the most challenging rotations of intern year. But, I’m going to keep pushing, and I encourage you to as well! Remember, diamonds are made under pressure. We can do this!


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