When I was pregnant with my first child, I was a mere 20 years old. I wasn’t married, I was scared to death, and had only ever been to an OBGYN’s office once. My mom scheduled my pregnancy confirmation visit with her doctor. I was ridiculously apprehensive about this first visit. My boyfriend didn’t want to go with me – he was contemplating breaking up with me – and who wants their mom to tag along on a visit like that, unwed and scared? Well, I did. I was petrified. Of what, I was not sure. In the week leading up to the appointment, I was filled with dread and a nagging sense of fear. I told myself it was because the doctor was a man. I told myself I should be seeing a female doctor; then I’d be more comfortable. My mom suggested I stick with Dr. E, and that if I wasn’t comfortable with him after the first visit, then I could switch to his female associate. She assured me everything would be ok – he’d delivered two of my brothers, and was a good Christian doctor. I reluctantly kept the appointment.
I filled out the paperwork and was called back. I had planned to leave my mom in the waiting room, but as the nurse held the door open for me, my eyes silently pleaded with mom to come with me. She followed us down the hall and into the exam room. After some slightly awkward questions, I was given a gown and told to strip down and put it on, and the doctor would be in soon.
I will never forget sitting on that exam table. I was barely covered by the ugliest pink floral gyn gown you’ve ever seen, and there were Christmas-themed socks on the stirrups to keep them warm. Though my mom was only a foot away, I felt so alone. So vulnerable. So scared. I began to cry.
It was a scared, choking-back-the sob kind of cry. My mom, reading a magazine, looked up startled. “Why are you crying?” she asked. “I am so scared, Mom,” I sniffed. The hurt she felt for me was evident in her face, and she just faintly smiled. “Why?” she softly asked. I thought about it. I wasn’t really sure. “I don’t know,” I said. She looked at me thoughtfully, and then slowly said, “I don’t think you’re worried about this visit. I think you’re worried about your pregnancy.” I realized she was right, and started crying harder.
Enter Dr. E, a tallish guy who always had a mop of tousled, curly grey hair atop his head. He held my chart and started to introduce himself to me, but stopped midsentence when he saw my face. He instinctively and without hesitation sat the chart down and grabbed a box of tissues. “Hey, hey, hey. What’s going on here?” he gently asked.
So I told him that I wasn’t married, I wasn’t sure if the baby’s father was going to stick around, I was only 20, and I was so scared of everything the next nine months would hold. I couldn’t stop crying, and by this time was practically hyperventilating. He handed me another tissue.
He interrupted my litany of worries to say, “Everything is going to be ok, and we are going to get through this one day at a time. You’re going to wake up each day, and think ‘I only have to get through today,’ and then you get up and meet the day head on. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to be worried. But know that God is bigger than all of that, and He gave you this sweet baby. You are not the only young woman who has found herself in this situation. Heck, there are married women older than you in my practice who have experienced crisis pregnancies in their state of life too, and they’ve gotten through them. You will too.” I couldn’t believe this man’s compassion, empathy, and genuine care for my soul at that moment. He then asked if he could hug me. I needed that hug so badly! Then, he bowed his head and prayed for me, my baby, and my mom. I felt all of the anxiety and worry melt away, and a sense of peace completely overwhelmed me. I felt strengthened to face the exam, and to face my pregnancy. When it was over, he offered me one more tissue. I took it, and then had my first pregnancy visit.
Needless to say, I stuck with the male doctor. He went on to deliver Elizabeth on his wife’s birthday, and a few years later delivered Therese as well. He has since left private practice to focus on his missionary work, and I have found a new OBGYN. (Oh, and my boyfriend came to his senses, married me, and is now a wonderful husband and father!)
Sometimes, I think of Dr. E’s compassion, empathy, and genuine concern for his patients when I find myself in a moment of frustration with my job. Every day, he ministered not only to his patients’ bodies, but to their souls. He knew how to put you at ease with just a smile. His work was his calling, his vocation, and he lived that every moment of his career. When I ponder these things, I find myself lacking. No, I am not working with patients and allowed into the intimate secrets of their lives. That doesn’t really matter though, does it? Am I treating my colleagues, coworkers, clients, and organizational leadership with the respect they deserve – not because of their titles, but because of their humanity? Am I taking advantage of every opportunity to be the voice of compassion or encouragement to someone that God puts in my path that day? Am I able to see Christ in those I share a workspace with? Am I cognizant of God’s persistence in calling me to holiness, even when I experience conflict with others in my department?
The short answer is “Not nearly often enough.”
So today, I pray for the intercession of St. Joseph the Worker to help me grow in these areas. Help me to be like the kind and caring Dr. E, and to remember that my career is something I’ve been gifted with and called to by my Creator. He knew what He was doing, putting me at this exact company, in this exact department, with these exact working hours, with these exact coworkers. Help me to embrace God’s plan for my workplace, and my role in it. Help me to be the light of Christ as I work to provide for my family.
St. Joseph the Worker, pray for me! St. Gianna, modern shining example of a working mom, pray for me!