From Bengali Babies to Mindful Medicine

Posted by Deborah McBain on

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.


It was with familiar fondness that I watched Barbara figure out how to communicate with her Sylheti patient. I recognize this young son in the episode, so proud to be useful to his mother as he patiently sits and interprets. The Sylheti Region is part of the Republic of Bangladesh. To this day there remains a significant Bengali/Sylheti community in London.

Hamtramck is a small town surrounded by Detroit that also has a large Bengali community serviced by our midwifery practice. When a Bengali patient comes to the hospital to have her baby we have the modern convenience of phone interpreting services. Conveying explanations and instructions to a laboring mother via speakerphone is a special challenge for all. In some cases we must keep interpreters on the phone for long lengths or time. Remotely they are drawn into the drama of birth unfolding. I do not understand their interpretations of my words but I hear the excitement in their voices as the birth draws near and sense the relief when the baby cries. Alhamdulillah! (Thanks be to God)

DebMcBain_04_27.jpegCourtesy of the author

As I watched the pain and the bravery of Dr. Turner during this episode, it caused me to reflect on my own consulting physicians. Good consulting physicians can make or break a midwifery practice, as well you can imagine. First fellow midwives, answer the following questions. Pay attention all.

* Who wants a consulting physician like Doctor Turner? Yes, I knew it. Everyone. He respects the midwives and he shows up when he is called.

* Who knows a physician whose clinic schedule is overbooked? Yep. All of us. And likely if a patient calls, the physician will OK adding her onto the schedule, right? What’s one more patient on a long clinic day? Besides, someone needs to see her.

* Who has ever witnessed a physician meltdown? Well, if you haven’t yet, give it some time. Likely, you will. Maybe they will come to you for support because… well because you’re the midwife and that’s what you do: support. I speak from personal experience. Practicing medicine is tough labor.

I recently chatted with one of my consulting physicians to get some insight. What do modern day physicians find most stressful? Yes, their schedules are busy but on top of that a large stressor is keeping up with the technology of electronic medical records. It is a struggle to keep from feeling they are treating the computer instead of the patient. I feel their pain.

Do physicians worry they will miss a diagnosis, particularly a rare one? Not so much. In this day and age of specialists, a physician knows a lot about their little area of specialty. As a general practitioner in 1960, Dr. Turner must know a little about a lot of specialties. Today, if something is beyond physicians’ area of expertise they consult.

So what do modern day physicians do for stress relief? Same as we all do: try to get some rest, complain, or have a health crisis and not necessarily in that order. Another of my consulting physicians has found relief in the practice of Mindfulness. Mindfulness has been defined as a state of active, open attention on the present. A mindful state means living in the moment without judgment of feelings or thoughts. I have often thought that the moments of intense concentration by midwives and physicians during a birth or medical emergency snap us into a form of mindfulness as Dr. Turner seemed to do when a tracheotomy needed to be performed. Imagine cultivating that state of living in the present at any time, minus the intensity of that moment.

Above is a photo I took this week of two of the hardworking, stressed physicians I work with: Dr. Stefan Smietana and Dr. Sara Jaber with their “favorite” medical tool: the computer. I feel fortunate to work with them and all my physician colleagues. They respect the midwives and they come when we call.


Deborah McBain (CNM, MS, BSN, RN)Deborah McBain (CNM, MS, BSN, RN)Deborah McBain (CNM, MS, BSN, RN) is a nurse-midwife who has practiced in Metro Detroit for nearly 20 years. McBain received her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Science from Wayne State University-Detroit, Master’s Degree from the Case Western University-Cleveland and midwifery education through Frontier Nursing Service.
Read More About Deborah |  Read All Posts by Deborah

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