The professor guided my right hand, and made me place the stethoscope’s diaphragm right where he wanted. The earpieces of the steth pressed hard against the insides of my own ears, hurting. One must get used to wearing this instrument. I listened intently, as the teacher looked on at my face, enquiringly.
Shutting my eyes off to visual inputs, and concentrating hard, trying to hear amidst the muted sounds of road traffic ? just hush a dull static drone, shh! ? come on, focus, listen.
As if from miles away, dull at first, then clearly, as I learn to listen, is the gentle tick-tick. Like a hand-wound spring watch, tick tock, the heartbeat of the unborn baby. En-sheathed and wrapped up in layers of muscle, and floating within its pool of amniotic fluid ? the in-utero fetus. I stood at rapt attention, afraid to move, for fear of losing the magical sound. The pulsations and throb of a tiny heart, receiving maternal blood from the mother, and then pumping it on into its own fetal circulation, perfusing the embryonic every hungry cell, tissue and organ with nutrition and sustenance.
By the time I opened my eyes, the professor had moved on, to the next patient. I continued holding the stethoscopes diaphragm against the full term abdominal wall of the young first time mother-to-be, but removed the hurting earplugs from my head. I was so euphoric that I had for the first time ever heard a fetal heart sound, that I did something else. I nodded my head towards the woman I was examining, and passed on the twin metallic tubes with earplugs towards her.
She looked quizzed, and questioning. Without speaking, only miming, I got across to her that she could, if she wanted to hear her own baby. She smiled and nodded. I wrapped the stethoscope around her face, put an index finger against my own lips to signify ‘silence.’
It took a minute or two, but then I saw the most radiant of smiles a man can ever see. The young woman, beamed, a thousand watts. Her eyes widened, and she shakes her head, incredible. Her own baby?s heart: pulsing with the kinetics of life. The cardiac pump. The tiny muscular machine that will continue, relentlessly, to contract and expand, throughout a lifetime ? fist giving an impetus to the flow of maternal blood, then after birth, to eject and receive blood produced by its own organ systems.
It is years now since I heard that faint, but distinct beat, in a free government hospital. Where the woman is, or what happened to her neonate, I do not know. But that incident, I remember well, even today – of how, for one brief interval of time, I and an illiterate, impoverished, malnourished young mother-to-be, stole a moment to share an experience.
About the Author:
Author: Dr. Arunachalam Kumar- India