Medical practice

The Beatle Obstetrical Method

Posted on Updated on

On Sunday evening, Feb 16, 1964, I was on call for our GP group and made a house call to my partner’s pregnant patient. A middle aged man answered the door which opened directly into the living room of the small home; there were several people there, an elderly woman, a young couple, and two of the lady’s small children, who were  all attentively watching TV.

“Thanks, Doc.”  Said my host, and without another word, pointed to an obviously pregnant woman lying on the couch on a plastic sheet covered with clean towels; adjacent were a basinette and more towels.  A TV was turned up loud, and projected a grainy black and white image of Ed Sullivan standing stiffly, arms crossed, grimacing and pursing his lips as if he had just sucked on a decaying toad. I remembered:  ‘Tonight is the third weekly Sullivan show featuring the Beatles; only the third time the public is being  affected by Beatlmania’.  

The patient and I conversed with some difficulty over the TV noise.  Her cramps had been regular, frequent, and gathering in intensity for the past few hours, after she broke water. “Do you think I should examine you in the bedroom?” I asked.

“No, Doc, I’d like to stay here; don’t think I can make it anyway. They’re pretty strong.  I got everything  ready.”  As I began to examine her she directed her attention back to the TV.

She was ‘crowning’. That is, the crown of the infant’s head, covered in copious black matted hair, were pushing out into the waiting world.  Very quickly, very quietly, very smoothly, to the strains of  I Wanna Hold Your Hand,  the rest of a small healthy boy appeared.  Almost immediately the placenta followed. My patient, so soon as the birth of a healthy boy was confirmed, again focused on the TV

We listened, all of us including the infant,  to “All My Loving”   as I attended the baby, wrapped up the placenta, and massaged the uterus. Bleeding was minimal.

“It’s best to go to the hospital now,” I said.

“OK.” She nodded, still looking at the TV, “Jack’ll take us after the show.”

“I’ll meet you there.” I said. ” Don’t delay.”

As I drove away, moderately amazed, and a little chagrined, I reflected: Should I have been more assertive? Outraged?  A real Doctor might  have acted like an irritable  grandmother, or a surgeon handed the wrong instrument yelled and demanded – Well- what?  The woman certainly knew what she was doing.   There are times when it is as good to be successful as to be correct.  This was success- triple success in this case-  my patient had delivered her third baby with ease, avoided considerable expense, and seen an epic Sullivan Show at the same time.  She had invented  BOM- the  Beatle Obstetrical  Method.