|Genre||Collection (Short Stories) (324 pp.)|
|Keywords||Abortion, Adolescence, Asian Experience, Cancer, Childbirth, Doctor-Patient Relationship, Humor and Illness/Disability, Infertility, Latina/Latino Experience, Medical Ethics, Medical Testing, Narrative as Method, Nursing, Parenthood, Physical Examination, Physician Experience, Pregnancy, Professionalism, Surgery, Women's Health|
Birth Sounds includes 45 short tales of labor and delivery, ranging through a wide swath of the human comedy, but always maintaining focus on the very first scene. In most of these stories, it isn't the delivery that provides the drama, but rather the people. Take the first story, for example. In "Faceless" a Vietnamese husband cautions the obstetrician-narrator, "In our country no man will examine a woman in such an intimate way." The obstetrician never sees the patient's face, which she has covered with a towel. After the delivery, he examines her and speaks carefully, not sure that she understands English. However, from beneath the towel, she thanks him in a perfect American Southern accent. A neat surprise!
In "The Little Devil" (p. 6) a 38-year-old member of a satanic cult announces that she intends to kill the baby if it is a boy. She has been directed to do so by her satanic mentor. When, amid a panoply of lit candles and inverted crucifixes she delivers a boy, the resident contacts the sheriff's office, where the mother's intentions are already known. Sure enough, the SWAT team storms the delivery room and takes the baby.
In "Red Bag" (p. 31) the narrator is serving as a medical expert in a murder trial. The defendant had arrived at the hospital hemorrhaging after delivering a baby at home, evidently into the toilet bowl. The baby had died of head injury. The obstetrician-narrator turns out to be more supportive of the woman and less compliant than the prosecutor had expected; but afterward the doctor receives his financial reward--a check from the state for a full $7.00!
In "Resilience" (p. 259) a woman with a near-term pregnancy asks the obstetrician to examine her breast, which has suddenly developed a red lump. He takes one look and immediately experiences a flashback to another young woman he cared for who had developed breast cancer during pregnancy and died of metastatic disease about a year later. Sure enough, the current patient also has cancer. But in this case the patient delivers, receives treatment, and recovers, apparently cured of her cancer.
These stories are brisk and engaging; they are often humorous and sometimes moving. Dr. Moraczewski portrays a wide range of obstetrical situations, from simple human foibles to dire straits and back again. These stories are neither deep nor ambiguous, but they are very entertaining. They contain just the right recipe for literary role modeling in the field of obstetrics.
I also find the author's approach to the morality of writing about his patients especially thoughtful. He provides a disclaimer that I will quote almost in full: "These stories are the stylized renderings of events taken from my clinical practice and those of my obstetrical colleagues. With rare exception, the names of patients, staff, and doctors have been altered to preserve their privacy. Some of the characters, conversations, or situations depicted are composites of many similar people and events. Any resemblance to an actual person or activity is purely coincidental. These tales should be considered to be medical narrative fiction. . . . ." (p. ix)
This statement fulfills several important ethical guidelines: (a) names and identifying features have been altered to protect confidentiality; (b) in many cases the characters are actually invented (composites), thus further protecting any "real" patients from whom the material is drawn; and (c) the reader is correctly notified that he or she is reading "medical narrative fiction," rather than a non-fictional account. Hence, neither patients nor readers are compromised.
|Place Published||Bloomington, Ind.|
|Miscellaneous||The publisher, AuthorHouse, was originally known as 1st Books.|
|Annotated by||Coulehan, Jack|
|Date of Entry||10/11/04|