I don’t think people realize the heart-stopping shifts in mood that this profession requires. In a standard day:
A woman is sobbing in Room 1. She has just found out she has miscarried again. You feel terrible. You try to comfort her. There is no way to comfort her. You are fighting back tears when you leave the room. Sometimes you don’t fight them.
A woman is exultant in Room 2. She has just found out she is having a boy. She already has 3 girls. You slap hands with the husband, and hug the patient. He is already madly texting to tell everyone he knows that he finally has his boy! You feel so happy for them.
The woman in Room 3 is sullen. She is having another boy. Her third one. She is actually angry at us for telling her she is having a boy. She does not want to believe it. She has already yelled at the ultrasound tech and slammed the door. You attempt to persuade her not to be angry. She yells at you.
The next woman in Room 1 is quiet. She finally admits that she has caught her husband cheating on her with a woman who is known to use drugs. She is scared that she has caught something bad. She is crying because her marriage is over. How do you comfort her? You can’t. You sure can feel bad for her though. And you feel deep anger. This woman didn’t deserve this. This irresponsible man has put her at risk for diseases, some of which are not curable. Some of which are fatal.
Back to Room 2. The new patient in there is radiant. She is here for her pre-wedding physical, and to get on birth control. She goes on and on about the wedding, how nervous she is and how excited, and where she will spend her honeymoon. You have carried the bitter cynicism in from Room 1 and wonder how long it will take the guy to cheat on her. You instruct her on how to use the birth control pills. You muster up some excitement for her.
The woman in Room 3 is a pregnant drug abuser. She spends all her visits complaining of pain and trying to wheedle Lortab out of you. She has tested positive for THC, barbiturates, opiates and cocaine during the pregnancy. You feel intense anger and disgust. You want to throw her out of the office. You don’t understand how she can do this to a baby at all. You want to yell at her that you are on to her little game and you know she is a drug addict and to STOP ASKING FOR FREAKING DRUGS.
Back to Room 1. In there is a teenager whose mom has caught her having sex. She has been dragged in for birth control and STD testing. You can tell the girl is lying when she answers questions in front of the mom, but the mom refuses to leave the room. She will control this or else. You wish you had a chance to talk to the girl alone. You feel like you could help her better if you knew what was really going on.
Back to Room 2. A stunned teenager has just had a positive pregnancy test. Her mom is in the waiting room and does not know. There is going to be a huge scene in a minute when she finds out.
The pregnant girl in Room 3 is screaming hysterical curse words into her cell phone. She is yelling at her boyfriend about being a stupid sonofabitch who is going to jail. Her baby’s daddy will be in jail. She doesn’t bother to get off the phone when you go into the room. You feel angry at being disrespected, and angry that the other patients can hear that language. You also feel angry that she has a nicer cell phone than you do.
Back to Room 1. The elderly woman in there has not been to see you in two and a half years. Her husband has had a stroke and has dementia and she is spending all her waking hours trying to keep him from wandering away from home or setting the house on fire. She could barely find a caretaker for him long enough to come in for her appointment. And she is afraid to drive alone in town. She is grieving the loss of her husband even though he is still alive, and grieving the loss of her autonomy since she is shackled to caring for him. The ironic thing is, once he passes away she won’t know what to do with herself.
Room 2 is a woman with multiple physical complaints. She seems perfectly healthy and her use of office time complaining about every little thing is really annoying. You wonder what is really going on that she is so unhappy. She won’t let you out of the room.
Room 3: a giggling teen here for her yearly exam. She has her best friend with her who is giggling too. They are ANNOYING.
Room 1: A pregnant woman complaining because she is uncomfortable. Really? Pregnant much?
Room 2: A young couple upset because their fertility treatments aren’t working and they are desperate for a baby.
Room 3: get the general idea? By the end of the day my emotions have spun so many 180/360 degree turns that my brain hurts. Do all Ob/Gyns get bothered by this? I think they must. If we aren’t psychotic when we start this profession, we will be when we finish.