Birth

by A.J. Cronin

About the Author

 

Author Name:   A.J. Cronin

Full Name:        Archibald Joseph Cronin

Born:                 19 July 1896, Cardross, United Kingdom

Died:                 6 January 1981, Montreux, Switzerland

Movies and TV shows: Citadel, The Stars Look Down

Awards:             National Book Award for Fiction

Theme

Dr Andrew Manson has just begun his medical practice in the small Welsh mining town of Blaenelly. When he returns from a terrible evening with his girlfriend Christine, Joe Morgan approaches Dr Andrew Manson to help in the delivery of his wife.

Dr Andrew Manson has to put in much labour in the delivery, as the mother requires much attention before she is revived. Further, the baby was not breathing at birth. Using all his knowledge and intuition, Dr Andrew Manson makes more efforts to revive the child. After almost half an hour of frantic efforts, he succeeds and comes away with a sense of achievement.

The Characters

Dr Andrew Manson:

He is a young medical graduate working in a small mining town. On the call of Joe Morgan, a miner, Dr Andrew Manson manages to help in a difficult birth and saves the baby’s life due to his knowledge and efforts.

 

Joe Morgan:

He is the miner husband of Susan Morgan. He asks Dr Andrew Manson to help in his wife’s delivery and reposes full faith in the doctor.

Susan Morgan’s Mother:

She is a tall, grey-haired woman aged 70 who is concerned about her daughter’s happiness.

 

The Midwife:

She is pessimistic about the child’s survival when he is found to be not breathing when born, but still dutifully assists Dr Andrew Manson in his work.

About the Lesson

 

This excerpt is all about Andrew Manson who is newly out of medical college and has just commenced his practice under the supervision of Dr Edward Page as an assistant in Blaenelly. It also highlights the efforts made by Andrew Manson in saving the life of a newly born dead child who finally gets to live because of him.

At the beginning of the chapter, we find Andrew Manson very sad and monotonous after having a disappointing evening with Christine, the girl whom he loves a lot. On reaching his home, he finds Joe Morgan, waiting for him, whose wife in pains and expecting her first baby after a long time. On a special request of Joe Morgan Andrew Manson goes to his home to help his pregnant wife. Although he is dead tired, yet he picks up his bag and reaches Joe’s home with even complaining once.

Joe refuses to enter his house as he can’t see his wife in pains and decides to wait outside until the good news comes. But Andrew Manson enters the home and finds two other women over there as helping hands i.e. Mrs Morgan’s mother and an elderly midwife who is sitting beside the patient waiting for the right time. Meanwhile, Andrew is given a cup to tea and he starts waiting for the moment whence he has to start his work on the patient. While waiting, he gets lost in the imagination of the episode that happened at Cardiff station and other married people’s life which is worthless and unreasonable.

At half-past three, he is called by the nurse on the top floor. Andrew Manson, without delaying, starts working on the patient incessantly. In spite of working so hard on the patient for such a long time, he finds the child born as lifeless when it is born. He hands over the dead child to the nurse and draws his entire attention to Susan Morgan who is breathless as well as desperate seeing the lifeless child. He manages to help her retain her breath after injecting the medicine through a hypodermic.

Now, Andrew Manson pays his all heed to the child who is lying lifeless. He kneels down & finds the child who is perfectly formed with the skin of lovely texture but dead. He feels out of wits as he has no idea how to save the lifeless child. Soon he is reminded of the same incident wherein a boy was resuscitated by the team of doctors born in the same scenario at Samaritan. Without wasting a single second, he begins the special method of respiration which makes no difference. He asks the nurse to bring two basins of cold and hot water each. When the water is brought, he starts dipping the child from one basin to another incessantly.

Despite his untiring efforts, the child doesn’t breathe. Andrew Manson doesn’t give up and continues his efforts until the lifeless child is brought to breathing. At last, the boy gets back to life which is seen and announced by the midwife. The child starts crying and the efforts put in by Andrew Manson bring fruit. He, though worn and tired, takes his jacket and goes out of the home without worrying about his bag. He gives this good news to Joe Morgan who has been expecting a child for a long time. Finally, he takes a sigh of relief that he has done something good at last.

 

Word Meanings


excerpt – extract
medical practice – work as a doctor
welsh – in Wales
mining town – a town where most people work in a coal mine
disappointing – unhappy
surgery – operating room
burly – large and strong
driller – a miner who uses a drill machine
missus – wife (informal)
ye – you
before time – the delivery is going to be before the due date
contemplation of – thinking about
mystery – secrecy
perceptive – energetic
premonition – idea
drew up short – stopped
strain – tiredness
stout – strongly built
midwife – woman trained to help in childbirth
Bach – dear
leave the case – not stay till the delivery was completed
fret – worry
overwrought – very tired
snatch – take
lethargy of spirit – lack of enthusiasm
cinder – partly burnt piece of coal
grate – fireplace
paced – walked slowly
muddled – mixed up
obsessed him – dominated his thinking
morbidly – negatively
sordidly – unpleasantly
shrewish – quarrelsome
reason – reasoning
dismal – disappointing
wince – feel pain
idyllic – perfect
otherwise – differently
admitted – allowed
level, doubting – reasonably doubtful
overflowing – full of emotions
broodingly – worryingly
started – jerked suddenly
addressed – talked to
meditation – thinking
pursued a different course – followed a different line of thought
awful set upon – very much wanting
ay – yes
fancy – believe
collected – calmed
top landing – top of the stairs
perceived – realised
elapsed – passed
harsh – hard
streaks of dawn – light of morning
strayed past – came through
blind – sunshade
still form – lifeless body
torn between – feeling two opposing thoughts
resuscitate – bring back to life
desperate – critical
dilemma – choice
instinctively – without thinking
collapsed – unconscious
pulseless – not having the pulse of life
not yet out of the ether – not become conscious
frantic – agitated
ebbing – receding
glass ampoule – sealed glass capsule with liquid medicine
hypodermic syringe – needle used to inject liquid medicine in the bloodstream
unsparingly – without a break
flaccid – lifeless
strengthened – started beating properly
in his shirt sleeves – in only his shirt without a jacket over it
brow – forehead
frightened gesture – indication with fear
in a flash – immediately
fishing – searching
sodden – soaked
tallow – animal fat
cord – umbilical cord connecting the mother to the child in her womb
of a lovely texture – with a wonderful feel
lolled – hung loosely
haggard frown – worried and tried look
asphyxia pallida – an abnormal medical condition in a newly born baby who appears pale and limp, temporarily unable to breathe and having a slow heart action
the Samaritan – name of a medical journal
threw out – spoke quickly
basins – large bowls
pallid – pale
respiration – breathing
ewer – a large jug with a wide mouth
frantically – desperately
Word – Meaning
crazy juggler – madman moving the child quickly
raging hopelessness – fierce disappointment
stark – evident
consternation – feeling of anxiety
longing – desiring
dashed away – finished
draggled – dirty and wet
stumbling – tripping over
sopping – drenched
whimpered – spoke in a crying tone
stillborn – born dead
heed – listen to
crushing – squeezing
limp – motionless
by a miracle – mysteriously
pigmy – small
convulsive – jerky
heave – gasp
turned giddy – became weak
unavailing – ineffective
exquisite – enjoyable
gasping – breathing hard
mucus – viscous liquid
iridescent – sparkling
spinelessly – loosely
blanched – pale
hysterically – uncontrollably
shuddering litter – total mess
soiled – dirty
impaled – stuck
scullery – room for washing dishes
expectant – hopeful
thickly – in a hard to understand tone
spent – tired
footfalls – sounds made by feet while walking
oblivious – unaware

 

Summary

Joe Morgan was Waiting for Dr Andrew
 

Dr Andrew had recently graduated from medical college. He was practicing as an assistant to Dr Edward Page in a small Welsh mining town named Blaenelly. One night he was returning home when he found Joe Morgan waiting for him outside the doctor’s home. He had been there for more than an hour. He looked relaxed to see the doctor. He informed that the doctor was needed at their home as his wife was expecting to deliver a baby after almost 20 years of marriage. Dr Andrew asked him to wait for a few minutes. He went inside, got his medical bag, and set out for Joe Morgan’s house.

 

The Case Demanded All Attention of Dr Andrew
 

Joe Morgan stopped outside the house and requested Dr Andrew to go inside alone. Through a narrow staircase the doctor reached a small, clean but scantily furnished room. He found two women beside the patient, Susan Morgan’s mother, a tall, grey-haired woman of nearly seventy, and an elderly midwife.

Susan’s mother offered him a cup of tea. So, Dr Andrew sensed that she didn’t want him to leave, as there would be some waiting period. Dr Andrew was tired but still decided to stay.

An hour later, Dr Andrew went to check the patient and came down. The restless footsteps of Joe Morgan could be heard as he paced the street outside.

Dr Andrew’s Mind Wandered
 

Dr Andrew was so deep in his thoughts that the voice of the old lady (Susan Morgan’s mother) surprised him. She informed him that her daughter didn’t want him to give her chloroform if it would harm the baby. Dr Andrew replied that it would do no harm. Just then he heard the midwife’s voice. It was half-past three and Dr Andrew perceived that it was time for him to start working on the delivery.

 

The Horrifying Dilemma
 

After a harsh struggle for an hour, the child was born, a perfectly formed boy. Unfortunately, it was not breathing. A shiver of horror passed over Dr Andrew. He had promised the family so much. He wanted to resuscitate the child, but the mother herself was in a very desperate state. He gave the child to the midwife and turned his attention to Susan Morgan, the mother, who was lying unconscious. Her pulse was slow, and her strength was reducing.

After a few minutes of continuous efforts, he stabilised her by giving her an injection. Then he asked for the child. The midwife had kept the child under the bed, presuming him to be dead. Dr Andrew pulled out the child. His head was hanging loosely, and the limbs seemed boneless. He concluded that the child was suffering from asphyxia pallida (an abnormal medical condition in a newly born baby).

Dr Andrew’s Efforts to Save the Child
 

Dr Andrew recalled a case he had once seen in the Samaritan (a medical journal) and the treatment that was given. He asked the midwife to quickly get hot water and cold water in two bowls.

He started plunging the child once into the icy water and then into the steaming bath alternately. Fifteen minutes passed and nothing happened. Dr Andrew was getting frustrated. He could see the unbelieving faces of the midwife and the old lady, but he continued his efforts.

The Miracle
 

Dr Andrew started rubbing the child’s chest with a rough towel and thumping his little chest, trying to get breath into that limp body.

Then, as if by miracle, the child’s chest began moving. Dr Andrew felt weak and nervous at the site of life springing under his hands. He redoubled his efforts and the child was now breathing. Life came to his limbs, head became erect, the child’s skin started turning pink and suddenly the child cried.

The midwife exclaimed with tears of happiness in her eyes, ‘Oh God, he has come alive.’

 

Dr Andrew is Relieved
 

After so much frantic effort and success, Dr Andrew felt weak and speechless. The old woman, Susan’s mother, was still standing against the wall, praying.

Andrew went downstairs and told that he would fetch his bag later on. He found Joe Morgan still waiting with an anxious, eager face. Dr Andrew gave the happy news that both the mother and the baby were all right.

Andrew was really happy and exclaimed, ‘Oh God, I’ve done something real at last.’ He had achieved a feat in medical history which would certainly brighten his future.

Highlights

  • Dr Andrew was a young medical graduate who worked as an assistant to Dr Edward Page in a small Welsh mining town, Blaenelly.

  • Dr Andrew was returning home after a disappointing evening with his girlfriend Christine,

  • Dr Andrew found Joe Morgan, anxious and scared, waiting for him.

  • Joe Morgan informed him that the doctor was needed at their home as his wife was in labour before the expected date. This was to be their first child in a marriage of nearly twenty years.

  • When they reached the house, Dr Andrew realised that he would have to wait some time; so, he decided to wait downstairs.

  • Then Dr Andrew is called upstairs and starts his work. After an hour’s struggle, the child, a perfectly formed boy, was born lifeless.

  • Dr Andrew was horrified but continued his effort first to save the mother, whose energy was reducing.

  • After the mother was safe, his attention went to the child. He instinctively decides to revive the child.

  • Dr Andrew quickly diagnoses the most probable cause for the still birth i.e. asphyxia pallida.

  • Dr Andrew recalls a method he had once read about by which such a child had been successfully saved.

  • Dr Andrew tries alternate hot and cold-water treatment to revive the child’s breath.

  • Dr Andrew then rubbed the baby’s body with a rough towel, crushing and releasing the chest.

  • A medical miracle happens. The child finally breathes. Dr Andrew redoubles his efforts till the child cries.

  • After handing over the baby to the midwife, Dr Andrew left the house. He realised that he had truly saved a life that night, fulfilling the purpose of his profession.

  • For the first time Dr Andrew felt that he had done something ‘real’, something worthwhile.

 

Textual Questions

 

A. Reading With Insight

 

Question 1: “I have done something; oh, God! I’ve done something real at last.” Why does Andrew say this? What does it mean?
Answer: The young doctor Andrew Manson had done a commendable work. His exclamation is justified. He had not only helped the middle-aged lady in the safe delivery of a male child but also restored them to perfect health. Susan Morgan’s strength was ebbing after the delivery. She was almost pulse less. Andrew gave her an injection and worked severely to strengthen her heart.
The major achievement of Andrew was to resuscitate the stillborn child. First, he laid the child of a blanket and began the special method of respiration. Then he tried the hot and cold-water treatment dipping the baby alternately. He laboured in vain for half an hour. He then made another last effort. He rubbed the child with a rough towel. He went on pressing and releasing the baby’s little chest with both his hands. At last the baby responded. His chest heaved. Andrew redoubled his efforts. The child was gasping now. A bubble of mucus came from his tiny nostril. The pale skin turned pink. His limbs became hard. Then came the child’s cry.
Andrew called upon God as witness of his act which was no less than a miracle. It was not mere theoretical talk but a practical achievement—something real and solid.

 

Question 2: ‘There lies a great difference between textbook medicine and the world of a practising physician.’ Discuss.
Answer: Normally, the medicines prescribed in the textbooks are used by the practising physicians. However, in extreme cases of emergency, the physician’s experience, resourcefulness, and practical approach become far more important than the theoretical knowledge. For example, a victim of bum-injury, snakebite or suffocation through drowning needs immediate help. The nearest available doctor may not have all the facilities needed for the case. In such a situation first-aid is a must to save the patient’s life before rushing him to the hospital for proper care. With limited resources at his command, the practising physician exercises all his practical experience to control the damage to the minimum and check the victim’s state from further deterioration. A stitch in time does save nine in such cases. The practical help comes as a boon.

 

Question 3: Do you know of any incident when someone has been brought back to life from the brink of death through medical help? Discuss medical procedures such as organ transplant and organ regeneration that are used to save human life.
Answer: Yes, I have seen and heard of incidents where people have been brought back to life from the brink of death through medical help. Surgical operations, lifesaving drugs and organ transplant play a leading role in modem medical science. Leading hospitals in advanced countries have facilities for medical procedures such as organ transplant and organ regeneration. Blood bank and eye bank are quite common. Nowadays people willingly donate various organs of their body to the hospitals after their death. The techniques of organ regeneration help to preserve them for certain period and use them for transplanting the defective organ of another patient. Nowadays eye, heart, kidney, and liver are being transplanted. The time is not far off when artificial human organs will be made in laboratories from non-human sources.

 

Short Answer Type Questions

 

Q1. Why was Andrew so serious and tense that evening?
Ans. That evening Andrew was tense and serious. He had a disappointing evening with his girlfriend Christine. Moreover, he had seen some painful incidents of husbands’ suffering at the hands of their wives. He was short of sleep as well.

 

Q2. Who was Joe Morgan? Why was he so tense and waiting anxiously for Dr. Andrew that night?
Ans. Joe Morgan was in dire need of Dr. Andrew’s help. His wife Susan was in labour. She was going to deliver their first child after 20 years of marriage. Joe and Susan were keen to have the child delivered safely. So, he stood waiting anxiously for the doctor.

 

Q3. That night proved unusual and it influenced Dr. Andrew’s whole future in Blaenelly. What miraculous thing happened that night?
Ans. Dr. Andrew had first begun his medical practice in the mining town of Blaenelly. The successful handling of Mrs. Joe’s case proved a turning point in his life. It was no less than a miracle. He restored life in a stillborn child.

 

Q4. Why were Susan and her old mother equally so tense that night?
Ans. Susan was in labour after 20 years of marriage. It was natural for her and her husband Joe to be tense. Susan’s old mother also stood beside her tense and hopeful.

 

Q5. Susan’s mother was wise in experience. What hints did she give of her wisdom?
Ans. Susan’s mother was a tall, grey-haired woman of nearly seventy. From her personal experience, she knew that the childbirth would take some time. She was wise enough to fear that Dr. Andrew might not wait for long. So, she tried to make him stay by offering him tea and sitting beside him.

 

Q6. Why and when did a shiver of horror pass over Dr. Andrew?
Ans. Dr. Andrew was shocked and horrified as he looked at the lifeless newly born baby. He also noticed Susan sinking. He was in a dilemma, whom to save first.

 

Q7. Dr. Andrew faced the biggest dilemma of his life that night. How did he act and save two lives?
Ans. Dr. Andrew was called to supervise the first and crucial delivery of Susan Morgan. He was tense and short of sleep. Still, he decided to wait. He gave a promise to Joe and his wife that all would be well. But he became nervous to find both the mother and her baby in trouble. He first gave injection to Susan. Next, he lifted the stillborn baby, put him in hot and cold water and pressed the child’s chest. Luckily, he saved both of them.

 

Q8. Comment on the behaviour and role of the midwife attending on Susan Morgan.
Ans. The midwife attending on Susan showed lack of experience and professional attitude. She declared at once that the baby was stillborn. She pushed it under the bed. Even when Andrew was trying to bring back life into the baby, she showed disbelief and even discouraged Andrew from making feverish effort. The cry of the baby made her exclaim with
joy.

 

Q9. What did Andrew do to restore life in the stillborn child?
Ans. Andrew recalled a similar case in the past. He gave the same treatment to the stillborn baby. He asked for hot and icy cold water. He placed it into cold and warm water alternately. He rubbed the child with a rough towel and pressed and released the little chest with his hands. The miracle happened. Its skin turned pink and it cried.

 

Q10. Describe the moments when the stillborn child gave a short heave and slowly revived.
Ans. Andrew for a while felt beaten and disappointed. But he made one last effort. He pressed the baby’s chest gently and then released. The technique was successful. He felt the little heart beating. A bubble of mucus came from one nostril. The child was gasping and then came a cry.

 

Q11. What was Andrew’s greatest achievement and satisfaction as he walked out of the House Number 12, Blaina Terrace?
Ans. Dr. Andrew was called to handle a critical case of delivery. He was tired. He felt defeated. He was in a dilemma because of the sinking condition of Susan and the lifeless form of her baby. But he saved both the lives. He called it his greatest reward and success.

Long Answer Type Questions

Q1. Why was Andrew feeling so dull and listless that evening? How did that evening influence his whole life and career?
Ans. Andrew returned home after midnight. His experience with Christine that evening was not happy one. Moreover, several episodes of unhappy married couples also saddened him. Outside his house was Joe Morgan waiting anxiously for the doctor. He led Andrew to his house where his wife Susan was in labour. Both were set upon the child. Andrew decided to wait and give medical aid. He had no idea that the incident of that night would give him not only supreme satisfaction but also name and fame. He worked hard and very intelligently saved the life of mother as well as her stillborn child.

Q2. What was Andrew’s dilemma after the delivery? How did he solve the problem so successfully?
Ans. The child was born at daybreak. Dr. Andrew was filled with horror as he looked at the lifeless baby. He had now two patients on his hand. Susan was fast losing her pulse. The baby was white, lax, and lifeless. Andrew was in dilemma whom to give his attention first. Going by instinct, he gave an injection to Susan and pulled her out of danger. Then he pulled out the child, with warm body but no breathing. He gave it an unusual treatment using cold and hot water and the pressure of his hands. And there was a miracle. He thanked God when the child gave out a cry.

 

Q3. Narrate the story in about 100 words of your own. What message does it convey?
Ans. This story narrates an incident in which a young doctor saves two lives. Both the mother and her still born baby were in a critical condition. It highlights the miracle that a physician can perform.

Andrew was a young doctor. He was called upon to supervise a case of childbirth. Joe and his wife Susan had been married for nearly twenty years. They were expecting their first child. Two women were already at Susan’s bedside—Susan’s old mother and a midwife. Andrew decided to wait till the work was completed. When Susan gave birth to the baby, her own condition became critical. The baby was stillborn, limp, and boneless. Andrew first restored the mother to a safe point. Then he picked up the child. He dipped it into hot and ice-cold water alternately. He applied mild pressure on the little chest. And it came back to life.

Q4. There is a great difference between textbook medicine and the world of a practising physician. Discuss.
Ans. Bookish knowledge is very important as it imparts theoretical knowledge. It teaches a man intricacy of a problem and its probable solutions. If a man having theoretical knowledge has no practical experience he may fail in his job. On the other hand, a man with practical knowledge and experience only may fail to achieve the desired results. In our day to day life we meet compounders surpassing the doctors and the physicians. A physician who has read the process of administering an injection but has not done it with his own hands will fail in his attempt to administer injection. On the contrary, a compounder can surpass the physician because he has practical experience. Similarly, if you have minutely observed a man doing his job to perfection you can apply that very practical experience based on your keen observation and achieve success. Dr. Andrew could save the child because he had observed somebody saving an almost lifeless child. He applied that practical experience and knowledge and did his job efficiently. So, for success especially in medical field especially both bookish knowledge and practical experience are indispensable.

 

Q5. “I have done something, oh, God! I’ve done something real at last.” Why does Andrew say this? What does it mean?
Ans. Andrew was fresh from the medical school. He was still working as an assistant to Dr. Edward Page in Blaenelly. He had yet to prove his merit. He got a chance soon to test all his learning. He knew that a doctor’s job was to save life. He got a golden opportunity unexpectedly one evening. He was called upon to supervise the delivery case of Susan Morgan. He waited all night. But he was horrified to find the new-born baby almost lifeless. The mother was also collapsing. He first saved the mother’s life by giving an injection. Then he turned to the stillborn baby. He applied treatment he had once seen at school. He dipped the baby first in warm water and then in icy cold water. His effort was crowned with success. The child began to gasp and then cry. Andrew had supreme satisfaction because he had saved two lives.

www.dhruvilchauhanarts.wordpress.com