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Class XI: Snapshot - Birth

Birth
By A.J.Cronin

Introduction

This chapter is an extract from A.J Cronins novel "The Citadel. This extract describes how
a young doctor revives a child that is born lifeless.

Joe Morgan and his wife are a middle -aged couple. They have been married for 20 years,
but have not get any child so far. Now Mrs. Morgan is expecting her first child. Both her
husband and her mother are feeling very nervous because the delivery of the child is going
to be before time. A young doctor named, Andrew is called in .The doctor has to put in hard
labour in the delivery of the child. When the child is born, it seems to be still-born. This shock
could be too much for the Morgans to bear.

While the doctor is attending to the mother, the nurse places the baby under the bed among
dirty newspapers .After assuring himself that the mother is safe, the doctor looks for the
baby. Finding it under the bed, he at once pulls it out. It was a boy, perfectly formed. The
body was warm but was not breathing. At once the doctor sets to revive the childs breath.
After half an hours terrible effort, he is at last successful. He thanks god and hands the child
to the nurse.

Characters


Dr. Andrew Manson: Newly qualified, takes a job as assistant to Dr. Page in a small mining
town. On arrival, he finds to his surprise that Page is partly paralyzed and will never work
again. This means Dr. Andrew Manson will have to do most of the clinics work in this mining
town at a meagre pay.

Andrew falls in love with a schoolteacher, Christine Barlow. Andrew contemplates marrying
Christine. He has a little tiff with her. On returning home, he is called by a minor to help
deliver a baby.

Andrew managed to help a difficult birth and save a babys life. He walks away from the
incident more confident as a doctor and feeling as if he had finally done something real in
his life.

The Midwife and Andrew

Beliefs of the small town: The midwife is present in the house before the
doctor arrives. The mining community did not have complete faith in modern medicine and
perhaps, preferred to have someone older, more experienced and traditional present during
a birth. Yet, Joe Morgan trusted Andrew completely.


Contrasting personalities: The midwife is a foil to Andrew. She feels
hopeless, resigned, helpless, fearful and untrained. On the other hand, Andrew proves to be
more optimistic, diligent, efficient, self-sufficient, spontaneous and well-trained.

Summary in Points


1. Andrew was returning home after a disappointing visit with his lady love, Catherine.
2. Andrew Mason did not expect this to be a particularly monumental night of his career
3. He was returning from a long journey which saw him home as late as midnight.
4. Exhausted, he found Joe Morgan, anxious and somewhat scared, waiting for him.
5. Morgan's wife was in labour, before the expected date. This is their first child in a
marriage of nearly twenty years.
6. Joe Morgan seems to trust Andrew implicitly. However, the community may not.
7. But the presence of the midwife before the doctor arrived and Mrs. Morgan's
reluctance to take anesthesia reflects the lack of complete faith in modern medicine
8. Hopes riding on the delivery: the parents' as well as the grandmother's. He reassures
the grandmother telling her both the mother and the baby shall be fine.
9. Andrew waits in the kitchen reflecting on the information he gleaned earlier in the
night which showed him that most marriages were dismal failures. However, he feels
Catherine is an exception.
10. The labour leads to a stillborn baby.
11. Initially, Andrew feels suddenly overwhelmed with the enormity of the situation and
the many hopes he had dashed despite his initial reassurance.
12. In moments though, Andrew's training kicks in. He instinctively decides to save the
mother first, handing the baby over to the midwife.
13. The midwife, who has had no medical training, sees the body in her arms as a
lifeless lump and places it under the bed among sodden newspapers.
14. Andrew draws the baby out and quickly diagnoses the most probable cause for the
still birth i.e. Asphyxia, pallida.
15. He recalls a method he had once observed through which a child had been
successfully resuscitated.
16. He tries: the simultaneous hot and cold dips to shock the body and get the heart to
jump start, then rubbed the baby's body with a rough towel crushing and releasing
the little chest as a form of CPR.
17. On the verge of giving up, a medical miracle occurs.
18. The child finally breathes. Notice the author's description of the mucus as a joyful
iridescent bubble.
19. Andrew redoubles his efforts till the baby is breathing freely and safe.
20. As he left the house, he realized that he had truly saved a life that night fulfilling the
purpose of his profession. For the first time in his life, he felt he had done something
'real', something worthwhile.

Short Answer Questions


Q. What for did Susan's mother offer to make a cup of tea for Dr. Manson?

Ans. Susans mother was apprehensive. She feared that Dr. Manson would leave upon an
excuse and would not return seeing that the case was complicated. So she offered a cup of
tea to keep the doctor at home.


Q. What did the elderly midwife think of the young doctor?

Ans. The midwife in the story remains doubtful about the young doctors success throughout
the story. She was skeptic about modern medicine on one side and quite worried about the
glowing demand for modern doctors in front of her eyes, quite experienced and not ready to
accept a change. Her act of placing the stillborn under the cot cements this suspicion about
her character. She was indirectly establishing the failure of modern medicine by doing so.

Q. What did Dr. Andrew Manson do to save the mother and the stillborn child?

Ans. Initially, Andrew was lost for a while. He didnt know what to do. He felt like his dreams
melting into thin air. He had two obligations one to Susan Morgan who lay collapsed and
the other to the stillborn baby. Both were equally worth saving.

He smashed a glass ampule and injected a medicine into Susans blood. Throwing the
syringe in haste, he made all attempts to bring Susan to breathing. After a few minutes of
feverish efforts, Susans heart gained strength. Now he could safely leave her.

Then, Dr. Andrew Manson swung around and looked for the baby. The midwife had placed
the stillborn under the bed. Andrew knelt down, pulled the baby out and studied its condition.
It was warm, its cord had been hastily slashed, it had a wax-like body, perfectly formed
though its limbs (hands and legs) lay like broken stem and boneless. He at once knew that it
was a case of asphyxia (unconsciousness due to lack of oxygen). Instantly he was on his
feet. He got basins, kettle, ewer and extremely cold and hot water for a special treatment. He
filled one basin with cold and the other with hot water. He took the baby, dipped it in one
then in the other. Like a crazy juggler, he hurried the child between the two basins.

There was no sign of life about the baby and Andrew was dead tired. A terrible sense of
defeat came on him. All hopes had dashed away. All efforts had proved futile, beyond
remedy. Having labored in vain for half an hour, he still made one last effort. He rubbed the
child with a rough towel. He pressed and released the little chest with both his hands. And
then, a miracle happened. The little chest gave a short heave, anotheranotherAndrew
continued with his efforts feverishly. The child had started gasping deeper and deeper. A
bubble of mucus came from one tiny nostril. The limbs were no longer boneless. The skin
was slowly turning pink. And then, exquisitely came the childs cry. Andrew handed the child
to the nurse.

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