I speak Spanish just about every day. Thankfully, I studied spanish for 3 years of high school and four years in college, and spent several summers in South America, so I'm very comfortable speaking Spanish and rarely have to use the interpreter.
I've never felt so completely incompetent as I did on Saturday.
A patient came in with contractions and bleeding at 24 weeks. Once we figured out she was really in labor, I tried to explain that at this age there was a good chance the baby would not live and that if the baby did live, there might be lots of serious health problems. I quickly realized that I have a limited vocabulary when it comes to trying to talk about resuscitation efforts in spanish. Then I had to deliver this 24 week baby, who was breech. It was a traumatic, awful delivery and we had a tough time getting the baby out. Because of the trauma from the delivery, we knew the baby was not going to make it. After the delivery, I had to tell this mama that her baby was not going to live.
While we went and worked on paperwork, her husband arrived. Then I went back in the room to talk to him. Trying to explain to him what happened was difficult, but then again, when is it every easy to say things like "I'm sorry your baby is dead. We don't know why this happened. It was nothing you did wrong, but sometimes this just happens." And I've never had to explain making funeral or burial arrangements in spanish - I couldn't even remember the word for funeral, or explain that they needed to find a funeral home to take care of the body. And all I could think was that I didn't want to be there, and didn't want to have to be the one doing this. They deserved someone better than me, who could walk them through this process. Looking back, although I might have been less overwhelmed, doing it all in English would not have been much better.
Of course, seeing those tiny, perfectly formed hands and feet, all I could think about was my baby and how afraid I still am some days that something is going to go wrong.
Some days my job is just tough.