As a last year medical student in Honduras, I was sent to a rural town called La Paz to work as a general doctor. We call this segment of training our “social work year”. This hospital was resource poor and when patients went into labor, we served on the front line as the first to examine them. Not the obstetrician gynecologists.
I had gained a lot of experience with doing vaginal examinations by this time since we rotated on the labor floor every four days. I felt confident in measuring cervical dilatation accurately. While on call for labor floor one night, a patient came into our triage area for evaluation. She reported breaking her water and advised us that she was experiencing regular contractions. The patient was now at full term so after taking a history I proceeded to perform the vaginal exam. As I focused on assessing her cervical dilation a curious thing happened. My fingers found an opening only it proceeded to suck my fingers. I removed my fingers and let out a screech. I had never experienced anything so surreal. Almost other worldly. I stood in shock as the patient and others in the room inquired as to what had happened. The patient appeared scared. I reassured her and everyone in the room that the baby was coming face first through the birth canal and that my fingers had gone into the mouth, and he had sucked my fingers. I further clarified that in these cases it is necessary to perform a cesarean delivery for things to proceed safely.
Laughter shook the room! Surprised faces stared at me. I felt as though I had had a brush with an alien. This baby would have no problems feeding with such a strong suck reflex, that is for sure!