Birth – Summary

‘Birth’ is an extract from A.J. Cronin’s novel ‘The Citadel (1937)’. It describes how a young doctor revives a child that is thrown away as still born.


Andrew Manson had just completed his study of medicine. He began his medical practice as an assistant to Dr. Edward Page in a small town of Blainelly. He loved a girl, Christine but his experience was disappointing.

It was nearly midnight when he reached Bryngower. He found Joe Morgan waiting for him. Joe had been married for nearly twenty years and now his wife was expecting her first baby. An expression of relief came on Morgan’s face at the sight of the doctor. He told the doctor that he had been waiting for him for an hour. He said that his wife needed his presence because the child was expected to be born before time.

Andrew went into the house. He saw two ladies inside the room. One was Joe’s mother-in-law and the other was the mid-wife. The mother was worried. She realized that the delivery might take some time. She was afraid that the doctor would leave the case, saying that he would return later. But looking at the family’s concern Andrew decided to wait. He drank the tea down in tile kitchen. He was tense. He knew that the case would demand all his intention. He made up his mind to remain there until everything was over.

An hour later he went upstairs. He noted the progress made and came down once more. He sat down by the kitchen fire.

At last the nurse’s voice was heard calling from the top landing. Andrew looked at the clock. It now showed half past three. He rose and went up to the bedroom. He saw that he could now begin his work. An hour passed. It was a long, hard struggle. Then as the first rays of dawn appeared the child was born, lifeless.

Andrew was horrified to see the still-born child. His face chilled suddenly. There were two options before himwhether to attend to the child or save the mother, who too was in critical state. Blindly, he gave the child to the nurse and turned his attention to Susan Morgan. She lay collapsed, almost pulseless. She was still under the effect of ether. He gave an injection and worked feverishly until her heart strengthened. He realized that she was safe. Swinging round to the nurse he asked for the child. The mid-wife made a frightened gesture. She had placed the child under the bed. In a flash, Andrew knelt down. Fishing among the sodden newspapers below the bed, he pulled out the child.

When Andrew looked at the child he at once knew that it was a case of asphyxia (unconsciousness due to lack of oxygen). Instantly he was on his feet. He asked for hot water and cold water and basins too. He laid the child into the icy cold water and then into the steaming hot water. Fifteen minutes passed. Andrew was feeling a sense of defeat and hopelessness. The mid-wife was watching him in dismay and astonishment. The old women stood there leaning against the wall. He remembered how keen she was to have a child.

And then like a miracle, the little chest gave a short heave and the child started gasping. The skin started changing colour and then came the child’s cry. Andrew handed the child to the nurse. He dazed. He left the house thinking he had done something real at last.

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