Catching Something Other Than A Cold

“Look luv”, I say to the woman on the bed, “if you can hop onto the chair I'll carry you downstairs where we can get you to the hospital”.

The woman on the bed lifts one leg high into the air and grunts in pain. I'm not worried, I think that the reason why she doesn't want to get onto the carry chair is because she has poor pain tolerance.

“Your contractions are every three minutes?, I ask her, “your waters are intact, so you've got ages to go before you give birth”.

I'm really not worried, I'm more annoyed that this woman isn't doing as I tell her, namely to pant through the contractions then get on the chair so I can get her in to see the midwives.

“You've had the contractions for only four hours, it takes much longer than that to… Bloody hell! are you pushing? Don't push – you don't want to push do you…”

I turn to my temporary crewmate, fresh out of training school but he seems fairly sensible, “You'd better get the other maternity pack from the ambulance, and the suction, and the oxygen bag. Oh, and ask Control to get us a midwife 'cause it looks like we are going to deliver here. Don't run but, y'know, don't dawdle either”.

He trots down the stairs.

“I'm going to have to take a look”, I tell the woman and she lifts up her skirt to show me her genitals.

In training school there were two things that we were told to be wary of causing offence, the first was traipsing around Mosques in our boots. The second thing was that Muslim women don't want men who aren't their husband looking at their bare flesh – strangely enough, when someone is about to deliver a baby they don't seem to care. I would guess that common sense tends to trump religion when you (and your husband) are scared and in pain.

I tilt my head to one side, trying to visualise exactly where the baby is. Then she pushes again and I deftly side-step the gush of amniotic fluid that jets out of her towards me. The professional in me observes the fluid as it shoots past my ear, it's nice and clear which suggests that the baby hasn't pooed in it. The un-professional part of me gives myself a mental high-five for not getting caught by the spurting body fluids.

My crewmate returns with the kit and I ask if he's ever delivered a baby before, he says he hasn't and that his current family came pre-loaded with grown children. He tells me that the hospital hasn't got a midwife to send so it looks like we are on our own.

I explain everything to the mother to be, and to the father to be, and the brother, and her previous child. The previous child was born by caesarian section, so this is the first 'proper' birth she has done. Luckily it's not my first.

I put on the gloves as she pushes again. This time she pops out a bit of poo. I wipe her (something I thought I'd given up when I gave up nursing) and contemplate that when mothers to be start pooing the baby is often not far behind.

We get the equipment ready – clamps, scissors and blankets. My crewmate and I are both gloved up and ready to go.

Once more the mother sticks one leg straight up in the air and gives a strangled cry.

I can see hair. Which means I can breathe a sigh of relief – not a breach birth. But the hole through which the baby will be making an appearance seems rather smaller than the previous times I've delivered.

I'm not worried, women have managed to give birth in the past and in worse conditions that the one that I find myself in. Heck, I've delivered babies in much worse conditions than this. At least in this case there is light, everyone speaks English and we aren't fiddling around in the back of a car unlike the first delivery I was involved in.

There is some more puffing and panting, some refusal of painkillers and slightly worrying moment when I wonder if the head will ever make an appearance.

Outside the brother is chanting and praying, it seems that he's doing a good job as I can hear him through the door. I'm guessing that it's one of those 'welcome the baby into the world' sorts of things.

Then with a tear, a scream and a pop the head arrives.

A quick feel and I realise that the cord is around the babies neck, so I untangle it. I help with the rotation and with a final big push the rest of the baby arrives and I catch it.

The cord is clamped and cut, and I rub the baby dry, hoping or a cry. A crying baby makes a happy ambulanceman, but baby seems quite content with sniffling and sneezing a bit. Good breathing, a nice strong heartbeat and reflexive movement – I'm quite happy.

The baby is fine, so I hand it off to a relative and check the mother – some slight bleeding, enough to wreck the mattress, but nothing too nasty. She seems a fair bit confused as I explain about the placenta and not for the first time in my career I wonder if anyone ever reads the instruction manual for their body.

She's happy though, the pain is over and she has a baby to show for it – a huge grin arrives on her face.

“Is it a boy or a girl?', the father asks. To be honest I haven't looked, I was more worried about the baby breathing, so we both go delving into the baby wrap to see what sort of equipment it's got between the legs.

It's a girl.

I can relax now, mother and baby are fine, people are congratulating us and all we do now is wait for the midwife to turn up. I try to remember the criteria for the Apgar score, I know that the baby is fine, but it's something nice to put in the documentation. Memory fails so I pull out my phone and look it up on Wikipedia. Baby scores a solid ten out of ten and I learn that Apgar is someone's name and not an acronym.

Then I learn what a backronym is.

I put my phone away.

The midwife arrives and does the mid-wifey things that midwives do, like yanking out the placenta and reminding us that the baby should be kept warm. We know that the baby should be kept warm, for most of us that is the one thing that we can actually remember from our four-hour training session on how to catch a baby.

Mother and child go to the hospital, as mother needs some sutures in a place I'd rather not have a needle anywhere near – but unlike other occasions, our midwife congratulates us on a job well done and makes us a cup of tea in the maternity department tea-room. I ruminate over a biscuit that I've never had a midwife arrive before the baby is born, and how they manage to get their timing that precise.

A good job, everyone is happy and I got a cup of tea at the end of it.

Can't ask for much more than that.

22 thoughts on “Catching Something Other Than A Cold”

  1. Butter popcorn?! No, amniotic fluid smells like a combination of wet hay & sperm. & that's the healthy fluid. Some of it, if it's infected, can make you gag/faint.

  2. Lovely post. You took me right back.A couple of amusing things from my last boy's birth:

    i) don't try filling a birthing pool using an electric immersion heater AFTER the neighbours have gone home after having brought coal, coin and whisky on new year's eve.

    ii) don't smash a glass in your general frantic business and have to try carefully removing the shards from below the ever-bulging birthing pool while your partner leans on your head during contractions.

    iii) Get a midwife who doesn't phone up saying “It's misty. I'm in some woods and fields. Where am I?”

    All went well, and the inevitable poo was caught. Boy was named Aneurin, and the midwife didn't know who he was named after.

    Been reading your blog for years, and finally felt the urge to comment. Keep it up!

    atb D

    p.s. Please don't encourage midwives to 'yank' on the placenta – my wife nearly died due to that when our first was born. And that was in a consultant led maternity unit. Put us right off. Practical midwives have my vote.

  3. I thought no baby was ever scored a ten. Sets the bar too high for the rest of life, the little overacheivers….:-)Congrats on a job well done !

  4. What a lovely story!I thought the wikipedia bit was the most moving, in any situation its there to offer us comforting knowledge and too many links we really didn't need to click but feel its rude not t.

  5. Reminds me of my first two, both of them were “oh you have ages yet” labours followed by “OK I think its coming” nary 1 minute later.The boy (no 3) however took his sweet time, taking after his dad. He still lays in as long as possible in the mornings, unheard of for the girls.

  6. Congratulations! That first gasp, cry, whatever from the newborn, always makes tears spring to my eyes however stressed I am.PS ever had someone's waters break over your shoes when you haven't got a spare pair and it's hours till end of shift? I don't recommend it.

  7. My niece goes into hospital today to have her twins induced. She's not overdue, but combined they weigh 14lbs (6.5kg) and the docs are worried about them getting bigger. (She's not the biggest of mums.) It's good to know she's having them in a place where she can feel confident they will have the best chance should something go wrong.

  8. Huh? My son was 10/10 and I've the papers to show ;-)I thought a “normal” delivery will usually end in nines or tens.

  9. ” Poor pain tolerance ” ?! Ouch!I vaguely remember thinking things couldn't get much worse, then they did – baby turned round with head engaged in cervix – felt like someone had taken a blowtorch to my bits. Would do it again in a trice, though.

  10. Most docs seem to give a point off for color, since most babies have a teeny bit of cyanosis in the extremities..

  11. When the wife had our second, it turned into a very hasty home birth. The midwife that came to us did not have the timing so precise. She came through the front door (which I had left open) at the same time as the baby crowned. She just put her bag down and caught him as he came out.10 seconds later and I would have had to delivery him myself. A couple of burly ambulance people waiting with me would have made me a lot more comfortable.

  12. Brilliant.And meh about being covered in waters. At least amniotic fluid smells nice (butter popcorn, if memory serves). I'm sure you get covered in all sorts of less-pleasant bodily fluids on a regular basis, particularly on Saturday nights.

    Well done and I'm so pleased to read an upbeat story today. You've had quite a time of it recently and it must help to have a good day.

  13. I know my friend said that when you're having a baby you get so used to people looking up your flue that you'd pretty much let a passing window cleaner have a gawp if he wanted.Lovely story. Must be nice to have a happy -and genuine- one for a change.

  14. Well, yes, maybe that was because they gave him to me directly after birth and I refused to give him back until I was sewn together. He may have had time to get a bit colour in the meantime 😉

  15. Redcat – I agree with your friend. When I was in labor, and the new “Birthing Room” was being used, they asked if I'd mind if a couple of student nurses observed.I told them they could bring in the entire freaking Mormon Tabernacle Choir – just get this kid out!!! It gets to where everyone who walks into the room wants to grab a little feel to see how far you are dialated – so even if the janitor walked in, you'd drop your knees.

    Childbirth tends to destroy any sense of modesty – in my experience.

  16. Hey:)This has nothing to do with your latest post but i came over your blog tonight and have sat here for a good few hours reading over all the posts, its quite addictive.

    I am just starting out in my career as an emt, Still got a good while to go till im qualified but i cant wait

    Anyway, Just to say thank for posting, its interesting to get the perspective of some one who has worked in this proffesion rather than to hear numbers and facts about it.


  17. //”Is it a boy or a girl?', the father asks. To be honest I haven't looked, I was more worried about the baby breathing, //As John Cleese said in 'The Machine that gos PING: //Now I think it's a little early to start imposing roles on it, don't you?// (written 25 years ago – and fairly accurate on the supremacy of management & technology over caring & the patient's needs – “get the most expensive machines, in case the administratorcomes.”)

  18. Good God! And then you have to get on with the rest of your day. That sounds like a full days work right there.I dont know how people have babies. It sounds like just about the most horrific thing imaginable.

  19. She had the twins OK. Babies doing well. Niece though was very unwell afterwards and was found to have a heart defect. She's only 24.

  20. Sliiiiiiiightly concerned that you know what sperm on wet hay smells like. I'd been told that you can tell if it's waters or wee (at 40+ weeks you leak wee a surprising amount) because waters smell a bit like Baileys. Mine smelled like butter popcorn. I was really struck.

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