December 25, 1981 – 2 a.m. Labor & Delivery Staff Nurse
I finished my night shift orientation in September and am feeling much more comfortable in my skills as I don’t need to think so hard about every little thing. Since it is my first Christmas in Labor & Delivery, I am required to work. Management designated me as charge nurse since the Assistant Nurse Manager is off tonight.
I glanced at the large whiteboard in the nurse’s station which listed all the patients by name, stage of labor, and doctor. We still had six women in labor with four empty labor rooms. We had already done four deliveries since I was called in early at 9:30 p.m. to help the busy evening shift. I glanced at the fetal monitors which displayed each baby’s heart rate. All of a sudden, I saw one baby’s heart rate go dangerously low to 50 and stay there. A normal full-term baby’s heart rate is 120-160 beats per minute. Cathy, another nurse, stuck her head out the door of the woman’s room and yelled, “Call the doctor and nurse anesthetist, Pam! We have to do a stat C section (surgery). This baby is in trouble!”
The operating room technician, Teresa, ran to the prepared operating room (OR) while I called the two doctors. The nursing assistant helped Cathy wheel the huge bed down the hall to the O.R. Cathy had the mother lie on her left side to try and take the pressure of the baby’s body off her mother’s blood vessels so the baby could get more blood.
We worked quickly. As soon as the anesthesiologist nodded that the mother was asleep, the resident doctor cut her abdomen and lifted the baby out of her womb. He cut the cord that was wrapped tightly around the baby girl’s neck and carried her to the warmer. Her own cord had choked her as she came down the birth canal. The baby girl let out a weak whimper. I suctioned out her mouth and placed the oxygen mask over her small face. I dried her off quickly and she took several gasps of air! I silently prayed, “Dear Lord, Please touch this baby girl’s body that she may live.” She let out a louder cry and the delivery room staff exhaled a sigh of relief. Her tiny body began to turn pink. The Neonatal ICU nurse wheeled the baby girl down the hallway to keep a close eye on her until she stabilized.
I returned to my other patient, Marie, and checked her progress internally. She was ready to start pushing the baby out. She was totally exhausted after 16 hours of painful labor. After an hour of pushing, I saw a patch of the baby’s black hair peak out! We wheeled Marie in her bed down the hall to the delivery room, helped her transfer to the narrow delivery bed, placed her heels in the steel stirrups, and her hands on the steel handles. I had her husband, John, sit on a stool beside her.
She gave several more pushes but wasn’t making much progress. Dr. D. instructed, “Pam, give fundal pressure during the next contraction to help her out.” I looked at Marie over my mask and warned, ” I’m afraid this is going to hurt you.” As I felt her large abdomen harden, I reached across her, grabbed the steel handle with both my hands and pressed my forearm into her belly with all my strength. She screamed and I felt like screaming as my back went into a muscle spasm. At last the baby’s head popped out and his slippery body slid into Dr. D’s hands.
“Congratulations, Marie and John! You have a nice big healthy boy!” announced Dr. D. I pulled the string on the Apgar clock and wrote down the time — 3:03 a.m. Christmas morning. Dr. D. quickly suctioned the mucus out of the baby’s mouth with the blue rubber bulb syringe, and the baby let out a loud strong cry. Dr. D placed two clamps on the umbilical cord and laid him on Marie’s abdomen so she could see him. “John, would you like to cut your son’s cord?” “Sure!” grinned John as he took the sterile scissors in his hand and snipped the cord.
Dr. D. carried the baby to the warmer and the Apgar timer buzzed at one minute. I gave him a score of 8 out of 10 which was excellent! His trunk, hands, and feet were still tinged blue. I suctioned the mucus out of his mouth again, wiped off his body with the soft, warm, cotton blanket and put a little hat on his head to keep him warm. The 5 minute Apgar time buzzed and I scored him 9 out of 10. His body was now pink, but his hands and feet were still slightly blue. I wrapped him tightly in another clean warm blanket and greeted him, “Merry Christmas, Timothy! Welcome to the world!” John watched his new son with amazement.
A woman, when she is in travail, has sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. John 16:21 (KJV)
I carried Timothy over to Marie and placed him in her arms. All the fatigue vanished from her face as she gazed at him tenderly and kissed his forehead. After Dr. D. delivered her placenta and stitched her up, I put a warm blanket on her and wheeled mother and son to the recovery room.
The remaining hours flew by as we did two more Caesarian surgeries and two more normal deliveries. Eight babies were born that Christmas night shift! I sat down twice for ten minutes during my ten-hour shift. I was so happy to see the day shift staff walk into the nurse’s station at 7 a.m.! We gave them report, went to the locker room to change out of our blue scrubs into our street clothes, and walked wearily out the door into the bitterly cold Christmas morning sunshine.
My severe back pain continued, and I was diagnosed with two injured back muscles. My doctor ordered me to take a month leave of absence while I went to physical therapy to heal and strengthen my muscles. He said I was in poor shape physically and needed to exercise regularly if I wanted to continue to work in labor and delivery. So I joined the local indoor pool and began swimming four times a week. I happily discovered that swimming was also a great stress reliever and helped me sleep better!
The babies that were born that early morning will celebrate their 36th birthday this Christmas and likely have children of their own by now. I wonder what kind of choices they have made in life? They share the same birthday when we annually celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I pray that each has chosen to receive Him as his/her personal Savior.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12