December 25, 1981 – 2 a.m. Labor & Delivery Staff Nurse
I returned to my other patient, Marie, and checked her progress internally. “You can push now with each contraction, Marie.” She groaned from the exhaustion of 16 hours of painful labor. An hour later, 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 and helped her transfer to the narrow birthing bed. I placed her heels in the steel stirrups and her hands on the steel handles. I guided her husband, John, to the stool beside her head.
She pushed several more times but didn’t progress. Dr. D. said, “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 forearms into her belly with all my strength. She screamed and I felt like screaming as my back spasmed. 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!”
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 a 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!” John grinned as he snipped the cord with the sterile scissors.
Dr. D. put the baby to the warmer and the Apgar timer buzzed at one minute. I gave him an excellent score, suctioned the mucus out of his mouth again. I wiped off his body with a soft, warm, cotton blanket and put a soft knit hat on his head to keep him warm. “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)
As I placed Timothy in Marie’s arms, all the fatigue vanished from her face as she gazed at him tenderly and kissed his forehead.
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. What a relief to see the day shift staff walk into the nurse’s station at 7 a.m. After we gave them report, we went to the locker room and changed out of our blue scrubs into our street clothes. I trudged out the door into the frigid 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. He said I was deconditioned and needed to exercise regularly if I wanted to continue to work in labor and delivery. I began swimming at the local indoor pool four times a week. Not only did I become stronger, but swimming relieved my stress and helped me sleep better.