Chronicles of a baby catcher

15 02 2012

I delivered my first baby on Monday.  What I really should say was that I did my first delivery.  When I’ve finished with this brief-ish recounting of the events, you’ll know what I mean.

What’s funny is that I was not expecting to get the opportunity to do this.  I hadn’t even been allowed the chance to deliver a placenta (though not for lack of trying).  But I was on Labor and Delivery duty yesterday morning, and right after rounds the intern I was with was paged.  There was a delivery, and the woman was ready to push. The intern and attending sprinted.  I followed (mostly because they hadn’t told me the room number and I didn’t want to miss anything).

Okay, time for a quick pause.  I’ve learned over my time on OB that the reason why doctors sprint to deliveries when they get pages, unless it’s a truly emergency C-section, isn’t necessarily to catch the baby.  It’s so they can get dressed.  Really.  If you have ever seen a real hospital delivery, maybe you were paying attention to what the doc doing the delivery was wearing (or maybe you were too preoccupied by the screaming woman in the room; maybe you were the screaming woman in the room).  The doc dons a set of gear that comes pretty close to an all-out biohazard shield (which, really, it kind of is).  First there’s the face shield—which actually is a shield that is strapped around the forehead and which protects from ear to ear, up to the hairline and below the chin.  Then there are the “moon boots,” waterproof splash guards that cover your feet and lower legs to the knees.  Following this gear is a sterile gown, which I am just now beginning to manage to put on without choreography, followed by a set of sterile gloves.  [Of note, this process does not even begin to approach sterility, but the idea is to only contaminate the mother and/or baby with her own germs.]

So with the moonsuit on, and all of these clamps and scissors and clamps that look like scissors set out on a sterile towel on a table behind me, the attending raised his eyebrows at the intern, and the intern looked at me and said quietly, “take a seat.”  My head was reeling, but I sat on the stool between the mother-to-be’s legs and didn’t even make a face for the sake of the family who was standing around waiting for baby.  They would have been scared to death.

The mom, who was a little zonked from the epidural, was pushing totally out-of-sync from when her contractions were happening—apparently she was sensitive to the meds—which made things a little slower.  During deliveries, there is a sort of plastic sheet with a big ol’ plastic bag attached that is put under the woman’s pelvis, with the bag hanging down to catch any spillage.  This apparatus is fondly known as ‘The Butt Bag,’ and I say fondly because the results of not having a butt bag are not pretty.  I was pretty glad, because pretty much the entire time she was delivering her infant, she was also delivering a pretty steady log of poo.  And not to sound petty, but it smelled.  My intern, speaking very quietly, told me and showed me what to do, where my hands should be to prevent as much tearing as possible, how to hold a sterile towel over the poo so it didn’t get into the baby’s face, and when to take the baby’s head.  He had the cord wrapped around his neck, but it was pretty easy to reduce.  After that it was just a few pushes and pulls in the right direction and the baby was out.  I knew the theory, but as you surely know, the real thing is different.  And it went beautifully.  I was a little surprised by how slippery the baby actually was.

The dad was so revolted by his little reptilian son, and probably the whole process, that he was not interested in cutting the cord, so I did.  My intern showed me how to get a section of the cord, how to get cord blood, and she pulled a plastic basin off of the sterile table and held it under the mother’s pelvis to catch the blood that was dripping out.

So here’s the best part: delivering the placenta.   This requires a good amount of coordination.  The blood bucket, which contained the umbilical cord segment, had to be balanced right below the vag, on the edges of the butt bag.  You use one hand has to aggressively massage the uterus (to get it to contract, helping to separate the placenta and to slow the bleeding), then you sort of pull on the cord in a circular motion while pushing down just above the pelvic bone to keep the uterus from turning inside-out on you.  Naturally, this being the first time and me being a naturally awkward person, I was bound to forget something, and that was it.  The next time I went to pull on the cord—and remembered the suprapubic pressure—the intern said, “Okay, make sure you apply a good amount of pressure.”  So I did.

And WHOOOOOOOOOSH, this enormous gush of blood sprayed out at us, I startled, which was enough to topple the blood bucket, which had barely been precariously balanced to begin with, onto the floor.  My intern stood there trying not to laugh (she tells me this in retrospect; I’m pretty sure that she was fuming at the time), I was mortified but trying to act like 250 mLs of blood all over us and the floor was a totally routine part of childbirth while simultaneously looking for the baby’s cord sample, which had flung itself under the stool I was sitting on.  By a small miracle I managed not to squash it with the wheels of the stool.  Yeah.

It took a solid 2 hours and some reassurance from the attending and the resident before this event transformed, for me, from horribly awkward and embarrassing to pretty darn funny.  Really, it looked as ridiculous as you imagine (probably more so).  And I stayed to help the nurses mop up the blood on the floor, the bed, the stool, and the legs of the table holding all the equipment.  It was the least I could do.

As far as “how did it feel to deliver a baby?” In truth, it was anticlimactic.  First there was a continuous ribbon of stool and no baby, then a slippery, blue, relatively unmoving baby boy.  By the time it looked and cried and moved like a real newborn, I was no longer involved in his care.  It was cool, however, to be the first person to hold someone’s child.

Pretty sure I won’t be catching babies forever, but I’m really grateful to have had this experience!




3 responses

16 02 2012
Jeff Welko

would love to see the YouTube on this one!!

24 02 2012

Thankful that you’re not going into OB. 🙂

27 02 2012

Loved this post! I love reading women’s L & D stories so it’s so interesting to read about one from the other side 🙂

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