As part of our training for paramedic school we are required to spend 16 hours in the Labor and Delivery unit at a couple different hospitals. Depending on the day, you could literally see nearly 50 deliveries. The staff runs you from room to room to observe and assist with as many as they can “squeeze” you into. This was my experience. Two separate 8 hour days rushing room to room after room, watching baby after baby after baby “pop” out. It really is the best description because I was rarely in the room for all of the pre-delivery stuff. I would get to the room as the baby was on the move and would get in there just in time for it to “pop” out. Once it was out, I would do a quick assessment with the nurse and then they would rush me to the next one. Towards the end of the day, some of the Doctors let you be the one to actually deliver the baby. We receive this extensive training because it is rare that we are called to an emergency scene to deliver a child, but it does happen once in a while. I have had two “emergency” deliveries in ten years. Both of them have been “textbook” deliveries with no complications other than the child showed up a lot faster than the mothers were planning on. My first was on the freeway on Christmas Day 7 or 8 years ago-which is probably a story all by itself, but it’s the second one I want to tell you about. This goes down as one of the top five memories from this past decade of work.
So I am working at a station with a good friend. The two of us got hired together, went to paramedic school together, and became good friends and hang out often on days off. When we actually worked together on the Rescue–it was rare–we had great times.
So we are working together, at a pretty busy station. We had already been on 3 or 4 calls when another call came in for an “immanent delivery.” We responded to a home to find a woman, 39 weeks pregnant, lying on her floor. Her husband was near her, placing cold rags on her forehead. As soon as we walk through the door she tells us the baby was coming (When a mother says this, its usually true.) We went into delivery mode right away, creating a sterile environment, preparing to do all the things you have to do to deliver a child. We find out that this will be their 6th child, and that they did not learn the sex during the ultrasound. They were wanting to be surprised. The delivery goes smooth as can be. No complications. Textbook. As the baby is delivered my partner tells them congratulations, it is a baby boy. My job at this point is to document everything and make a call to the hospital to inform them that we will be bringing a mother and newborn to their facility. The father starts making phone calls to friends and family, and mini celebrations are going on all around us about the birth of the new baby boy.
At this point, I glance down towards the baby to do a quick second assessment that we do on newborns. A score is assessed based on several things: breathing, appearance, muscle tone, etc. As I do my quick check, I noticed that a very important “boy part” is missing. I do the obligatory “eh-hum” to notify my partner that the baby is actually female. This is the point that, had we been a cartoon, the automatic sound bite of screeching brakes would automatically cue. My partner gets the family’s attention and solemnly tells them the update. As you can probably imagine, this causes sheer confusion. Almost a little panic. The father rushes over in disbelief, like it was a poorly timed April Fools joke, to see for himself as my partner tries his best to restore the initial excitement. “Its a baby girl, hooray?” It took a few minutes, but everything cleared up and turned out to be okay, except for the career long razzing that continues to be dished out in true firefighter fashion.