It had been a long day in the delivery room and I was anxious to witness a real live birth for the first time. The only woman in active labor who might accommodate me seemed to be stalled on the stork fast-track.
As part of my student nurse training I had been right with the patient since early morning. The on-duty obstetrical nurse insisted I take a break.
“Go get a tray from the cafeteria and bring it up here to eat your lunch so you’ll be close if things change.”
I had never seen anything born--not a dog or cat or calf. I studied the subject and passed the tests, but before I could get checked off on this rotation, it was important for the reality of childbirth to be more than just a virtual one.
As I got comfortable and ready to enjoy some great smelling food I heard the unmistakable roar of my call to arms.
“Come on girl…HURRY! “
The kind nurse I had been watching all day seemed to morph into a drill sergeant.
“It’s now or never. Move, move, move. You don’t have to scrub since you’re just observing, but you must have on the gown, gloves, paper cap, and mask.”
After practicing with diligence, I had that part down pat. No one had warned me that butterflies and butter fingers would take over as real life was about to be served to me with no apologies.
That day would mark a milestone, a step toward maturity for a naive nineteen year old. It’s as if I stepped through a fog of ignorance into a new understanding about the human body--and even more—about the awesome wonder of God.
The doctor was already on the small stool at the foot of the table, poised to do his part in the birth drama. Sergeant Nurse was at the other end commanding the woman to push, now breathe…push, now breathe.
I felt myself attempting to help the new mother with my own vicarious response. It was like trying to operate a vehicle for someone else, except from the passenger seat. You can slam your foot on the floor board a million times, but the car will not stop if you are not in the driver’s seat.
Things begin to happen fast. What I figured would take a long time, didn’t. The young doctor was impressively calm as he spoke to the tiny, slippery being already in his hands.
“Hey fella…welcome to the world.”
My eyes must have been as big as proverbial saucers…flying ones.
He continued in his soothing controlled manner as he wielded the bulb suction with ease.
“Let’s get some of that stuff out of your mouth so your mama can hear what you have to say.”
He looked at me and winked as he flicked the tiny thing on the bottom of its foot.
“Okay, little one… ready, set, breathe!”
When that precious first sound came out of the brand spanking new infant, I was frozen in amazement at what I had just witnessed.
The obstetrician guessed there was something important I was failing to do. I could barely hear his firm admonition, “...and you too, Missy.”
Nurse Nice was back from her brief military stint at the head of the delivery table. After the baby was whisked off to the nursery she told me to sit down as she finished her part in the blessed event.
I walked back to the lounge, a little dazed, and removed the surgical garb. Ten minutes before, I had been ravenously hungry. Now the cold food held no interest for me. I needed to be quiet and process what the staff in this area took for granted.
I found a quiet place by a window in the empty waiting room and sat down in an old fake-leather chair to watch the rain pound on the emergency room sign. A human had just taken his very first breath, ever. It was such a revelation to me--this life thing.
The act of breathing had monumental implications. That first inspiring, baby-birthing episode jump-started my thinking about spiritual things. God had breathed existence into Adam. The Holy Spirit had breathed on the Disciples to impart His power to them.
In the end, it was the patients who breathed their last who taught me the most important lesson on earth: no matter when inhalation begins, like milk or formula, each of us still has a final expiration date.
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