I hate doing it.
It's filled with the possibilities of disaster.
It frightens me half to death.
It's messy and smelly.
I really hate doing it.
So how come, every time I do, I end up grinning like a Cheshire Cat?
Maternataxis. That's what we call them. The calls for an ambulance that the mum-to-be has had nine months in which to plan her transport, and at the last minute realises that a free taxi, even if it is bright yellow with blue flashing lights, is the cheapest taxi of all. More often than not, in fact I'd guess that in about 90% of the time, when we are called to a woman in labour, her contractions are still miles apart, and she still has hours to go. She walks on to the ambulance from home, walks off again at the hospital, and on many occasions walks out of the hospital again after a short while for another 24 hours until the baby's actually ready. Most paramedics whinge about these calls not being "proper" ambulance work. I agree to some extent, and sometimes join in the whiny chorus, but then always count my lucky stars that someone else will actually have to do the delivery bit.
This time was different. Dad-to-be was downstairs, outside the block of flats, looking pale as a sheet. "THE BABY'S BORN! THE BABY'S BORN!". Millions of expletives rush through my head as I grab four different bags of equipment and follow the dust trail he's left as he's sprinted at world record speed up to the fourth floor. Why are the proper jobs never, ever, on ground level???
Mum-to-be, Andrea, has had the sense to get in the bath. Not like the last time I went to a delivery to see the white couch and rug totally destroyed. When I say she had the sense, it was really more by luck than judgement. She'd had no contractions, still had a week until the official due-date, and her last labour lasted two whole days. So she had no forewarning as to what was about to happen. Andrea gets in the bath, and has a first contraction. Followed closely by a second. Followed very closely by a third, a push, and then a baby.
As I catch up with Dad and enter the flat, there's yet another flight of stairs until we get to Andrea. Just as I get there, baby is fully delivered, and all I've got to do is get him warmed up, breathing properly and turn him a better colour. I hand Dad the scissors and the honour of cutting the cord. Good thing it doesn't have to be a particularly surgical cut, as his hands are shaking so hard, that he almost cuts in zig-zags.
Babies born in a hurry sometimes struggle to get their breathing regulated. Part of the process of labour is to tell baby's lungs that they're about to start needing to breath air instead of amniotic fluid. If labour's only been 15 minutes, the lungs have a bit of a shock when they're exposed to the totally alien environment that's going to be home for the (un)foreseeable future. So I add a bit of oxygen to the atmosphere, and baby's colour starts to pick (or pink) up. The ambulances turn up as well, and we get ready to transfer Andrea and baby to hospital.
In the process of baby's unexpected arrival, another role has been created. That of The Big Sister. TBS is, understandably, very excited with her new job. She takes to the role like a duck to water. She may only be three years old, but she knows that while mum's gone, she has to look after everything, make sure that dad's ok, remind nan that she has to be there to help, and tell mum that she has to look after the baby during the journey, and come home soon.
Andrea is ready to go, and we head down to ambulance. A mass convoy of ambulance people all grinning like Cheshire Cats, one holding mum, one holding baby, and three holding all the kit that I dragged upstairs.
As we arrive at the ambulance, the newly-installed Big Sister is standing on the balcony, observing the scene like a member of the Royal Family standing at the front of Buckingham Palace. Just as mum's about to disappear into the ambulance, a yell from upstairs halts the procession. "MUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMM!!!!!"
"Yes, Big Sister..."
"MU-UM...", there's a long pause as Big Sister thinks about how to phrase it.
Mum's delight amongst the discomfort is evident.
Just in time, several other people appear on their balconies to hear Big Sister make her important announcement.
"MUM, HOPE YOU COME BACK SKINNY!!!!!"