Saturday, 4 June 2011

One angel in. One angel out.

Thank you all for your very kind and compassionate messages; we've recieved so much moral support from around the world and we are very grateful to you all.

It’s been a rough ride for us so far; losing JT the way we did and facing the prospect of his funeral and the due date, which is on my birthday. And ironically, a few days before the events that so suddenly and horribly robbed us of our second son, I delivered a little girl to a mother as she lay on the carpet of her front room, screaming like the proverbial banshee.

I couldn’t write about this call for obvious reasons. Until now, that is. Now that I am able to face up to it.

I walked in on the screams after going to the wrong location on what seemed like miles of urban insanity in the form of layer-cake housing. The dad – a young man – shouted at me and the ambulance crew, who’d arrived at the same time. He looked scared and said ‘It’s coming. The water’s all over the place’. Of course, he meant her waters had gone, and she was a large lady, so possibly the contribution to her daughter’s protective swimming pool was matched by her stature and girth. Who knows what nature plans when it comes to who gets how much?

So, I was in first – a little flat with a flight of steps leading to the front room and the screams. Adult cries had given way to those of a baby and at first I was convinced the little one had already been born but it wasn’t the newbie – it was her other child; the one-year-old. He was witnessing his mother’s all-to-convincing panic as she lay there, waiting for the inevitable as if she’d never experienced it before.

I calmed them down and asked dad to take the child away. This wasn’t going to get any easier because it was obvious that things were advanced.

The crew was in behind me; one paramedic and one student para. I took the lead because I was there first… and for no other reason really, and we set about gathering the woman on the floor into a more suitable position. She was about to give birth and lying flat was out of the question, so she needed to be propped up a bit. She was, as I’ve stated, a large lady, so this was no mean feat and it took three of us to manoeuvre her frame into a more appropriate position for delivery.

This, as you probably know, isn’t new to me. Many of us have delivered a lot of children, or, more accurately, assisted in the delivery, since they pretty much deliver themselves. So I don’t flap about it. Not like I used to when it was new and scary and there were complications I couldn’t deal with alone.

She (the pregnant woman) was screaming so loud with every contraction (pain relief or not) that my eardrums ached – and that is a singular miracle because it takes a lot to shake those dull things. But she was very, very loud and I wondered how she managed with the first child. I mean, this one was going to arrive much quicker and would be, as it normally goes, easier to deliver. ‘Why are you making all that noise?’ I asked her. ‘This should be easy for you now’.

It’s a mistake to underestimate a woman’s labour tantrum, so I left it alone while she bore down on demand and sucked hard on a well-bitten plastic Entonox mouthpiece.

The whole screaming-labour process lasted no more than twenty minutes and I watched as the baby’s head appeared. I’d already checked her for dilation and the mucus plug had gone – as had the waters earlier, so there were no surprises expected here. However, as she pushed to squeeze the little girl out of her, she began to deliver something else – something not quite so pleasant. She was doing what most, if not all pregnant woman in labour dread – she was defecating – right there, on the living room floor and right in front of me. This doesn’t always happen and so, I asked for an emergency kitchen roll to be brought in by her mother. ‘Is she pooing?’ asked mother. ‘Yes, I’m afraid she is’, I answered.

Unfortunately, baby wasn’t waiting much longer and as I juggled with the head-holding bit and asked the woman to pant and puff to slow the arrival, I had to act fast to stop the little thing from suffocating when she came out. So, I slipped my hand underneath as it delivered and allowed the neonate to land on my palm, just a few centimetres from the unfortunate mess, which would have caused more than a few problems in its first few minutes of life.

The baby was quite still for a few seconds and this is always the scariest bit… waiting for it to move and breathe. But, after a rub to stimulate it, she started to cry and I laid her on mummy’s belly. Of course, the screams had gone and now the woman was weeping with joy, as was daddy. He was standing there, crying like a child. He would be cutting the cord but the student paramedic, who told me she’d never seen a delivery from start to finish, got to place the clamps. Dad duly cut the cord and I gave him the cutters as a souvenir. He wouldn’t have got them from a midwife because they don’t allow it but I see this gesture as an important part of the dad-baby bonding process - he gets to hold on to the device that separated his daughter from his wife and made them a family.

We’d requested a midwife but (and this is not unusual I’m afraid) we were told that there wasn’t one available to visit. Then we were told, after a long wait, that I could go and collect one if necessary. Well, it was necessary and so I went outside to go to my car and sort this out.

When I got onto the landing outside, I saw two police officers walking around as if looking for trouble. I suddenly realised why they were there and approached them.

‘Are you here for us?’ I asked.

‘The neighbours have reported screaming coming from one of these flats’, the officer replied.

I had to smile; it was such an obvious story for them to tell when they got back to the station.

‘I wouldn’t worry about that’, I said, ‘The woman in number 52 has just given birth. She was screaming all the way through her labour. That’s all it was’.

They stood there looking bemused for a short time before leaving to find a real crime and I tried to call in about the midwife. I had no luck and Control got back to me and said they weren’t going to send one now and that I was to bring the woman in.

When I got back she’d delivered the placenta but there was a problem – it was still attached to her womb, so it was hanging from her. I explained the new circumstances to Control and they relayed them to the maternity unit but I got the same response – bring her in.

Now I’ve never had to deal with an attached placenta before (it’s called a retained placenta), so a plan was needed to move her while the thing was dangling from below. If it ripped, she could bleed badly and I didn’t want any more drama tonight, so I got the student to tie a plastic bag around it and attached it to her underwear (the woman's, not the student's), so that it stayed in place. It looked very bizarre, especially when we got her onto the carry chair. It bulged out from under her and looked like an operation that had gone terribly wrong. I felt sorry for her. Her dignity was already in tatters, especially with the neighbours, but she didn’t seem to care – she had a brand new baby.

Another crew was requested for the lift and transport of the mother and her baby, and they arrived very quickly. We got her out and to the ambulance without a hitch and she was taken to maternity, with her red-eyed happy husband and the new baby girl. We had a photo taken together – mum, dad, baby and her delivery team and then we left them to their lives.

It’s unusual for these photograph to surface again - they usually disappear into the family albums of those to whom they belong, so many of us don’t get a copy to keep for ourselves. I have one photo of myself, my colleague (and friend) Genna, and a mother and baby that we helped to deliver many moons ago, but that’s it. I haven’t seen any of the others.

Helping to bring a life into the world, (regardless of the chemical hazards that are sometimes involved!), is one of the most satisfying aspects of this job. I’ve been scarred by a few bad BBA’s as many of you know, but I still love the feeling of having a hand in the creation of a family by helping to safely deliver a newbie. Even after what Jac and I have been through, and with the utmost empathy and deepest respect to all those who have gone through similar or worse, I am still warmed by the thought of doing it.

Be safe.


Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Stu, hope this finds you and Jac supporting each other and growing your love.

Anonymous said...

Great story! I am glad you find peace in your job.
Be blessed.

Anonymous said...

I am very sorry for your loss, Stuart, but your description of the birth is what has prompted me to comment.
I have never been upset by one of your posts before, but your repeated criticism of this woman for pooing herself is really not on.
I'm sure she wouldn't have done it in normal circumstances, but she was pushing a baby out for chrissakes!
As the saying goes 'shit happens.' It's natural and normal and frankly a lot more acceptable than what some of your drunken and drugged patients deposit at your feet.
I crapped myself during a very difficult delivery and didn't find out until much later. I was very embarrassed. How do you know she wasn't? She might have been mortified and unable to find the words to express this.
I have suffered from PTSD (ie birth trauma) symptoms since I gave birth some years ago and the thought that a health professional would criticise a patient in this way on a public blog doesn't make me feel any better, that's for sure.

Jack said...

I'd like to leave a meaningful comment but how could I?
Maybe well done for this one.
Its not as the greatest sentence but there's real feeling there.
And keep going.

Xf said...


I'm sorry that you feel so strongly about this. It is an honest description, written the way I would have told it, regardless of what followed in my own life.

This isn't a scalding criticism of the poor woman's predicament at all and I don't feel it was a 'repeated' one either - it was a feature of a natural situation. In fact, the police being alerted to her screams was much more pertinent to any humour in the story than her embarrassment and she knew very well that, with everything else going on, it was something we all took in our stride.

I relate accounts honestly and with an admittedly acute sense of the way I actually felt and thought at the time. The lady knows what happened and there was never, at any time, anything but a professional and friendly atmosphere about it all.

I would remind you that I seek permission from my patients, wherever possible, to write about their experiences and they know I will be frank about it. Public forum or not, permission given or not, their confidentiality is always preserved and I have never had a single complaint from anyone I've written about when they read it; if I did, I would remove the post.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Wendy.

I have had three babies and with one I did poo whilst pushing. As you rightly say as a woman this is something you dread happening. If having your private parts on show for all to see is not embarressing enough!

The fact that you say that the lady asked if she had poo'd and you replied that she had but then go on to say " she didn't apologise"? Should she have had to?!

Then lastly when referring to your conversation with the police you say that "as if having a baby on the carpet whilst going to the loo wasn't criminal enough". Is this comment really necessary? You had earlier admitted that it is something that a woman can't control yet it should be classed as criminal?!

I am sorry for the loss of your baby but I fear what is happening in your personal life is affecting your writing at the moment.

Xf said...


I have read what you and Wendy have to say and agree with you. This is a diary and my emotions are, unfortunately all part of my writing... but not at the expense of someone else's dignity.

The 'accident' is all part of the story and therefore relevant but I shouldn't emphasise more than I have to of course.

No, I didn't mean she had to apologise - it was a statement of how she felt, not what I expected. As I said, the lady took it all in her stride.

I have edited this post and hopefully made it a little less hurtful to those of you who may be offended by it.

Sometimes it takes a lot of reflection to get things right and I apologise, as ever, if I have written outside of my normal style. And yes, maybe things are influencing how I say what I mean. It's not intentional.

Your comments will be removed in a while so that there is no trace of offence, but I will wait until you acknowledge this response and let me know if the story scans better.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response and editing.

It needs much better and as you say less offensive.

Lastly I really am sorry for your loss and hope that you and your Wife are coping as well as can be.

Anonymous said...

I offer my genuine sympathy for your loss. Words cannot really express the sadness one feels on learning of a fellow parents loss. I am so very sorry.

Unfortunately, I found the comments with regard to defecation and the screams of this lady's traumatic labour distressingly disrepectful. It may well have been the truth. But I feel you really showed complete lack of professional integrity in your description. A fast birth is painful and just because she had given birth previously does not mean that this labour was not more distressing or more painful than the first. Until you have given birth yourself I think description of the screaming of a womans labour in the way you did should perhaps have been kept to yourself. In respect for her situation. Screaming in pain is not a failure in itself. Do you think the larger lady experiences more pain perhaps. I don't know. I actually hope you remove this post in respect for the patient. Labour does hurt. Screaming is not illegal and I am pleased that you were their to help the process and take her to hospital although it does not sound as though you respected her at all and my gut instinct is she probably knew this.

I appreciate your commens also but I honestly think you should just remove the whole post. Obviously its your blog and you get to write what you want and I can choose not to read if I don't like it. But this is out of character and perhaps on reflection you will remove it.

I am sorry to be so brutally honest whilst you are suffering but perhaps the post shows that perhaps you need a little more time before you blog in this regard.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reflection and your response. I guess what really upset me was that the post seemed so out of character for you, which made it seem that you were having a real go at this woman for her bodily functions! However, Anon hit the nail on the head and I guess it is very hard to write about a subject like this when something so awful has happened to you.
My thoughts are with you - my 'birth trauma' pales into insignificance compared to the loss of a baby.
Thanks again

Kieran said...

This made brilliant reading mate. I'm pleased you could blog about this; at the end of the day we are all only human. Best wishes to you and your family at this difficult time.


Anonymous said...

iI have just read and been very touched by your ability to show such emotion for the joy of new life after your own and sunshine to you and yours K xx

Xf said...


Thank you for your initial comments but I am going to disagree with you now. I have edited what needs to be removed because I have been able to reflect on what you have said but, if you look at the way I write generally, you will see that this is NOT out of character for me at all.

Neither is my description of her screams in any way flippant because they were not always of pain - at no point do I suggest she was in agony. The woman was overdoing it, by her own admission and that of her mother. It was her 'I'm never going to let you near me again' response to having to push and not much more. She requested no pain relief and when given it by me, she hardly touched it until prompted to do so.

Sometimes, you have to trust me when I write these things the way I do. Those who know me personally... I mean actually know me, would disagree with your analysis of me. You can see by other comments that not everyone shares your views on this post.

I won't remove it for a few reasons - it is my blog and I will write it the way I see fit, within the guidelines of my employer where relevant. The woman had no problem with it and at no time felt disrespect from me or anyone else on scene. The post is part of my personal healing and it has helped a lot.

You were right to point out my highlighting of the incident associated with the birth but the way she reacted to her discomfort and my judgment of it are entirely reasonably described.

Her mother telling her to behave herself was no less respectful than my words describing her behaviour. And I do point out that one should never underestimate the reaction of a woman in labour.

So, with all due respect, this post will stay as a testament to the arrival of another life and my role in it

Anonymous said...

Thank you for NOT taking your post down. It is frustrating to see individuals wanting to curtail free speech. There was nothing inciting violence or hate in the post. It would be a boring and oppressive world if the only material available had to be deemed offensive to no one.

What was interesting was that the commenters who were most offended put THEMSELVES in the woman's position and responded as if it was them even though you already stated that the patient was OK with the post. Maybe if they could learn to instead try to imagine what a person different from themselves might feel or think, they would be able to open their minds.

Dr Hulda Clark said...

Hmm, that's a nice post regarding about Angles (Doctors), during the working time in Hospital...thank you for the post..

Christian said...

'Rock On' is the only words I can use to describe your good work Mr Gray.

Keep at it, and oh - Rock On!


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