Moments before delivery, the concerned mom paused to ask the doctor, "Are you okay?"
Very few woman choose natural childbirth, mostly because it hurts really bad and epidural pain relief is safe and effective. This patient was the exception. She was determined to deliver her baby naturally, no medications at all. As a result during labor she could move and position herself as she pleased.
When it came time to begin pushing, she asked the nurse if she could squat at the end of the bed so she could push more effectively. The nurse and I found a "squat bar," attached it to the bed and helped her position herself for the final stages of labor.
Between contractions she rested, and then with each labor pain she lowered herself into a deep squat, hung on to the bar and pushed, her lower half a few feet off of the floor. While this was an effective pushing position it made it difficult for me to monitor her progress! I needed to kneel to perform an exam. When I thought the moment of birth was near, I again squatted down to check the baby's head position as she pushed.
As I settled into the squat, I suddenly felt searing pain as the reconstructed anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee exploded, my leg buckled and gave way beneath me. I felt myself falling and, almost in slow motion, I stumbled forward. In a panic I reached out my hand and grabbed the delivery table to catch myself, stopping my face mere inches from experiencing an embarrassing head on collision with the baby. (Not sure how I would have explained that to the dad!). The baby's head was "crowning" meaning the top the head was just emerging and delivery was moments away!
I gathered myself, balancing on my good leg. Pain had drained color from my face and I felt droplets of cold sweat appear on my forehead. The contraction ended and the mother looked at me with a concerned look on her face and asked, "Doctor, are you okay?" I wasn't, but it didn't matter. It was time.
I turned to the nurse, "Can you check and see if there are any other doctors on the floor?" I was not sure I could complete the delivery. The nurse picked up the phone and called the nurse's station. She turned back to me, shaking her head, "No one is here but you."
I took a deep breath and replied, "I think I am going to need a stool!"
The nurse wheeled a stool over and lowered the bed so I could be seated while the baby was born. Within a few minutes the baby arrived, fortunately without any difficulty or complications. Once I was sure mom and baby were fine, I hobbled out of the room. Leaving behind a happy family and a memorable story!
I was not at my best, but I was the only doctor available. There were no other options. It was an “Apollo 13” moment, failure was not an option!
I wonder if maybe Mary's husband Joseph didn't feel similarly incapable the night Jesus was born. Young, inexperienced and alone, there were no other options available. A teen-aged mother and a young man had no choice but to trust God and do their best.
Isn't that life in a nutshell? So many times we find ourselves in challenging circumstances, overwhelmed and seemingly alone. In those moments trusting God is so crucial. We must do the best we can, knowing that the God who "delivers" will "deliver" us again.
This post was originally published 2 years ago, I share it again this Christmas in the hope that it will give perspective as we approach again the season of the year in which the Savior was born. Feel free to share it with others, or offer comments below.