As a hospice nurse, I spend a big part of my time on the phone – counseling, guiding and comforting patients and their families, even at the moment of death. I remember the first time I helped deliver a baby by phone as a midwife many years ago.
“IS THIS THE MIDWIFE?” The voice was hysterical.
“Yes.” I groggily responded, pulling the phone back from my ear. “Who’s calling?”
“Uh, You don’t know me and I’d rather not say…” he muttered.
“I see… Pot grower? Maybe someone on wanted posters? “Why are you calling? Do you have an emergency?”
“WELL, MY OLE LADY’S HAVING A BABY RIGHT NOW AND SHE’S SCREAMING HER FUCKING HEAD OFF. SOMETHING’S NOT RIGHT. A FRIEND HERE GAVE ME YOUR NAME AND I LOOKED YOU UP. CAN YOU HELP US?” he shouted, his words tumbling out of the phone.
“First, try to calm down. I can help you better if you don’t shout. Where are you?
“We’re way the hell out here in the southern part of the county.”
“Do you have anyone with you who knows how to deliver babies?”
“NO—We don’t know what we’re doing. I looked at a book and it didn’t seem like it was going to be this hard. Some friends came over. We boiled some shoelaces to tie around the cord. She’s hollering her head off. WE’RE ALL FREAKING OUT!” he screamed. I could hear the panic in his voice—and the deep, low-pitched screaming and moaning in the background. She sounded close. I knew transport was out of the question.
“Tell me. Did she see a doctor or midwife during her pregnancy?”
“No. We lived pretty far away, and we wanted to do this natural like.”
“Do you have any supplies there, like gloves?”
“Yep, we got those.”
“Okay. I’m going to help you. You can deliver this baby. You’ll be just fine. I need you to wash your hands, and then put on the sterile gloves. We need to determine what part of the baby is coming first—whether it’s a head or a butt. Put a friend on the phone and I’ll have him relay my instructions” When he was ready I proceeded to guide him through the exam.
I could hear shouting. “OKAY, OKAY, IT”S HARD… I THINK IT’S A HEAD… AND IT FEELS LIKE IT”S READY TO COME OUT. SHIT, MAN, I THINK IT’S RIGHT HERE!”
“Good. Good.” I calmly reassured him. “The baby is almost ready to be born. Make sure the room is warm. Place some towels under her bottom and coach her to just let the baby come on its own. If she feels like pushing, tell her to be gentle—little baby pushes. Have a blanket ready for the baby.”
His friend’s voice became my voice—calm and steady. I could hear the tension and excitement in the room, as the baby’s head slowly emerged—followed by the shoulders as they dipped beneath the pubic bone. The baby slid out onto the bed and let out a big cry.
“HOLY CRAP, HONEY, WE DID IT. WE DID IT!” he shouted with relief.
I stayed on the phone and waited until the placenta had been delivered, being sure there was no bleeding. From what I could tell the baby was doing fine—had already started sucking at the breast. The father came back on the phone. “Thanks lady. You were really cool. This was unbelievable. Man oh man. I sure want to thank you.” I made him promise to get the baby and his lady to a doctor to be checked the next day, and call to let me know how they were doing. “You owe me that, buddy.” I said.
When I hung up I tucked back into my warm covers, feeling rather pleased—rather like an airport controller. I’d never “talked a baby in” before.