Friday, August 30, 2013

Childbirth, Self Confience and Leadership

I am a great follower.

What I mean by that is if there is an individual present who I perceive to be in authority I yield easily him or her. This has served me well in many instances with good leaders. It has also served me very poorly as there have been times I have followed the commands of "authority" knowing it wasn't the best course of action.

There is a lot of safety and comfort in not making decisions for yourself or anyone else. Being able to point at someone else and say, "I'm just doing what he told me to," is a safety net I enjoyed in my youth. It got me off the hook many times.

But it's really no way to live a life. Yes, there are times when you need to know how to follow orders completely and without question. There are other times when you need to stand up to authority and say, "I'm not doing that." There are also other times when you have to step up and be the leader no one else can be in the moment.

My first role as a leader was as a high school drama team leader. There were four teams and ours came in dead last. It made me never want to be a leader again and I avoided leadership roles as long as I could.

But leadership roles have found me and life is nothing if it isn't a series of things you have to do that you may not want to do.

As the movie quote goes: Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to.

I've gotten more and more comfortable in a role as leader. When I instruct I take my role as leader very seriously. I am fun and we have a good time but I have no problem getting authoritative when it comes to certain things like safety.

I have not been given the opportunity to be a leader as an EMT. I've always been under the supervision of paramedics or senior EMTs and, much to my own surprise, I really want to be lead! I feel very confident in my skills as an EMT and I feel as though I would do a decent job... at least until I got more experience and then I would rock it!

Previously, even if I was on the correct path, being in a leadership role would make me panic. The higher the stakes the more the panic. It put a knot in my chest and I would doubt myself constantly. I was constantly on the edge of freezing up entirely and that scared me more than not knowing what to do.

I'm finding that EMT training has helped my self confidence more than anything else I have ever done to date. It has given me a sense of self awareness and preparation that makes me feel confident and ready for almost anything. It has given me far more confidence to look at someone and say, "You! Do this!.. You! Pick that up!... You! Start doing this... You! STOP!"

That being said, I've seldom been tested on my own. I've always had a safety net of other experienced people around me. When I have been tested has been in relatively low-stress environments.

Then I got a phone call at 6:30 on a Sunday morning.

My friend and neighbor was having a home birth and, trusting my skill as an EMT to recognize a dangerous situation and being close friends, she had wanted me at her birth.

Her midwife lived an hour away and so I knew that there was a good chance I would be the only caregiver for quite some time. If something went wrong or the birth was exceptionally fast it would be on me to make decisions and lead the family in the correct course of action. As honored as I was to be trusted in that role I was worried I wasn't ready.

But when her husband said, "It's baby time," I sprang into action.

I was at their house in less than five minutes and a little surprised at just how calm I was. Mom was doing well, laboring well and I took a moment to recognize what was going on and orient myself to what needed to be done.

We'd gone through childbirth in EMT training and having had two children of my own the process was not new to me but this would be the first birth I would be attending as a caregiver and not a mother in labor.

I realized that dehydration and a lack of energy is a huge complication in labor. I asked Mom what she'd had to eat or drink that morning. I got her drinking water as her husband set up the birthing area.

Between contractions we made a game of figuring out baby's position so I knew I wasn't dealing with a surprise breach. During contractions I was her support and couch.

When I recognized she was going through transition and the midwife still wasn't there I waited for the panic to come but it didn't. I moved Mom to the birthing area and started thinking about what needed to be done if baby came and there was no midwife.

Mom started pushing in earnest and still the panic didn't come. I started mentally going through the check list of things to do to assess both baby and Mom.

I made sure we didn't have parts of the baby coming out first that weren't supposed to be coming out first and told her to do whatever she felt her body was telling her to do.

I was ready... totally and completely ready to deliver that baby on my own with no hesitation when the midwife finally walked through the door.

Baby was born about fifteen minutes later into mine and the midwife's hands.

One of the most incredible moment in my life aside from delivering my own children.

Afterward, my job was to continue monitoring Mom's vital signs and assist the midwife. I fell back into the role of assistant, taking instruction from the midwife. Handling the blood and relative gore of the afterbirth was a breeze though when it came to that part everyone else was more than happy to leave me and the midwife to ourselves.

Delivering a baby may not be as stressful as some things people find themselves facing. But it was a crystal clear moment to me of how far I've come in my ability to handle stressful situations and leadership roles. I had a lot of responsibility resting on my shoulders. I was completely alone as a caregiver and trusted to make the right call when it came to the health of both Mom and Baby. I had no tools except my EDC bag, a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and a telephone. And I rocked it.

The best moment of the day for me was when a friend of the family arrived, looked at me and said, "Who are you?"

Mom said, "She is my birthing assistant. She was here for an hour before the midwife got here and I don't know what I would have done without her. She was helping me so much. She was amazing!"

That's right.

I was amazing!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you did a fantastic job! That's one of the toughest parts of life... preparing and training for something that you can simulate, but can't actually test until like presents the opportunity or challenge... I have great confidence from my days as a police officer years ago... as a CCW person, I train, prepare, and hope to not have my skills, knowledge, and abilities tested because I really don't want to be a deadly situation, but since I've been there before... I know I can handle it... but it's not something most folks want to have tested in real life... and you can't test yourself with true reality until it happens...

    I think the other reason that I, like you, like to be in charge, be the leader... is I'm a big believer in personal responsibility... and I also don't always know if the leaders in some situations are prepared or know what they are doing... I've tauught my daughter while she was growing up that sometimes leaders - like school teachers in a actual fire, emergency, or active shooter situation will get her killed with their ignorance, panic, or mis-informed ideas... so sometimes she may have to ignore the leader she is supposed to follow...

    Good stuff, and congrats on that baby!

    Dann in Ohio