Maternity nurses’ New Year’s Eve unpredictable as any night
MACON, Ga. (AP) — At 6:50 p.m. on a Monday, Stephanie Matheney swipes her nurse’s badge at the clock-in station and prepares for a long night ahead. The labor and delivery nurse expects her 12-hour overnight shift at the Family Ties Birthing Center at the Coliseum Medical Centers to be just like any other: unpredictable.
No expecting mothers have scheduled an induction, and Matheney doesn’t know if she’ll have the chance to help deliver a baby before she leaves in the morning.
But on this particular Monday, she hopes at least one baby will be born. It would be the hospital’s first delivery of the new year.
“I hope, you know, that we do have somebody come in, that we have a good, safe delivery, and the mom and baby are ok,” Matheney says.
She knows she can’t count on a newborn. All she can do is wait.
Once Matheney sets her things in the break room, she walks over to the nurses station, where several other women dressed in teal scrubs and slip-on clogs review patient charts on their computer screens.
A patient has just checked in and needs assistance, one of the nurses tells Matheney. The expecting mother isn’t due until April, but she has a fever and feels achy. Matheney hooks the patient up to some fluids and tests her for the flu, just to make sure she and her baby are safe.
Within about an hour, the patient is cleared to go home. The labor and delivery unit is quiet, for now.
As a stream of hospital employees pass through the maternity ward to leave for the night, OB Tech Cowana Smith ambles in with two fresh pizzas in hand.
The only way to get through the night shift is with a lot of food, Matheney says.
While things are still slow in the unit, the nurses munch on slices of pizza and chat about cruises and horror stories they’ve heard on the news.
The night crew is tight-knit, Matheney says. They laugh and eat together during the quiet hours of the evening, but they’re also quick to offer support when things get busy.
“If you have a delivery, you’re gonna have a lot of help,” she says. “You’re not gonna be in there by yourself.”
The delivery rooms are still empty as Matheney and her colleagues scroll through educational modules on their screens. The nurses are required to complete continued education lessons online throughout the year, and they often spend spare moments during their 12-hour shifts working on assignments.
After completing a lesson in bloodborne pathogens, Matheney begins to prepare delivery rooms. She stocks the cabinets with blankets, towels and medical supplies, floating between storage closets as she gathers everything she needs.
The nurse wipes down electrical cords and monitoring devices with antibacterial wipes and writes a welcome message on the whiteboard in each room.
Then she lines the baby warmer in the corner of each station with footprint-covered baby blankets, ready for swaddling. She rests a tiny pink and blue knit hat and a few fresh diapers on top.
Things can move quickly once a patient arrives, Matheney says, so it’s good to have everything in place ahead of time, just in case.
At midnight, a handful of overnight employees gather to drink sparkling grape juice and eat cake as a livestream of the ball drop in Times Square plays in the background. The nurses pose for pictures in shiny top hats and call loved ones to wish them a happy new year.
As 2019 rolls in, it’s still calm in the birthing center.
Shortly after midnight, the once-quiet labor and delivery unit is suddenly buzzing. Raven Mitchell has just arrived with her mother, Artisha Mitchell, and she’s already been feeling contractions for over 24 hours.
Mitchell was due to deliver the day before, but doctors sent her home and told her to wait a bit longer. As soon as she got home and tried to fall asleep, Mitchell started to feel contractions.
“Every time I tried to doze off and go to sleep, there’s a contraction. All night long,” Mitchell says. “I was, like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I was screaming.”
After waiting out the pain all day, Mitchell is ready to deliver her baby.
Just before 1 a.m., the nurses confirm that she’s six centimeters dilated and take her to delivery room two, where they hydrate her with intravenous fluids to prepare her for a shot of epidural, which her mother assures her will help ease the pain.
Barely 10 minutes later, another expecting mother checks in. Zequila Martin is just over 32 weeks pregnant (a normal term is 40 weeks), but she’s delivered a preterm baby and can tell things are moving quickly.
All of the nurses are scrambling between rooms, gathering materials and printing forms while their patients pant through contractions.
Minutes before 3 a.m., the nurses wheel Martin into delivery room one, and within 45 minutes, she’s about five centimeters dilated.
Mitchell is still farther along, though, and progressing quickly. The nurses think she’ll be the hospital’s first baby of the year.
A nurse calls Mitchell’s OBGYN to let her know the patient is nine centimeters dilated and almost ready to start pushing. The doctor will be right over, the nurse is told, as soon as she finishes delivering the first baby at the Medical Center, Navicent Health.
She laughs and hangs up the phone.
“The Med(ical Center) beat us to it,” the nurse says.
With an hour left in the overnight shift, another patient checks in and is taken to an outpatient room for observation.
By 6:18 a.m., Martin has suddenly surpassed Mitchell and is fully dilated, ready to push. Matheney and Smith suit up in blue gowns, caps and booties and shuffle into room one, where a team stands ready to deliver Martin’s baby.
At 6:24 a.m., Ase Kadijah Reynolds is born, and her first cries fill the hallway. The baby is healthy, but premature, so she’s quickly swaddled and whisked to the neonatal intensive care unit for extra attention.
Martin is exhausted. Her labor moved so quickly, she didn’t even have time to get a shot of epidural, as she’d hoped.
When Martin started to feel contractions earlier in the evening, she prayed they’d pass, and that she’d make it a bit longer. Her daughter had other plans, though.
Martin knows the baby who kicked her through the night will be a “busybody little baby.”
“She got my son’s nose, her daddy’s face features and my attitude,” she says, before drifting to sleep.
Just before the sun begins to peak out through the clouds on New Year’s morning, Matheney finishes up a bit of paperwork at her desk, now surrounded by a new team of nurses getting started for the day shift.
Mitchell still hasn’t given birth yet, but she’s close.
The labor and delivery unit in Macon is bustling, even as the rest of the city is still asleep, recovering from last night’s festivities.
“Tonight was a pretty typical night,” Matheney says. “It was pretty calm, and then, all of the sudden, you have patients coming in back to back.”
One baby has already been born, and two more are on the way as the night crew gets ready to clock out.
The sun hasn’t even risen yet, and Matheney has already watched one new life come into the world. Now, she’s ready to get some sleep. At least until her own daughter wakes her up in a few hours.
Information from: The Telegraph, http://www.macontelegraph.com