The page came in: “9 Echo. Infant.”
A “9 echo” means a cardiac arrest. I threw on a Fire Department t-shirt and jogged out the door to my truck.
I felt dread. I visualized infant CPR. I hoped that I wouldn’t be first on scene. I drove fast, replaying “9 Echo. Infant,” in my mind. That’s all the
information we had. Was it a traumatic arrest? SIDS? A newborn?
A few minutes later I heard 911 dispatch back on the radio: “Baby now has a pulse of 150!”
I muttered to myself, “Come on, baby! Come on!”
I drove up a wet and winding mountain road, and then descended into the little village. Parking on the road, I jogged down the dirt driveway to join the crew on scene. Two other firefighters arrived at the same time and ran with me.
Excited dogs barked and nipped at us. The sheriff pulled up. The medic who arrived first popped his head out the door, relief on his face. “Baby’s fine. Pulseless when he was delivered. Doing good now. Waiting for the placenta. Midwife is here.”
Midwife? I thought. It was a birth?
All of us tried to pretend we were “cool,” but there were big smiles all around.
Another firefighter and I sat on the porch and calmed the dogs. Even though it was late on a snowy night at the end of April, I didn’t want to leave.
New Life Abounds
We’d gone from dread to determination to relief in a few moments. I suddenly began to feel the exaltation of a birth. I hadn’t even been in the room, but the sense of a newborn emanated out of the little house. I just wanted to sit on that porch for a few more minutes and let it wash over me.
New life. If you allow it in, it’s primal feeling. Wet, bloody, painful, fragile and single-minded. It hung there on a thread between the extraordinary promise of life and the abyss. This time, life was chosen. “I am!” the little voice cried out. “I am!” And I just wanted bask in that sound for a moment.
Balancing the Scales
A few weeks later, another medic and I were talking in our noisy station, firefighters laughing, talking and checking equipment. He had been in the room with the baby. We talked about that birth and the others we’d been on over the years.
“It balances the scales,” he said. “All the stuff we see. . .” his voice trailed off.
“A healthy baby balances years of the horror we see.”
I nodded. It was true.
I thought about my family’s favorite movie line, from the first Jurassic Park: “Life finds a way.”
I think that is what we mean. The cry, “I am” from a newborn is life one more time finding a way. It’s all around us all the time. It’s truly miraculous when we stop, look and listen. Life is all around us finding ways.
My medic friend, who can be taciturn, was smiling. He still had that inexplicable feeling of lightness that comes at a birth, when life triumphs yet again.
And I thought that although death is ever-present for our vocation, life is the most powerful force on our planet.
“I am” cried the newborn.