What It Feels Like to Hold the First 60 Seconds of a New Life in My Hands
As a pediatric physician working in a hospital, I take over the moment a baby is born, in the terrifying first minute that can mean the difference between life and death.
Illustrations by Kim Salt
Tense and Release My pager goes off. OR 10 it reads in fluorescent green letters. When I arrive at the operating room, the OB is poised with a scalpel, ready to cut. “Pediatrics is here,” says the scrub nurse in charge of the operating table. “Pedi is here,” the OB echoes, “Time to go.” He makes the first cut. In just a few minutes, a baby will be born. I turn to my station, a baby-sized hospital bed with a warming light that is already turned on and drawers holding everything I might need in case the baby requires resuscitation. Standing by the baby warmer is Denise, the nurse from the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. She’s an experienced hand whom I’ve worked with before. “Full term, repeat section, normal labs,” she says, shorthanding to me that this pregnancy has been unremarkable and the C-section is routine. This should be an easy one. I pick up the bag and mask used to pump air into a baby’s lungs if he is not breathing, and press the mask against…