Sabbath Baby

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She spilled out of the elevator as the doors opened, huffing and puffing. I could still feel the cold off her wool coat, which was not close to closing over her huge pregnant abdomen. Not many patients came up this back elevator directly into Labor and Delivery unless the Emergency Department staff brought them--she must know the hospital well.

by NY2LA NY2LA (New)

Sabbath Baby

"Good evening--may I have your name please, and can you tell me what brings you here tonight?''

"I'm Muriel Rabinowitz, a patient of Dr. Myers, and I'm in labor."

She was very calm, so I was also as I searched the files for her prenatal record. "Thank you, Mrs. Rabinowitz, I'm just getting your papers from Dr. Myers's office. Have you been pregnant before?"

"Yes, this is my eighth baby."

EIGHTH BABY?! The phrase sent me straight to survival mode--my survival. What was this woman thinking, coming here tonight? Didn't she know I was a new grad on the night shift in L&D, and the only reason I was here alone was that there wasn't supposed to be anyone in labor? No, I guess she didn't know, poor woman.

"Is anyone with you?"

"My husband is taking the stairs. We talked about it and decided it would be okay for me to take the elevator on the Sabbath, but he should take the stairs."

I looked at her again and noticed her head scarf. It wasn't for the cold; it was a head covering. Eighth baby, the Sabbath--I put the pieces together. Our hospital served the Hassidic Jewish community on the lower east side of Manhattan. They were strict about respecting the Orthodox Jewish laws about not doing work (e.g., using machinery) on the Sabbath, and they had as many babies as God gave them. How had she gotten to the hospital? Had they walked the whole way?

I decided that question could wait for later. She said she thought she had time to change into a hospital gown while I called her doctor, but then I ushered her directly into the delivery room.

"When did your labor begin?"

"I felt my back twinge earlier, but I thought it was just because I was bending so much trying to get both dishwashers unloaded before sundown."

"Both dishwashers? Yes, I guess with seven kids you need two dishwashers."

She looked at me with pity that anyone could be so stupid. "One is for meat, and one is for dairy," she explained patiently. Of course. What was I thinking?

I ran out to call for some help, smack into a gray-bearded man in a heavy overcoat. He was huffing and wheezing more than the woman about to give birth.

"I'm Rabbi Rabinowitz. Is my wife in there?"

"Yes, Rabbi; I'll get someone to help you into the cover gown you need to come in and be with her." He was flushed from his trek up to the eighth floor. In those days, we were supposed to send the fathers back down to Admitting to complete the registration process. There was no way I could send this poor man back downstairs. I would have to explain to the supervisor later. And where was that supervisor, anyway?

"No thank you, Nurse, this is my place, right here outside the door, if that is okay with you." He politely refused a chair. I was concerned about him keeling over, but he was going to have to fend for himself for now.

I dragged the nurse's aide back into the delivery room with me to help me get the patient's legs up in stirrups since I could see the head crowning. Then I asked her to go out and get the doctor.

She was back in a flash, with eyes like saucers. "I'm not going out there. He's chanting on me."

"What?"

"That man out there. He's chanting on me. I'm not going past him."

I looked out the window in the Dr door. The rabbi was rocking gently back and forth on his heels. His lips were moving and his eyes were closed. Mrs. Rabinowitz was panting hard, trying not to push.

"Elsie, that is the baby's father. He is not 'chanting on you.' He is saying prayers in Hebrew for his wife and for his baby. If he is mentioning you at all, he's praying for you, which may be a good thing because you're going to be catching this baby if I have to go out and find Dr. Myers. The way you're shaking, you would probably drop the baby, so go get Dr. Myers. Yell into the doctors' lounge and tell him to come in here now; I don't care if he's naked."

She ran out the door with a towel over her head for protection and returned with Dr. Myers. Mrs. Rabinowitz could not hold back anymore and delivered a beautiful baby boy with one grunt.

Tears were streaming down the rabbi's face as I brought the baby to the doorway to show him. Dr. Myers and Mrs. Rabinowitz recounted all of her deliveries, and how he was getting closer and closer to missing the birth. Another nurse showed up to help me at some point, but I was proud of how I had managed on my own.

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2 Comment(s)

RNLaborNurse4U

Specializes in L&D. Has 10 years experience.

Great birth story!!

Thank you for the feedback--I am glad you enjoyed it.