When Johnny Met Rosie--Women in EMS Part 8: Baby On Board

This month's column discusses the one thing that is irrefutably a woman's role--pregnancy!

"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." --Rajneesh

One thing writing this series on women in EMS has done is put me in touch with remarkable people. I get letters from all over the country from women who tell me about their experiences in EMS. One letter came from Saveria Sardone, a paramedic out of Chester County, PA, who asked me what it was like to work while I was pregnant. I read the question a few times and began laughing out loud.

How could I have gone this far in a series about women working in EMS and not covered the one thing that is absolutely gender-specific? The one thing we can do that is irrefutably a woman's role? Pregnancy--that life-creating medical miracle that turns us from one of the guys into something mystical and suddenly fragile, something...feminine.

EMS is an unpredictable job; the same applies to its physical demands. You can never predict from one call to the next what will be asked of you. Will you have enough resources to assist you? What will be required to remove a patient safely from the scene? Is there the potential for violence? Is the driver operating your vehicle doing the best he or she can to get to the destination safely versus quickly? These are all risks that we enter into every single dispatch taking.

You just don't notice them quite so much until you are pregnant.

I don't know about the rest of you, but my ob-gyn hated my line of work. During my early check-ups I would get the stern "no lifting anything over 25 lbs in the first trimester" lecture, which was met by a raised eyebrow and barely suppressed scoff. There were the lectures about getting enough rest, hydration, eating right, staying off my feet and in general doing everything that I was not hardwired to do. I have always had more than one job, I suck at drinking water, and I worked nights. so nutritional needs were met when opportunity struck, not how the guidelines dictated. If putting my feet up on the dash counts, well at least I did that.

One thing that does come with pregnancy (besides water weight and an intense craving for pancakes at 2 a.m.) is the sudden and unexpected reemergence of chivalry. All of a sudden, I never seemed to lack for an extra set of hands. I would get nudged out of the way when I started to grab my fair share of equipment, sometimes not too kindly, either. My stair chair technique grew rusty, because if I even thought of picking up my usual end it was met with cries of dismay. If I was having a bad day, it was no longer met with payback, just quiet suffering. Even the dispatchers kept an ear to the ground, and my workload was as good as they could make it for me, especially toward the end before my leave.

Frankly, on some level, it irritated the crap out of me.

We work so hard for parity--to be seen as a fully functional team member--that I did not want to be viewed as weak or incapable. There was a ridiculously stubborn part of my brain that resented being told what I could or should not do. You know that everyone is being considerate and that it's not a personal insult or implication of your inability to do the work, but it still feels unnecessarily restrictive, especially if you are feeling fine physically.

And that, my dears, is because it has yet to hit you. It's not just about you anymore, is it?

No, it's about that delicate life developing inside you. The one you're exposing to all these unavoidable risks every time you go to work, whose very existence depends on you and your continued good health. Misjudging a lift, getting into an accident, the wrong fall or a kick to the stomach from a combative patient, and suddenly what would have been just an injury is now a tragedy. It's a very sobering prospect once you wrap your brain around it, and it often doesn't come until there's undeniable proof that there's another person there. You feel that tiny flutter, that little karate kick to the liver, and suddenly your entire perspective changes, and your every day routine becomes filled with new and exotic fears.

This content continues onto the next page...