Grabbing for Oxygen

I went by an oxygen refill depot this morning and as I saw the Flammable Liquids sign, I had an incredible rush that felt like that ice bucket challenge where the bucket of ice and water are poured over your head in one big splash. But instead of ice cubes, it was memories that fell around me. Inside me, actually. 


In less than five seconds, I flashed on the dozens of times I had used oxygen on a mother or baby, sometimes even both at the same time (which is why I always carried two tanks and had an assistant).

  • the baby born in the water after stuck shoulders
  • the mom whose baby inside needed it
  • the baby that came out floppy for no observable reason
  • the mom bleeding a bit too much and feeling lightheaded
  • the baby with respiratory distress
  • the mom panicking about a segment of her labor
  • the baby with blue lips, but no visible respiratory distress
  • the mom waiting for the ambulance to transport her for postpartum hemorrhage
  • the baby born after a shoulder dystocia

The list goes on and repeats multiple time.

The Energy in a Memory

At the same time as the bucket was poured over me, I felt an electric shock coursing through my body. In another world, someone might call it panic, but for me, a doula and/or midwife for 32 years, it was High Alert.

Thunder Lightning

Early on, under supervision, that energy sometimes pushed my movements too quickly and if I was using the bag and mask on the baby, I might not dry the baby’s face enough and the oxygen mask would slide off the nose or not seal the mouth and nose completely, ruining the entire purpose of the exercise. It took a couple of times, and the attending midwife saying something, before I realized what was happening and corrected my actions. I learned to take a deep breath before placing the mask, to make sure the baby was dried, warm, and the equipment was ready when I reached out with my hand… all in about two seconds’ time.

Bag and Mask Resuscitation

Managing the energy in an emergency is crucial. I operated well under stress, while it was happening, but, as happens, after the crisis was over, shaking and, for me, often tears of release/relief occurred.

It was then, I was able to, with my lungs, grab my own oxygen… and breathe.

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