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'The birth of my daughter was a massive learning curve for me as a student nurse'


My newborn daughter was delivered by emergency caesarean, the start of a massive learning curve for me not just as a dad but as a student nurse.

As we speak, my month old daughter is looking up from her moses basket, happily listening to the sound of me typing on the computer.

She’s a beautiful, healthy colour and she is coming on a bundle! She was born 7.5lbs on the 19th December and we named her Reese Jai Whitehead.

However, she did not always have a healthy colour to her skin. Nor could she breathe adequately to begin with. After three days of labour, she was delivered by emergency caesarean. Unfortunately, she did not breathe for two minutes when she was delivered as she had aspirated merconium (ingested foetal faeces into one of her lungs) which caused her lung to collapse (a pneumothorax). She needed resuscitating and whisking up to NICU (neonatal intensive care) to be ventilated and also have a chest drain inserted to help re inflate her lung. My wife had also caught sepsis and passed it on to Reese.

This was the beginning of a huge learning curve.

I have always appreciated and fully valued the importance of compassion and caring in nursing. Inasmuch, this experience would teach me the importance of how valuable it is to have a highly professional medical team, who know exactly what they are doing. It would also teach me how important it is to come across as confident and competent as a nurse.  

At a time of medical emergencies and life or death situations, compassion is not the main thing required of nurses. Instead it’s probably quick thinking. At this point, I feel relatives are not really concerned with whether you care or not. They only care whether you are good at your job, and you know exactly what you are doing.

The medical staff at my daughter’s birth demonstrated a confident, professional attitude with plenty of compassion to go alongside it. They offered up more information than they needed to at times and they seemed to be able to answer every query I threw at them (and believe me, nurses make the worse patients so I was keeping them on their toes, poor people!).

Whether or not they actually were confident in the prognosis of my daughter was irrelevant as, they came across as confident at the point of care and that instilled me with feelings of wondrous relief that she was in the right place. Eye contact was made with me at all times and I was even offered a chance to read her X-Rays.

Finally, a nurse told me before I left that she had called for a paediatrician to be present at the birth, because “she had a feeling”. Inevitably, the doctor saved her life. I would like to end this blog with: “As a nurse, always follow your intuition”.

Mikey Whitehead is the student nurse editor for children’s nursing.


Readers' comments (5)

  • tinkerbell

    Congratulations on your bundle of joy.

    Always trust your inner teacher. It is there for a reason.

    It was good that the paediatrican listened to the nurse who had a 'feeling', sometimes it is all we have to go on and should not be ignored. Good doctors and nurses realise from their own experiences this is something that cannot be quantified or evidenced or observed or properly explained but it is there for a reason and more often than not right.

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  • Brilliant article and congratulations to you, Mum and baby.

    You had very bad start which nobody could foresee or wish for but you obviously managed it very well.

    I witnessed a 'blue baby' when I did my three months obstetrics as part of my general training. Fortunately it started breathing fairly soon and the staff were competent but it was an emergency and nobody explained initially to the bemused dad what was going on as they were all to involved with mum and baby. the mum was recovering and under gas and air so hadn't seen what was going on so was less affected and fortunately the baby was resuscitated before she realised. It all happened so quickly and to me was also a shock and something I will never forget.

    It was impressed on us that if a birth was imminent in a public place we would have to be competent enough to step in and deliver the baby. I have vivid visions of the scenarios from the movies when women deliver in the gangways of planes!

    Not on planes, but it has happened to two friends of mine. One a nurse who had to deliver her grandchild and her daughter's first baby. it was a planned home birth and they had to rush home from a walk together and the midwife was unable to get there fast enough.

    The second was a friend and an HCA I worked with in care of the elderly. She had to deliver her next door neighbour in their small village as there was no other help available and the snow and extreme weather prevented the landing of a helicopter although she did subsequently get to a hospital with her newborn baby.

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  • Michael Whitehead

    Thank you for your kind comments. This has been one of many scenarios that I have witnessed the significance of "instinct" in a nursing role. The only difference was It was in a personal rather than professional capacity!

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  • Michael Whitehead | 24-Feb-2013 4:33 pm

    doesn't matter. all experience and how we react to it, positive and negative, is valuable and informs our professional work and prepares us for life with all its ups and downs.

    I can't wait to see what there is to learn from Kahneman's book 'Thinking fast and slow' which is all about rational and inuitive thought. It was on the best seller list last autumn in the UK and now sits on my book shelf while I finish David Hood's 'The Self Illlusion', also very worthwhile reading but I cannot whizz through these as I do a novel.

    I tend to be a very slow analytical thinker who has to very thoroughly weigh up the pros and cons to avoid any risks, but obviously like everybody else I sometimes have to rely on my instincts for quick decisions which is definitely not my preference at work or outside, but I am always amazed and relieved how often they were the right ones as I always erroneously believe I needed more time to make up my mind. Maybe I just need to develop more confidence in my own gut feelings.

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  • Michael Whitehead

    I think so. You need at least one major experience where you solely rely on your gut feeling and not take into account anything logical, then you will be able to use it all the time and your confidence will grow. It is belief in yourself, which is difficult as we are taught by the book and rules and regs etc. It takes a moment of inner wisdom and courage to just think "Hm, you know what, my gut tells me this so I am going to trust it and act"
    And before you know it a baby's life is saved.

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