I traced the baby’s heart rate with my finger as I explained terms like baseline, variability, accelerations, decelerations, and what they all mean. For the young lady shadowing me in labor and delivery on this afternoon, I could tell she was overwhelmed with the information overload I just gave her in my electronic fetal monitoring 101, but it also served to remind me how amazing it is what you can know from watching a baby’s heart rate pattern.
Electronic fetal monitoring is simply attaching a couple of harmless belts and devices on a mother’s abdomen while she is in labor, and these devices measure and trace both the baby’s heartbeat and the mother’s contraction pattern. But if you know how to read and interpret the data, you can tell a lot about what is going on with the mother’s progression of labor and the baby itself.
“I bet you anything this baby has his cord wrapped around his neck or body,” I predicted, looking at the pattern of the baby’s heart rate during the mother’s contractions. Sure enough, he came out with his foot and body all tangled up in his cord. Nailed it, I wanted to say. I can impress people who don’t know anything about monitoring the fetal heart, but for those who have learned what the patterns mean, it’s not magical; it’s just physiological and sensical.
Just like you can tell a lot about a baby by the heartbeat, I think you can tell a lot about your life by the way your heart beats. When I look at my own heart and what it beats for, I can tell quite a bit about where I am at in my friendship with God.
Sorry for yet another blog post with a spiritual analogy from the process of labor and birth, but I’m spending 50 hours a week doing this. Plus God created it and talks a lot about in the Bible, so I think he wants us to get something out of it, too.
You know what’s funny about electronic fetal monitor? As great as it is, we don’t always use it.
Since the arrival of the electronic fetal monitor is a recent addition to our maternity ward, there are a few nurses and midwives who don’t yet know how to use it or interpret what it tells us, so they don’t use it. This is understandable; you don’t use what you don’t understand. And you fear what you don’t understand, so you just leave the monitor off.
As great as the monitor is, it definitely adds to the nurse’s work. You have to monitor closely and be ready to intervene if you notice anything abnormal, which can happen quickly and with little warning. Without the fetal monitor, we simply listen to fetal heart tones intermittently with a doppler, which is way less work, but also not as accurate. With the doppler, you don’t see the whole pattern and overall changes of the fetal heart. It’s like trying to understand a book by only reading the first of every paragraph. The baby’s heart may be doing something dangerous and you might never know just by listening intermittently with a doppler, whereas with the electronic monitor you see everything and are forced to intervene in case of distress. All that being said, it’s the honest truth that sometimes we have the tendency to leave the monitor off because ignorance is bliss and what we don’t know can’t make us worry. We prefer what’s easier and safer for us. But it’s not what is best for the baby and it’s heart.,
Yet do we not often do the same with monitoring our own hearts? Perhaps we don’t know how, and what we don’t know makes us fearful, or perhaps we are afraid of what we will find if we do. It’s hard work and possibly inconvenient, but it’s what is best for the health of our relationship with God.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
I’ve been doing a heart check, mainly because I’ve been fatigued and lacking some joy, which makes me feel like something is off with my heart. I’ve slipped back into striving, trying to work to please God. I’ve been counting, trying to keep track and measure up to what I think is expected of me. I’ve been pressuring myself to be always be better. For I see who I want to be and how I’m not there yet. And my heart is beating way too fast.
The great news is there are interventions when the heart rate gets out of whack. You change positions. You get hydrated. You breathe more oxygen. The same is true spiritually: We need to change position, drink living water, and breathe deeper as we rest in Christ.
So instead of pretending I am already the person I want to be, or pressuring myself to get there faster, I am enjoying the journey of becoming. And occasionally, I look back at my life and see that who I am today is the result of a lot of becoming. So I’ve stopped counting and striving, and I recenter on grace. The pressure is off, and I’m free to live in kindness and love and speak about Jesus naturally and delight myself in the Lord. Simple as that, and it changes my life. It can yours, too.
My hearts baseline is back to normal, and in the process, I’m sensing something new being born. And I’m becoming.
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