Let's Digress

6 Ways EMS Prepared Me for Parenthood

Gabby and I have been parents for just over 10 months so far. How have we managed to survive this long? It’s because we’ve been conditioned by the prehospital environment. 

People ask me all the time on rare occasions, “Adam, how did you and Gabby prepare yourselves for parenting? How did you two know you were ready to have a kid?”

Well, dear reader, the short answer is working in EMS for several years is how we prepared for it. I shall elaborate. 

Disclaimer: The following may contain satire…unless it doesn’t.

The prehospital EMS environment is full of danger, excitement, unsafe working conditions, germs, miscellaneous hazards, paperwork, bodily fluids, and a lot of whiny people in various stages of faux-emergencies. Sometimes there are legitimate emergencies, but 80% of the call volume is largely non-emergencies. That 80% is where the real parenting crossover training exists. 

  • Fussiness and irrationality are the bread-and-butter of EMS. 

If I could describe EMS in a sentence, it would be that EMS is essentially the art of dealing with fussy and irrational people who don’t generally want to be reasoned with. 

When people call 911, they’re often having a bad day and are unhappy about something. They might be unhappy about their low-grade fever and body aches that they didn’t feel inclined to take ibuprofen or Tylenol for. They could also be unhappy about their chest pains after the discovery of the homeless man they found in the back seat of their unlocked car while leaving for work, which rightfully rattled their nerves a little. Or they might be unhappy about going to the lobby of the busy ER rather than straight into a trauma room because they had a blister on their foot after walking in a new pair of flip-flops and thought that taking an ambulance to the ER for a blister would put them further ahead in line than everyone else. 

That being said, what is a baby if not a smaller version of a fussy and irrational person who doesn’t want to be reasoned with?

  • Baby poop is much better than grown up poop. 

Everybody poops. Some people poop a lot, like babies and geriatric people with delicate bodily plumbing. Some people call 911 after intentionally pooping on themselves because they just want attention and someone else to clean them up. Other people appropriately call 911 because they had GI bleed poop and legitimately need medical assistance for an actual emergency. 

Regardless of the reason or source of the grown up poop, baby poop is the easiest thing ever after dealing with any adult-sized excrement. 

  • Behavioral outbursts are cake when it’s a baby and not a grown up. 

Sometimes patients get physically combative and dangerous for all sorts of reasons. It could be a medical issue, like illicit drug use, alcohol, head injuries, or metabolic disorders, and other times it could be any number of psychiatric problems or lack of proper medication compliance. 

Compared to those volatile situations, a 10-month-old throwing a fit and resisting being put in the car seat is much more manageable and doesn’t usually involve pharmacological intervention, but I suppose that could be helpful if they’re being really persnickety about it.  

  • It’s not just babies who get mad when their bottle is taken away… 

If I had a nickel for every inebriated homeless person or sloshed college kid who got mad at me for having the audacity to tell them that they can’t continue to actively drink their preferred alcoholic beverage in the back of the ambulance, I would have at least $0.57.

If I had a nickel for every time my small human got mad at me for taking away her empty bottle to replace it with a pacifier, I would have at least $1.15. 

  • Bystanders are problematic. 

Whether it’s a physical altercation in public, a vehicle accident, some random person unconscious on the sidewalk, a bicycle running into a homeless man, a homeless man running into a bicycle, or a car striking a sub sandwich bicycle delivery guy who was distracted by a homeless man on the sidewalk getting into a physical altercation, bystanders are generally awful. 

Seriously, they’re the worst. They’re always clogging up traffic by slowing down to watch the show. Or worse than that, if they’re standing around nearby then they’re often trying to take pictures with their phones. Or even worse than that, if they’re close and ornery enough they sometimes like to provide creative commentary about what’s going on or try to push in to “help” by telling or by actually trying to demonstrate to law enforcement, the fire department, or EMS people how things ought to be done. 

Similarly, when I take my adorable small human in public, random people love to comment, stare, wave, and sometimes (unsuccessfully) attempt to ruffle her curly ginger hair. 

All of that to say this: 1) Next time you discover that you’re a bystander, don’t be. Move along. 2) It’s super creepy to try to ruffle the hair of a baby that you’re not in any way affiliated with. 

  • Who needs a sleep schedule? 

This is probably the biggest crossover between EMS and having a small human. It’s also the one that is best for newborn-parent conditioning. 

The sleep schedule. Or rather, the lack of sleep schedule. 

Newborns, and 10-month-olds for that matter, are up and down all throughout the night. Once a sleep routine is down, bam! Teething happens and messes everything up again. 

Similarly, working night shift on the booboo bus also involves being up and down throughout the night without any set pattern or interval for the ups and downs. Sometimes being up for the entire night, and on good nights being down for the entire night. 

Naps are important; you sleep when the baby sleeps, and you sleep when the city sleeps. 

Also, there’s a solid argument that EMS actually stands for Earn Money Sleeping…but that’s a weird way to spell “Firefighter.” :P

People also frequently ask me on rare occasion, “Adam, is it worth the effort to get into EMS?” 

Well, if you’re doing it strictly for the money and fame, no, and you’re dumb. But if you’re doing it to condition yourself to have children in the future, absolutely. 

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