So for a while there, we Ordinaries were a fecund bunch. Around the same time that the Squirrel was getting born, I seem to recall at least three other current (and former) contributors also expecting kiddos. Though some of us are no longer quite so fecund, it was babies a-go-go not so long ago.
Thus, I have a fun little game to propose to those of you who have recently been in receipt of a newborn baby. See if you can rustle up the birth records. Most newborn records include details of the delivery, though they vary and can be difficult to parse. Somewhere on the record you may be able to find the Apgar scores.
I am willing to bet that the highest number is a 9. I am willing to bet that nobody’s baby got an Apgar score of 10.
For those of you unfamiliar with Apgar scoring, it is a means by which newborn babies are assessed immediately after birth. Scores are typically assigned at one minute and five minutes after delivery. If there is a pediatrician attending the delivery, he or she gives the score. If not, whichever provider is taking care of the child (often a nurse) does the scoring. Babies get up to two points each in five different categories: breathing effort, heart rate, muscle tone, responsiveness to stimuli, and color.
No baby ever gets a 10, despite the fact that the score is meant to be an objective assessment of observable signs. For some reason, Apgar scores of 9 and 9 are considered the norm for perfectly healthy newborn infants. I have no idea why this should be.
I no longer find myself in circumstances where I am charged with giving Apgar scores, since I (mirabile dictu) no longer have to attend deliveries. But at my last job I had to from time to time. And I considered it perfectly ridiculous that nobody ever gave out 10s. When I asked one of the more senior doctors why no baby ever got a 10, I got some unconvincing nonsense about how it looks bad if something goes wrong later and you seemingly didn’t notice anything amiss before. (Really, that was the answer I got.) Which means that for healthy babies an Apgar score isn’t really an objective assessment, but rather just an incantation we speak over their writhing little bodies as they enter the world.
Because I am a contrary sort of soul and because idiotic “that’s just the way we’ve always done things!” protocols annoy the dickens out of me, I did not always conform to this standard. The demerit that usually accounts for the lost point is a newborn’s color, since it’s common for them to have blue hands and feet. But if I had a baby in front of me pink to the tips of her toes, screaming like a banshee and swinging like a prizefighter, I’d give the baby a 10.
Friends, you should have heard the delighted reaction in the delivery room when I’d do so. It was like Flora, Fauna and Merryweather had all swooped in and sprinkled magic dust on the infant warmer. Everyone actual like I’d bestowed some wonderful benison on the assembled company. All for merely reporting what I objectively observed.
There are many little quirks that my co-specalists have that I find irksome. The Apgar thing is one of them.
So that’s this week’s Question — what’s a tic unique to your profession that you find silly or strange? Maybe you do it, too. Maybe you don’t. I’ve let you know a little secret about pediatrics. What corresponding secret do you have in return?