The Real Reason You Boil Water When a Baby is Being Born


I am NOT good in a crisis. As a matter of fact, I am the LAST person you should call on in a crisis: the physical kind of crisis, in any case. My husband calls it ‘Flapping’. If blood is involved, I basically run around, flapping my arms, getting in the way and being of no help to anyone. Let’s just say that when I met the guidance counsellor in high school, ‘ambulance-attendant’ was not one of my potential job possibilities.

When I was a teenager, I was very excited to participate in a mock accident for our town’s first responders. I was surrounded by people who had been made up to look as though they had been in a big, gruesome car pile up. My role was to play the ‘only-slightly-hurt-but-having-an-anxiety-attack” person who basically gets in the way and makes it hard for first responders to get to the people who really ARE hurt. In my attempt to be convincing, I did such a good job that I hyperventilated and almost passed out. Because they thought I was acting, no one noticed as I tottered about, trying hard not to faint. Somehow, I managed to find a place where I could fall down in a swoon as I waited for the blackness to go away and I was fully conscious again. This would turn out to be an omen for how I would react to any future crisis.

A few years ago, my mother – the consummate, theatrical over-actor – had been diagnosed with Polymyalgia and (although we didn’t know it at the time) was also in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. She wasn’t doing too well and I had come from Québec to visit her in the company of my daughter. We had been there for several hours when all of a sudden, my mother shrieked “I can’t see! I can’t see!” In retrospect, I suspect that her blood pressure must have plummeted and she was feeling faint. But at the time, I went into Full Flap Mode, fluttering helplessly around my mother and generally getting in the way of my much calmer sister, who was well able to get the situation under control.

“Let’s get you lying down,” said my sister with all the calm, confident, control of an inner-city ER nurse. “C_ (my daughter), can you get me a cold cloth please? Good. Okay, now Patti, I need for you to get a notepad and a pen and write down Mom’s symptoms. Good, good. Mom, let’s get this cold cloth on your forehead (and so on).”

Within a few minutes, as I assiduously sat on one side of my mother and took careful notes regarding each of my mother’s symptoms, my sister confidently went about getting my mother comfortable. In no time, Mom calmed down and – clearly not going blind after all – declared that she could see again and felt ‘just fine’. By this time, my sister had managed to reassure and sooth all of us. Now that the crisis was averted and impressed beyond words with my sister’s handling of the entire situation, I asked her whether she had suggested I take notes because she knew how it would calm me down. “Well, yeah,” she answered, as if that were the most logical thing in the world to have thought of. “I know you like to write and I figured that would help you focus a bit.”

When I took our mother to the emergency room shortly thereafter (my sister stayed with my ailing step-father), my mother brought the notes with her. As she recited my carefully-documented list of symptoms, the doctor glanced up, surprised and asked “Which doctor have you been seeing about this and is he the one who prepared these notes for you?” My mother sat up a little straighter in her seat and with a proud glance in my direction and answered, “Oh no, my DAUGHTER prepared these notes.” Clearly, by her demeanour, she felt that the notes couldn’t have been better if Einstein himself had written them. I smiled shyly, but with a bit of pride as well, and sent my sister a silent ‘thank you’.

I learned something really, really important that day. When you see a woman in a movie having a baby and the person in charge asks someone to ‘go and boil some water’, it isn’t really about the water. This is just a tried and tested trick of the people like my sister – who have every crisis well in hand – to get the Flappers like me out of the room. They don’t NEED water. But they understand that we Flappers will industriously boil water until hell itself freezes over AND – the most important thing – we will not be in the way.

We can take notes for you, though. And we can make tea for an army – there’ll be lots of hot water…

Source of photo

Patti Moore Wilson/©


Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

25 thoughts on “The Real Reason You Boil Water When a Baby is Being Born”

  1. Haha. I love this. I’m not much of a flapper and the only times I can recall getting in a state about anything was when my dad was ill and then on the day he died. Something about things being beyond my control that makes me lose all reasonable thought. However, I am no way as calm as your sister. She sounds like a great nurse and I love how well she knew you. X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The funny thing is, my sister is NOT a nurse, but both my daughter and I said later, when we were heading back home, that she COULD have been. Yup, it is one of my favourite stories about the many ways she knows her sister so very well 😊 Really pleased to know you loved this 😊


      1. Gawd. I was sure you’d put that she was! I worked as a nurse for 5 minutes. It wasn’t for me, although I’m kind, but I came away from there feeling that nurses are born.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on SPO_OKY and commented:
    I read this with a smile on my face. Thank you Patti for your style of realness. You know by now how much I appreciate that above nearly everything else. ❤ "it isn’t really about the water"

    Something can stare us in the face for years, but until someone else points it out, it just remains a simple truth. Allane x

    Liked by 1 person

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