2008.11.26: November 26, 2008: Headlines: COS - Sri Lanka: Children: Medicine: Nursing: Orange County Register: Sri Lanka RPCV Ilene Gelbaum has been bringing infants into the world for decades

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Sri Lanka: Peace Corps Sri Lanka: Peace Corps Sri Lanka: Newest Stories: 2008.11.26: November 26, 2008: Headlines: COS - Sri Lanka: Children: Medicine: Nursing: Orange County Register: Sri Lanka RPCV Ilene Gelbaum has been bringing infants into the world for decades

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Sri Lanka RPCV Ilene Gelbaum has been bringing infants into the world for decades

Sri Lanka RPCV Ilene Gelbaum has been bringing infants into the world for decades

"That moment, when I'm delivering a baby, it's irreplaceable. It's so amazing. There's so much energy in that room, and so much happiness," Gelbaum said. "It's not a job. I don't know what it is it's my passion; it's something I'm eager to do."

Sri Lanka RPCV Ilene Gelbaum has been bringing infants into the world for decades

A midwife delivers her 5,000th child

Ilene Gelbaum has been bringing infants into the world for decades. She still loves her job.

By MICHAEL MELLO
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Caption: Certified nurse midwife Ilene Gelbaum holds her milestone 5,000th baby as mom Alexia Brown is all smiles. Photo: Mindy Schauer

ANAHEIM Alexia Brown wasn't too worried about the midwife scheduled to deliver her latest baby.

After all, nurse midwife Ilene Gelbaum, 62, had delivered Brown's first child, Miranda, 10 years ago, at this same hospital, Kaiser Permanente in Anaheim.






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Baby No. 1 arrived a half a globe away, in a Sri Lankan village made up of huts surrounded by muddy roads. Gelbaum worked there as a nurse in the Peace Corps. "I wasn't a midwife then, I was an RN. I delivered a fair number of babies in Sri Lanka . One of them was my across-the-dirt-road neighbor." Years later, in 1995, she received a letter from that child. "He said in the letter he didn't know me personally because he was a baby, but he went to nursing school. On the day of his graduation he wanted to write to me to let me know how he was influenced by me. "I cried over that letter. 'I realized, my gosh, I made a difference in this person's life.'"






At 1:56 p.m. on Nov. 6, little Aiden became number 5,000 for Gelbaum, a flawless natural birth with no complications.

That's 5,000 bawling, squawking, mewling infants delivered at a rate of about 15 a month for about 27 years, give or take.

"I can't even conceptualize that number," said Gelbaum. Starting a new job, "You never think 'I'm going to have 5,000.' Then it piles on. It is an amazing experience to do this."

When Brown, of Garden Grove, learned of Gelbaum's milestone before heading into the birthing room, she had one thought about her birth helper: "'You're beyond pro.'"

Aiden's father, Fredy Torres, figured the same thing: "I thought, 'Nothing's going to go wrong.' She has the experience."

That's an understatement. Gelbaum has actually delivered many more kids than the 5,000 tallied on the hospital's books in Anaheim. How many more is anyone's guess.

Though Gelbaum's personal numbers are far ahead of other midwives at the hospital, she collectively has some company. Last year they celebrated the 50,000th midwife-assisted birth since the hospital was built in the early 1980s.

Connie Swentek, Gelbaum's supervisor, has delivered about 3,000 children herself, and has won an award of excellence from the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

"It's been a joy to work with Ilene," said Swentek, Gelbaum's coworker for 18 years. "She has so much enthusiasm for her job."

The secret to reaching 5,000 births at one hospital is longevity punctuated by periods of hyper activity, like sprinting a few times in the middle of a marathon.

"It's not unusual to work at the hospital for 12 hours and deliver 4 to 5 children," Swentek says.

And Gelbaum holds Anaheim's single-day record, delivering 15 kids in one 24-hour shift.

"I never want to do that again," Gelbaum said.

Yet she also says it never gets old.

"That moment, when I'm delivering a baby, it's irreplaceable. It's so amazing.

"There's so much energy in that room, and so much happiness," Gelbaum said. "It's not a job. I don't know what it is it's my passion; it's something I'm eager to do."



That many kids over that many years means Gelbaum has delivered whole families, and multiple generations of some families.

"I'm delivering the daughters of the daughters I delivered. You feel like you're really part of the family."

That even conveys a certain level of celebrity.

Once, as Gelbaum and her husband walked through Los Angeles International Airport, she thought she heard somebody call out her name. "My husband said, 'This place is a madhouse. You couldn't have heard your name,'" Gelbaum recalled.

But Gelbaum glanced above him. And there, on the second level food court, she saw five children waving at her.

"They were my patients. Lined up, almost in age order, were her five kids."

For Gelbaum, being a midwife is less career than it is destiny. Her elementary school bus in Brooklyn drove daily past a large building called Downstate Medical Center, which had a strong midwifing program.

"I knew at a young age I would do that," she said. "There was never a doubt."

In grade school, she took a field trip to the United Nations General Assembly. There, she was allowed to experiment with equipment that allowed her to hear translations of the day's speeches. That, she says, stoked her desire to travel the world. She says she even made a Peace Corps trip to Sri Lanka "a condition of my marriage.

"I wasn't a midwife then, I was an RN. I delivered a fair number of babies in Sri Lanka . One of them was my across-the-dirt-road neighbor."

Years later, in 1995, she received a letter from that child.

"He said in the letter he didn't know me personally because he was a baby, but he went to nursing school. On the day of his graduation he wanted to write to me to let me know how he was influenced by me

"I cried over that letter. 'I realized, my gosh, I made a difference in this person's life.'"



Several years ago, Gelbaum found herself helping to deliver the baby of an engineer from Iceland, living temporarily in Southern California.

"Here's a couple from Iceland, the pediatrician is from Nigeria, and here I am from Brooklyn. The whole world converged in this room," Gelbaum recalled, still pleased by the memory.

The mother gave Gelbaum her address, and insisted that Gelbaum stop by if she ever visited the mid-Altantic.

"I thought, 'When am I going to go to Iceland?'"

Of course, she did.

"Later that year, the International Federation of Midwives was (meeting) in Oslo, Norway, and the best flight was through Iceland Air. I went to Iceland.

"(The mother's) whole family took three days off of work and took us around," Gelbaum said.

"How often does that happen in one's life?"

Contact the writer: 714-704-3796 or mmello@ocregister.com




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Headlines: November, 2008; Peace Corps Sri Lanka; Directory of Sri Lanka RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Sri Lanka RPCVs; Children; Medicine; Nursing





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Story Source: Orange County Register

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Sri Lanka; Children; Medicine; Nursing

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