“Baptism by fire” is hotter than you think!
I never really thought about this saying very much, although I have used it often to explain how it was to be initiated into a job or any new activity.
In many ways, I think we all, at some time or another in our lives, have gone through a baptism by fire.
A baby’s baptism is usually far from a pleasant experience. After all, most of us do not remember our baptism into our faith, but even a religious baptism is filled with sounds of crying babies.
If for only a moment, think of how you felt when you experienced a “fiery” baptism.
- Did you not want to cry during that experience?
- How great was your sigh of relief as you walked out of that first baptism.
No matter how prepared we are, some initial experiences expose us to a certain amount of inner terror and great anxiety.
Our fight or flight response kicks in at full throttle during baptisms by fire. All the while we try to tame our fear in order to move forward and accomplish the task at hand. Afterwards, we can be overcome by complete and utter exhaustion at the finish line or unable to relax or sleep from an untamed surge of pumping adrenalin.
My own initiations as a young registered nurse prepared me for so many other “baptisms by fire” in my life.
My first experience as an L&D nurse , who was responsible for mom and newborn needs in the delivery room, thrust me close to the edge of wanting to flee rather than fight forward. Behind my surgical mask, I was able to hide my fear, only my eyes could give me away.
After delivery, with mother and baby safe and sound, I could sigh a deep breath and relax until my next birth later on that same day.
Funny thing though, soon after, in the postpartum recovery room, the new mom told me how relaxed I seemed. She said my confidence and calmness helped her so much. I smiled to myself thinking…I did it! It was a successful “baptism by fire” for me and for the new mom as well.
Every labor and delivery is a baptism of sorts. This metaphor makes total sense to me. Having survived my first baby delivery not only did the experience ease my fears as a skilled L&D nurse clinician it also lowered my own anxiety of what it would be like to deliver my own child someday in the future.
As the years went on, my experiences in nursing prepared me for many “baptisms”. I knew what to expect when having my own emergency C-section. Surely, I would have been more afraid had I not shared some other mom’s sudden need for surgery to deliver a healthy baby.
Shared life events allow us the opportunity to ease each other’s fight or flight responses when it comes to these fiery baptisms that we all have throughout our lives. Empathy is created and hopefully carved into our hearts with each of these occurrences.
Just as firefighters learn at their first fire…”this is something I will never forget”. As in the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, the firefighter will keep repeating his story throughout his lifetime. When needed, he will use it to teach and calm other probies like he, himself, was calmed by fellow firefighters’ stories as he waited for his first “baptism by fire”.
Fires happen in life all the time.
In fact, it seems that as a mom and even as grand mum, I am always donning my gear to tackle something. Sometimes, it is merely a smoking pot left on the stove too long, other times it is something that is much more of an emotional challenge.
Over the years, through shared stories from family and friends I have been able to run into the flames and even make a rescue or two while dousing the fire on the way out on the other side .
I thank all of my family, friends, and story sharers, who have helped me become the “firefighter” that I am.
“Baptisms by fire” can be hotter sometimes than you expect.
What are some of your stories?
Thank you Firefighter Sullivan for inspiring me, you are a real life hero!
Fires happen all the time in New York. On average, the Fire Department responds to 68 structural fires a day, most of them minor, but usually eight to 10 that qualify as serious. Fires everywhere, and yet after 96 days Firefighter Sullivan kept wondering, “When’s it my turn?”