Over The Crowd Came A Voice

One incredible day a few years ago, my husband Mark and I were at the Bradley International Terminal at LAX. We were seeing our Japanese exchange student off on her return trip home. This was a momentous occasion and my camera was ready to capture every last minute of her journey for pictures to send her later.

Suddenly, I heard my name being called from the upper level. Mark told me that I must be crazy and could not possibly have heard my name in the middle of a massively crowded airport terminal. But, there it was again, "Ilene!" I quickly scanned faces for one I would know. Lo and behold, there she was, Leah, one of my patients with her entire family waving at me. I realized in an instant that, lined up in order of age were all five of the children that I had cared for in utero and those I had delivered. I immediately raised my camera and took that special photo which hangs in my office to this day.

A few minutes later, we were reunited, right in the middle of the hub-bub that was going on around us. I think we were all equally astonished by the coincidence; a stand-out moment. There were hugs all around before we parted ways. I think I smiled all the way home!

There are parts of my job that I don't like and would gladly retire from in a heartbeat. I am, after all, part of the ‘over-60 crowd’ and I often wonder if it’s the right time. Then I think about all the families whose lives I have touched and who've touched mine in my 27 years at Kaiser Permanente (KP). I would surely miss my patients. I am now delivering the daughters of those women I delivered. I would certainly miss the sights and sounds and smells of birth, each one just a little more wondrous.

I'm at a crossroads; thinking about retirement is tricky for me. I am, after all, just 63 deliveries away from my 5,000th KP Anaheim baby. Delivering my last baby will be heart-wrenching. How will I watch that child grow? Many families keep in touch with pictures and updates, and that yearly PAP appointment is far more than just a physical exam, tests and charting.

For 42 years, I have been a practicing nurse, the last 30 years as a certified nurse-midwife. I am the senior midwife at KP Anaheim. It is who I am and who I was always meant to be. I am linked by my experience, my connections and my journey. Retirement cannot take those things away, especially not stories like that day at the Bradley International Terminal. 

Ilene Gelbaum, CNM
Senior Midwife
Kaiser, Anaheim, CA