Most of the women I know have children.
Inevitably, when we all get together, discussion turns to pregnancy and labor and delivery. They each, in turn, share their cute or funny stories. Then they all turn to me, waiting patiently for the story that I will share.
Inevitably, the first thing that comes to my mind (and subsequently out of my face) is:
“I destroyed the world’s greatest maternity nurse’s shoes.”
My pregnancy with my daughter, as well as her subsequent labor and delivery, was one of those that can only be classified under the “if it could go wrong, it did” heading. For the most part, I was sick nonstop through most of it. I carried her past my due date by two weeks. I was convinced that I was going to be a 40-year-old woman, pregnant with a 20-year-old child. When they finally induced me, it took 38 hours (24 of which was hard labor) and finally an emergency C-Section, before she graced the world with her presence.
On the day they finally induced me, I’d gone in that morning at 8:00 a.m. to have an ultrasound done, which is when they determined that my daughter was under duress.
It had been a cold winter the year before my daughter was born, and cold winters equate to a lot of coitus—and lead to a lot of babies. Something like 15 other babies were born in that one hospital on the same day as my daughter, which was virtually unheard of at the time. The hospital I was in was like a well-oiled machine. The doctors and nurses were all fantastic, even after I’d made some empty threats regarding removing body parts following an attempt to remove some candy from my hands. To be fair to myself, I hadn’t eaten in two days by that point.
There was one nurse in particular who was absolutely amazing.
Upon her return for her second shift at the hospital that I was at, she realized I was still there. She made it her mission to stay with me through the entire thing.
I threatened this woman. I cried on her. I nearly broke her hand during bad contractions when my stepmother and baby’s father needed a break. She talked softly to me, adjusted my pillows four billion times, wiped my forehead and encouraged me during the worst parts of it. I do not want to think about how many times that woman changed my sheets. She explained scary things (like the giant crochet hook they use to pop a woman’s amniotic sack), chased off the students when I had had enough of being observed, and calmed me when I panicked every time my daughter’s heartbeat changed to something that was not “normal.”
Because I was not progressing the way I was supposed to, it was not until very late-stage labor that I was finally able to get an epidural. They had to manually pop my water, but nothing had really come out because my daughter was blocking the 4 cm opening in my cervix that they had finally coaxed into being. They sat me up and swung my legs off the side of the bed to do my epidural. The nurse came around and stood in front of me and instructed me to lean my head against her chest. And to “cry if I need to, because tears won’t melt her.”
When they did the initial stick to numb my back for the epidural, I jerked a little. That movement shifted my daughter just enough that all the water came rushing out of me. It was black with meconium. And the woman who was standing in front of me was covered from the knees down.
To say I was mortified is an understatement of epic proportion.
I wailed: “I ruined your shoes!”
As I stared at her through hot tears, she actually smiled at me and replied: “Honey, if this is the worst thing on my shoes today, it is a good day.”
This wonderful woman stayed with me through the whole thing. She went into the operating room. Held my hand while they did the C-section. Explained to me why my baby was not crying. She demanded that she be able to show me my daughter once they got her breathing and before they whisked her off to the NICU. She went with me to recovery. And she is the one who placed my daughter in my arms for the first time after they finally got her stable.
I am certain that nurses, in general, do not get enough credit.
Their profession, though a healing one, is frequently a thankless one. But after my own experience and watching from the sidelines as my friends went through their own experiences, I have to say that Maternity Nurses are the ones who probably deserve the most thanks and appreciation. They have to shift moods on a dime to deal with crazy, hormonal pregnant ladies. They get threatened, physically assaulted and have their shoes ruined.
So to all the maternity nurses out there, I say this:
We mothers are not always good at saying positive things through the labor and delivery process. And while we should all do better on a day to day basis with showing appreciation to those around us, the English language is limited by words such as “love” or “thanks” when it comes to emotions that actually spread past those words. Sometimes, they are just flat wholly inadequate.
But since I (and other mothers out there) are limited by those words alone, I have to say “thank you.” Thank you for all that you do, all that you are, and all that you will be. Twenty years later, women like me still look back and think of people like you—with tears in our eyes and gratitude in our souls.
Author: Julie Livingston
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Catherine Monkman