When I was ten years old my dream of becoming a nurse settled into my heart. I spent my teen years working as a Candystriper and reading Cherry Ames books.
On May 11, 1985 at the age of 34 I received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. My heart was set on specializing in Women’s Health with a focus on Labor and Delivery and Newborn care.
Over the years I worked as a Nurse’s Aide, Student Nurse, Staff RN in L&D and Well Baby Nursery, NICU, Nursing Management, Community and Staff Educator, University Clinical Instructor, and Perinatal Bereavement Coordinator and Group Facilitator.
Let me introduce you to some of my most memorable patients.
The twelve-year-old girl who cried silent tears and hugged a Mickey Mouse Doll with every contraction. Her father was the Baby’s Daddy. Several uncomfortable interventions occurred. I will never forget that young lady’s tears and her wide-eyed fear.
The patient who was admitted for hypertension and induction of labor. I knew there would be a significant flashback of blood when I started the IV. I asked her husband if blood bothered him. He scoffed. Nope, he said. He fainted with a thud. He was a large professional football player for the Houston Oilers.
The young couple who faced an unthinkable choice. At five months gestation an ultrasound revealed the baby only had a partial brain stem and no brain. The family chose to go ahead and induce labor rather than wait for it to occur naturally in the coming months. He died before delivery.
The professional model who came in with four suitcases. One for hair, one for make-up, one for toiletries, and one for clothes. After every contraction she freshened her make-up and smoothed her hair. As labor progressed her husband took care of the beauty role and made sure she was picture perfect. When the time came that she needed her vision board her husband taped a poster on the wall with nothing but photos of his lovely wife. Some were nudes. I had to leave the room to laugh. She delivered a healthy baby girl and looked great doing it.
The birth of a healthy baby is one of the truest miracles in this world. I never got tired of it. I miss it.
Then there are the babies I’ll never forget:
The first one I had to deliver because the baby just wasn’t interested in waiting on the doctor. I shook. When it was over and everyone was doing well I went to the nurse’s lounge and cried. I recall the relief and joy I felt when that baby cried, kicked, and protested the indignity of it all.
The Father’s Day a news crew was filming a spot for television. A family had agreed to be induced and filmed. When the baby was delivered the doctor motioned me to come over right away. His habit was to hold the baby up in victory—like the scene in Lion King. This time he kept him low and handed him off to me. The baby had a bilateral cleft palate. I assessed him, wrapped him, and took him to his parents. I was able to show them the baby without the cameras catching anything. The parents smiled and laughed and kissed the baby. I’ll never forget the love in that room.
The stillborn boy I had to carry to the morgue. He became heavier and colder with each step I took as I traversed the bowels of the hospital on the way to the morgue.
Baby A., the preemie who only weighed 14 ounces at birth. He lived and went home after almost five months in NICU. He fought like a Gladiator. He was blind and had Cerebral Palsy.
Baby K., she was born at term with a heart defect that couldn’t be repaired. She lived for several weeks and died on Father’s Day. Sometimes, it felt odd to have a full-term baby in the NICU. Every nurse in the unit wanted to be assigned to her care.
Baby R., her mother went into preterm labor at 30 weeks gestation. In time her labor stopped and she was sent home on bed rest. She was readmitted at term and in labor. At the family’s request I was assigned to be her labor nurse and the nursery nurse.
Lord, that baby was beautiful. Pink, lusty cry, active, and without any visible problems. However, I couldn’t get her temperature to stabilize. Within an hour she was having trouble breathing. The pediatrician put in umbilical lines and intubated her. She was almost six hours old when she died. The culprit was Beta Strep in the birth canal.
I’ve experienced many losses but this one will never leave my heart.
I wish I could remember all of the healthy babies who went home. I do recall some. I have treasures—gifts, cards, photos, and memories.
As a Perinatal Bereavement Counselor my job was to comfort. I cleaned the babies, inked their hands and feet, cut locks of hair, dressed them, and took photos. I wrapped the babies in several warm blankets and took them to the family to hold and love. I provided literature and facilitated a perinatal bereavement support group.
Appropriate grief counseling is one of the most important parts of caring for families following the loss of a baby at any stage of pregnancy.
On April 16, 1997 I fell at the hospital. I was injured and was never able to work in a hospital again. When I think of it I wonder how much more I could have experienced. How many more families I could have known. Honestly, all these years later I still think about it every single day.
Generally speaking, Labor and Delivery and Nursery is usually such a happy place. Memories are made. Lives begin. Families grow. The future is ahead of these new treasures.
I wonder if any readers of this blog wish to share their birth experiences or nursing experiences.