My time at work has ended (for now) and I'm not sure it's quite set in. I wrote the following a couple of weeks ago... (its a long one, here's your warning).
As a Nurse, I care for women of all circumstances and walks of life. Think about it- 50% of the population are potential candidates to have a baby. Look around the mall or grocery store next time you're there and imagine each female with giant pregnant bellies. That includes the couple anxiously awaiting the arrival of their new baby- prepared with every gizmo and gadget, financially "ready" to take on the feat of having a child. As a couple, they have successfully completed each and every child-rearing, breastfeeding, and labor prenatal class in existence. They even hired their own private postpartum doula for their first 2 weeks at home. Though it seemed rare, the hospital I had the honor of working at saw those patients; but we saw so much more.
Seemingly more-so, we cared for the the homeless woman, the abused wife, the refugee, the same-sex male couple here to meet their new baby, the meth-addict, the surrogate, the 17 year old, the prison inmate, the fifty-year-old single woman welcoming her IVF-twins, the pregnant woman in end stage kidney failure, the alcoholic, the woman pregnant for the 7th time who has yet to bring a baby home from the hospital. I could go on.... and on. I feel like I've seen it all. Then I work another shift and I see there's more out there than I could have ever imagined.
When I tell people that I work in a family birth center, I most commonly receive those soft smiles accompanied by "oooooo's and awwwe's; You get to hold babies all day!" I usually smile in return and say something along the lines of, "it would be nice if that's all I did. But, you're right, I do have an amazing job." If only they knew. We are so bound by HIPAA laws, and rightly so; it's hard to even begin to express all that goes on inside those hospital units. But trust me, I'm lucky if I get to hold a baby for more than 2 minutes in a 12 hour shift.
I've not only learned how to do the job of nursing, but I've seen more of this world than I ever realized existed simply through my patients. There were days/nights when I went to work and didn't have a single english-speaking patient. There were many shifts I showed up to and found myself in disbelief after getting report from the prior Nurse. This is really their life? It's heartbreaking. The trauma, the abuse, the lack of stability, the coping-choices she has made, and now a new baby in the picture. It's overwhelming at times. More than anything, it's humbling. Incredibly humbling. My worst day is nothing, nothing, nothing compared to many of my patients' every single day. Inside our walls though, I had the privilege of giving each and every woman my very best care regardless of her history or circumstances. She received the same grace, tenderness, and care. For those 3 days, every woman had a roof over her head. Every woman had meals. Every woman could be clean, showered, and taken care of. For the most part, all of the craziness in her life was pushed to the side and all became about a sweet, squishy newborn. How special is that!?
Reflecting back on my time there (a few months short of 4 years)... I have many thoughts. Too many to transcribe and do so in an appropriate manner. I'm grateful for the foundation of nursing this job gave me. I'm thankful for the hectic shifts, the often crazy scenarios, the high acuity of many, and the supportive co-workers I had the pleasure of working with. Besides humility, I gained a gigantic respect for pregnancy and birth. Yes, it's a natural process. Yes, our ancestors all did it. BUT, they also died. Often. Super often! Birth is no joke. Pregnancy is no joke. Per the CDC, nearly 9 women out of every 1000 died in childbirth in 1900. The centuries before that saw much higher rates. Infant mortality rate in 1915 was much higher at 1 in every 10 newborns. I certainly don't take pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period lightly. If anything, I see every successful birth as a miracle. New life is a miracle in every way. What a blessing it has been to be a part of so many new beginnings for so many families.
The part that has been the most difficult for me these past few days is letting go. I think I can speak for most nurses when I say that we carry a constant level of alertness and fear of messing up (fear may not be the right word). It's a lot of pressure. With anywhere from 1 high acuity patient in your care to 8 individuals, there's a lot on the line. Anything could go wrong at any time. There could be an emergent situation at any moment. Anyone in healthcare likely feels this pressure- and if they don't I'd be a bit concerned. People's lives are literally in our hands. We care for people at their most vulnerable moments and they trust us to do so with ease and often perfection. The pressure is real. Now that the weight is lifted, it feels oh so strange. I'm exhausted and relieved all at the same time.
I've blabbed enough. I'd be surprised if you've made it this far through my post. If so, thank you. If you're one of my co-workers, thank you. Thank you for teaching me and loving on me these past few years. Thank you for trusting me and respecting me. Thank you for cheering me on. Thank you for the HARD work you do every day.
If you aren't someone who works in healthcare, thank your Nurses. They do incredible work every day and they can't really talk about it. When you walk by the nurses station and see the nurses "just sitting," know that they likely are doing much more. They are waiting ready with the chart open for that physician to call back, they are digging through charts to read up on and better understand your health history; they are writing progress notes; they are planning their care for YOU so that you get your meds on time, so that you don't experience pain, so that your needs are met. They are watching the fetal monitors on ALL of the patients on the floor, ready to jump to action and help a co-worker. They are keeping an eye on that baby's oxygen level on the monitor screen... trust me, they are doing much more than you think. Nurses, thank you for the work you do. I'm proud to call myself one. I'm also thankful for an extended break!
I'm thrilled to get to focus on being a full time mama and supportive wife for a little while!