A letter to my nurses, the women who took care of me when I could not take care of myself,
Thank you. I remember my first time being in labor. I couldn’t stop asking questions. I remember asking, ‘Is it normal that my water hasn’t broken yet?’ When it did, I asked, ‘Now that it did, should I push? When do I push?’ My questions didn’t stop there. ‘Is the baby okay?’ He was covered in white slime. ‘Should he be that color?’ I felt so unprepared and completely overwhelmed. I had been advised by a friend to relax and trust the process, but anxiety and relaxation are not good friends. I just wanted to understand everything. ‘You’re going to be a great mother and I promise your instincts will kick in,’ my nurse told me. With nothing else to cling to, I held onto her promise like a newborn cub to its mama bear.
My nurse, Celeste, was witty and calm. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked her. When my water broke and I called her in there, I was freaking out. Like at any moment my baby was going to fall out and no one would be there to catch him. Like he was a home run ball headed toward a stand of inattentive, drunken fans. Like my baby, the ball would come catapulting out too fast for the fans, focused on scarfing down ridiculously priced hot dogs and soft pretzels, to grasp its arrival. Was my baby going to be a home run ball baby? My thoughts were getting more and more irrational by the second.
Celeste simply looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Just try to be calm. It’s all going to be okay. This is what I’m here for.’ When I began to push, she put a mirror between my legs so I could see my baby Liam’s entrance into the world. I hadn’t liked the suggestion, but she encouraged me anyway. I was nervous. I felt out of control and she helped me feel in control. She knew, even when I didn’t, that I needed to see this experience. She helped me feel connected. She was my better judgment. Today, I can’t imagine myself having missed such a precious moment.
She was also there to laugh with me about the not so precious moments. “Everyone poops during labor,’ she warned. Luckily, I was spared from this precious horror. But because of her, I was able to laugh about those “ugly” birth things no one talks about. Not much is left sacred during labor. She made me feel respected and honored, even when my legs were spread eagle-style, bearing all, for the world to see. Her wit, her confidence, her patience kept me feeling safe.
Despite my constant panic, she remained calm and continued to tell me, ‘I’ve got your back.’ After labor, I felt dizzy and she was there with oxygen. When I was nauseous, she was there to hold my hair back in case I vomited. When I yelled at my husband for pressing the epidural button, she was there with a side smile, reminding him that he too would make it through this, but also to NEVER mess with a woman in labor. Momma gets what momma wants.
After Liam was born, she jumped for joy with us. She made sure to get Liam into my arms as fast as possible. She took speedy measurements of his height and weight and passed him over to me. There is no telling how sleep-deprived she must have been that day or what was going on in her own personal life. Regardless, there was never a moment where she wasn’t present. Somehow, she made the best moment of our life feel even better.
That’s a hero. Someone who sacrifices their own time, their own family, to become the hands and the feet to others who need them. They sacrifice their own emotional needs to support those of their patients.
To the women who took care of me when I could not take care of myself: I see you, I thank you, I’ll never forget you. I don’t know what I would have done without you.
This story originally appeared on Love What Matters