On a late September evening in 2007, an overdue and very uncomfortable pregnant woman sat up on the couch, swearing she heard a strange and quiet little pop.
After asking my husband if he had heard that, I stood up to investigate the strange noise and woosh ... my water had broken and it was time to go to the hospital.
I’m 32 years old so I should be calm, I said to myself scared out of my wits and having no idea what was going to happen next. I tried to act tough, but I was a scared little bunny lost in the woods. It was go time. I was soon going to have my first baby.
Can I really do this? I mean really, truly do this? How do women do this every day? I thought to myself.
I was checked to make sure my water broke (trust me, it broke), and I was dilated enough to stay. The nurse looked up at me and smiled and said, “Okay, let’s go have a baby,” and away we went to settle into a room.
I started feeling contractions; I said nothing, but there must have been terror on my face. The nurse placed a knowing hand on my shoulder, and we finished up the paperwork.
The next several hours weren’t easy as my labor progressed. My husband tried the Lamaze breathing exercises with me, but all I felt was pain. I wanted to take every single happy-faced rate-your-pain worksheet in the building, set them on fire, and hurl them out the window.
I was only dilated four centimeters, and I was miserable. A kind nurse let me know that in the middle of the night, it might take 30 minutes for the anesthesiologist to arrive, so I said uncle and called for an epidural right then.
I felt so disappointed in myself that I wasn’t tougher. Then I had contractions on top of each other as they were putting the needle in my back, and I cried. My poor husband felt helpless and had no idea what to do as I held tightly to his neck during the procedure.
After everything settled back down and I made peace again with the rate-your-pain happy faces, we tried to get some rest. It was around 2 AM, so my husband fell asleep immediately, and the nurses came in to check on me several times.
The baby’s heart monitor slipped out of place several times sounding the alarm, but I wasn’t scared since they let me know ahead of time that it commonly happens and assured me they would be on their way to me if I heard an alarm.
Morning came and it was finally time to push. I pushed for two hours, but the baby would not budge. The nurses guided me and helped me but nothing was happening. My doctor arrived and determined that I would need a C-section, as the baby would not be able to make “the turn” because of the way my pelvic bones were set.
Thanks for letting me push for two hours first, Mr. Wonderful, I thought to myself and we prepped for a C-section. The day shift anesthesiologist showed up to explain the procedures, and I all out started weeping.
I felt like a failure because I couldn’t do a natural birth. The anesthesiologist was a young guy so it was really awkward for him, but my nurses were there. My beautiful, comforting, knowing nurses.
As I was being wheeled down the hall to the O.R., I grew more excited to meet my baby. I was nervously ready to get the show on the road.
The doctor (that arrived just in time to basically put on a catcher’s mitt for my baby’s birth) greeted me and explained what we were going to do. I could see the clear hospital bassinet just a few feet away, nurses standing by. I couldn’t wait.
I heard my son’s first cry as they suctioned out his mouth, and again I cried. A warm, soothing voice near my head assured me that he looked great and that I would get to see him very shortly.
The doctor brought him around the side of the curtain and my mouth fell open. He was the biggest baby I had ever seen (well over 10 pounds) and he was purple. Is that normal? I thought.
The reassuring nurse’s voice, sharing in my happiness, said he was “pinking up” really good and that he looked great. My husband was on speakerphone with the grandparents so they could hear his first cry, and then my beautiful son was laid on my chest. I started talking to him and he stopped crying for a few seconds and furrowed his brow. And then he started crying again. So many intense emotions in a single 24-hour period.
We’ve since had another son, and they are now elementary and preschool-aged. My insurance and hospital paperwork is gone, as well as the many names and faces who were there with us that day.
The trenches of being at home with a newborn swallowed up my good intentions of sending thank you notes to hospital staff.
But I still want to say something to all labor and delivery nurses everywhere:
My, what you must see every day.
You go up and down the hallway in your tennis shoes over and over again, never really quite sure of the crazy situation you might find behind each door.
You grin at our carefully laid-out birth plans, and you do your best to honor our wishes.
You see us at our absolute worst, when we aren’t fully capable of really, truly seeing you and all that you do. You know. You understand. You have earned every single story you have.
You see us in our greatest of joys, our primal reactions to pain, and our deepest depths of grief and sorrow. You shed your own tears in the hallway and offer a knowing, sympathetic understanding, if only in your body language or a pat on the arm.
You spend hours with us, answering crazy questions and addressing our pain and worries when we aren’t able to think straight.
You keep a straight face when a new mom carries on an entire conversation with you, completely unaware that her entire breast is hanging out of her gown since she has just nursed.
You bring our babies to the nursery when we can’t keep our exhausted eyes open for another single second. You adjust our pillows and help us sit up. You help us stand up. You help us into the rocking chair a few feet from our beds. You help us figure out the shower and the mesh underwear and tell us what the heck that little squeeze bottle is for.
You show us how to swaddle and you have a finesse with handling newborns that is hard to duplicate. You help new scared dads, and you help big brothers and sisters feel special too.
So I want to thank you. Thank you for embracing the new-mom crazy in stride every day. Thank you for handling the crazy of the past, and the crazy you haven’t even seen yet.
You deserve more credit. I couldn’t see past the end of my nose back then, but I truly see you now. You brought a calm and an important trust to the uncertain.
On behalf of every new frenzied, frantic baby-crazed mom, thank you.
Thank you for keeping moms and their babies safe.
Thank you for being there.
Thank you for all you do.
Thank you from the most primal and very bottoms of our new-mom hearts.