It was 12:30 PM in Los Angeles in a modest apartment close to the ocean. The day seemed slow and uneventful this quiet Sunday afternoon. Theresa was completely the opposite as she was preoccupied with anticipation of her first child. This young man was already 10 days late and she wondered when she would get to meet him as she paced the apartment. Rubbing her swollen abdomen she felt a twinge of anxiety when the phone rang. The nurse midwife on the phone who had followed her pregnancy said “I was looking at your ultrasound again and that boy seems large and ready to be born. It’s slow today, would you like to come in and be induced today instead of tomorrow?” Theresa, a nurse herself, knew about the procedure she was to encounter, but never imagined her labor and delivery experience to be so difficult.
The drive to the hospital was exciting. Theresa talked about her delight and joy with her husband. She felt supported and safe, thinking what could be better than having a psychologist as a Lamaze coach.
As Theresa entered the hospital and was asked to sit in a wheelchair she felt odd. Being the caretaker and more importantly, in control in medical situations as a nurse was what she was accustomed to. She felt this strange odd feeling repeatedly as they started the IV and injected the Pitocin. Silly questions came to mind such as “where did she go to school?”
Then, rapidly the idyllic anticipation of a child slipped away as the contractions began. Her loving husband tried to soothe her. Every relaxation technique was attempted without success. She began ordering her husband to do it this way and that way and then finally ordered him out of the room. The nurses watched patiently. Some were intimidated and left as soon as their task was done.
One, however, had the courage to enter her world of pain and loss of control. She approached Theresa and said, “I know what you’re going through, it’s not easy being a patient when you’re a nurse.” The nurse sat by Theresa and said nothing. She waited to be invited into her pain. Theresa finally said, “ help me.” It was then, that the relationship began and the journey into motherhood began a little easier. The nurse gave her permission to cry out, to give up all control, and to be vulnerable.
The time seemed endless for Theresa as she labored to have her first child. The pain was excruciating, yet bearable as the nurse broke through the barriers and successfully got Theresa to relax. Theresa remembers the stroking of her head, wiping the perspiration from her brow, singing, the smell of her perfume, and her quiet, patient, accepting voice. They tried everything together, breathing, squatting, grunting, laughing for brief moments, and story-telling. What Theresa remembers about the nurse was her devotion, patience and loyalty. What she still wishes to try and remember about this nurse is her name.
To this day Theresa has this experience imprinted in her heart, the birth of her first child. Theresa believes that she would not have been able to persevere with the labor and delivery of her child hadn’t it been for this unnamed nurse. She is inspired having witnessed a colleague in action and to have benefited from her expertise and caring. Two nurses met , one as the patient and the other as the caretaker. Theresa will be forever grateful and appreciative, and even though she will never have the opportunity to change roles with the nurse who cared for her, she will pass on the collegial tenderness whenever possible.
Jan Cipkala-Gaffin, MN,RN,CS
Los Angeles, CA
– excerpted from Touched By a Nurse©