The best and the worst. There is such a clear difference between the two, nurses that is.
We were lucky enough to have one of the world’s best nurses with us for the majority of our time at the hospital. She was the one that met us first in the triage room. She was the one that searched and searched for a heartbeat. She was the one that told us to remain calm as she ran out the room looking for a doctor to perform an ultrasound scan. She was the one that put her hand on my shoulder as the doctor told us “there is no heartbeat.”
When we arrived to our room at labor and delivery she promptly wrote our names on the board, and then asked us our son’s name. When she wrote Nolan’s name on the board we both started bawling. She recognized that he too was part of our journey.
I was induced around 10 pm. And when her shift ended, I was scared. I didn’t want her to leave. She was my lifeline. Unfortunately, my labor took forever. Fortunately, she returned as on our nurse as her next shift began. When all the lights were off, she brought us some aromatherapy to calm our nerves. It had been a day full of family visits, screams, tears, confusion, social workers, nurses, doctors, and a Chaplin. (Not at all what we had expected.) My labor was not progressing. She was the one that sat with us through the worst moments of our lives and shared with us that she too had a son that was born still. At that time, she too had a two year old at home. She was the one that proved to me that we could do this, we would continue to live.
She was at my side as the doctor’s raced me to the operating room as I was puking in a bag. She held my hand and told me I was strong, I would make it. She guided Brett and helped him understand what was happening. She was the one that handed Simon to me after he was born. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, he was perfect.
When we were wheeled back to our room she respected our time with him. She let us call the shots. And she was there, with us. When we were ready, she gave him the world’s most gentle bath as we watched. She cared for him as if she was caring for her own son, the one she had lost. She gently wiped his nose as it bled. She gently put Simon in his take home outfit. The one I couldn’t resist buying at the store just in case we had another boy. I didn’t realize how difficult it was to dress a baby that couldn’t move. But she continued. I kept telling her that we could get her a different outfit, one that was easier to put on. But she insisted. This was his outfit. This was the one that we had brought just for him. Just in case. She was the one that managed to put it on him, despite the challenges.
Our moms, Simon’s grandmas, were waiting in the hallway to meet him. She was the one that greeted them. Hugged them. She made them feel comfortable. And when they left the hospital, she did the same knowing that they too were leaving the hospital with empty arms and broken hearts.
When our pure exhaustion was apparent, she took Simon out of the room so that we could rest. (I regret not having him with us the entire time, but it had been days since we had slept.) She came back to the room and took me to the bathroom. She gave me the same gentle bath that she gave Simon as I was completely numb to the world. Completely and utterly broken.
When we woke up, she brought us a box full of Simon’s belongings, his foot prints, handprints, blanket, and hat. And a book that we brought for his footprints.
As she left the next morning, at the end of her shift, she told us that she would never forget Simon. She always went home at the end of her shift and told her daughter about the babies she met that day. And she couldn’t wait to tell her about our Simon.
We will never forget her.
Our next nurse. Ugh. We were told that we would be able to stay in our Labor & Delivery room until we went home. We felt safe within those walls. There was no reason to pick up at leave. After our visitors had come and gone, I had an idea. Simon was bundled up with a million swaddle blankets. But I wanted to see him. I wanted to see his toes, his fingers, his little arms and legs. If this was the last time we would see him, I wanted to see all of him. We gently unwrapped him and took him in, tears soaking his cute little outfit.
Our nurse walked in. We had to move rooms. And we had to do it right then. I still to this day don’t understand her reasoning but we were in a complete fog. All we could do was follow her lead. Follow her directions. But that was our moment. That was our time to soak up every bit of him that we could, and it was interrupted. It was cut short. For a parent that will never again see their child, anything is too short. My arms shook as I wrapped him back up the best I could. And there we were, walking down the aisle of Labor and Delivery, fearing a run in with expectant parents, or celebratory grandparents, or cheerful siblings, or even worse my friend who was past her due date and planning to deliver at the same hospital, with our dead child in a hospital bassinet for all to see.
Our new room was fine, at the very end of the hallway. But right there, in the room next to us was a newborn baby crying. They were trying to protect us from that, and moved us right next to the happy family.
After I had Nolan I received a handful of feminine products to help in my recovery. I don’t even know how I remembered but I asked our nurse if there was anything I could take home with me. She responded telling me that those were the products that you got when you were in the mommy and baby wing of the hospital. Mom and baby? I can’t believe I didn’t just hit her the face right then and there. Mom and baby? I wished I had screamed, “I am a mom and that is my baby!”
She left the room and came back with a prescription and directions to the hospital pharmacy. I had just given birth. My life had just been turned completely upside down. The trap door had just opened and I had fallen straight to the bottom of a deep dark pit. I had to say hello and goodbye to the child I had dreamed about for the past year and she wanted me to go stand in line at the pharmacy? What the hell?
When she finally handed the prescription to Brett she had the nerve to say, “It took so long to print the paperwork I guess I could have just gone down the hall to get you what you need.’’ No. Shit.
The only thing she gave us was more time with Simon, and as we grew more and more frustrated with her, we tried to remind ourselves of that. If she had printed the papers quickly we would have had to hand him to her and say our final goodbyes. Instead, our final goodbyes lasted a couple hours more than we expected and for that I am grateful as I would do anything to just spend one more minute with him.
When we finally got the paperwork, it was time. Time to Leave the only place we had felt safe. Time to enter the real world. She wheeled Simon down the hallway as we waited in our room. And then. Then we left. On our own, holding hands, in silence, we walked out of the room, past the nurses station, past the check in desk, past the visitors room, past another check-in desk to the elevator. By ourselves. Without an escort. Without one single goodbye. Without one hug or one nod. Without a wheelchair. Without our nurse. Alone. With empty arms, shattered lives and broken hearts.
We will never forget her.
The best and the worst.