Today I cared for a woman who I cared for during her first childbirth. This was the first time I have ever had this happen. Actually, it was the first time I cared for a mother during her birth for both her children. When I walked onto the unit the nurse I was taking over for said to me, “You know her; you were her nurse for her first baby.”
The name didn’t look familiar at all. But I can barely remember names even while I care for people, so I couldn’t rely on that. The night shift nurse said to me that the patient absolutely hated me.
Say what? What the hell am I getting assigned to her now? My puzzled look gave the nurse a case of the giggles, and she further explained that she hated me when I first came in to care for her and thought that I was going to leave her. Apparently the nurse I had taken over from back then didn’t provide much support. But I had stayed with her the entire time, holding her hands, giving her sips of water, putting cold cloths on her forehead. And she loved me from then on.
I still didn’t remember who she was. Hopefully I would when I walked into her room.
Sure enough, it all came back to me as soon as I entered the room. As I stood at the foot of her bed, we stared at each other. It was quite bazaar actually, like we were sizing each other up. Not in a bad way, just weird. Kelly, the patient, broke the silence.
“Did Nurse B tell you that I hate you?”
“But you know I absolutely loved you!” She stopped to breathe through a contraction. Watching her was like watching a childbirth education video. She was perfect and controlled. Very unusual. Very unlike the first time. She ended the contraction with a calm breath and opened her eyes. “I had several false alarms this pregnancy and every time I came in I asked for you.”
No one informed me of this (which was not unusual because it seems that I work with people who don’t like to pass on compliments). But I was so flattered. Kelly had remembered me, remembered my name, and asked for me to be her nurse. Hearing this makes me feel like what I do really is important, that I am not just a cog in the wheel.
And so we fell into the old routine. I talked her through her contractions. I gave her sips of water. I made hot packs for her back. I told her how impressed I was with her breathing and ability to calmly cope with her labor. I sat on her bed and held her hands or rubbed her legs. When she wanted to push when she was only 8 centimeters I breathed with her to get her through the urge. And I wished that I could bond with all my patients like this. I provide labor support to all of my patients, don’t get me wrong, but there was something different about my nurse-patient relationship with Kelly.
When her baby was born, I helped to place him on her chest. Kelly talked to her new little boy in some secret baby language. Her son looked wide eyed and calm. When all was said and done, Kelly said to me, “I didn’t hate you one bit this time.”
I laughed. “Good.”
“I hope you’ll be here in ten years,” she said.
“Because that’s when I’ll be back.”