I wish I knew who she (or he) was and what she looked like. Was she young or older, experienced or just starting out? How had her weekend been? Was she starting or ending a work shift at 2:30 a.m. that Monday morning when they ran me into the surgery room?
The first few days after my son was born, he was kept in intermediate care as we recovered from an emergency C-section that saved both our lives—his by just a few minutes. I occasionally managed to shuffle over to see him, but was pretty weak myself, so the nurses took care of him.
Now, giving birth in a public hospital in Central America may not be ideal, but I have no complaints here after three natural births and one C-section. There is one thing, though, I don’t know who attended us. It’s a good-sized hospital with different sections that I still haven’t figured out as I have gone through mostly on a hospital bed or in advanced labor. I don’t get to know the doctors and nurses much personally as they are always changing.
I do know that we came in that night, by Divine guidance sooner than I would have otherwise when something didn’t feel right. (Later we found out it was placental abruption.) After they checked my baby’s heartbeat and realized it was plummeting, the wheelchairs, running nurses, elevators, and the surgery room filled with people dressed in green became a blur in my mind. They put me straight to sleep with anesthesia as there wasn’t time for an epidural. Mercifully maybe, I didn’t see the struggle to get my son to breathe when they took him out. But I didn’t see his first hours either.
A couple of days later as I was with him in the intermediate baby care unit, I watched a very tired nurse come in with a baby from another mom having a C-section. She mentioned a bit about being so tired, having been on her feet running all day. Still, she cared well for the baby. I thanked her and said I wished I knew who had taken care of my baby those first hours when he was so weak.
Another thing that impressed me on those visits to my baby those first days was how the nurses used the babies’ names. Somehow, with so many babies going through and needing to be fed and cared for, I had imagined they would use some numbered system. Instead, each baby’s real, given name was used and placed above their beds.
My husband recognized the big, tattooed doctor who had insisted they not wait for all the paperwork to get through before the operation. I got to thank him in person for his part. I told him a bit about the details of how we got to the hospital when we did. “It was God,” he said, “even five minutes later would have been too late.”
Sometimes we hear stories of terrible healthcare workers. I don’t have any stories like that myself, but there were definitely some of my nurses and doctors who stood out to me. Like the kind doctor who checked me and got me the blood transfusions I needed afterward. A time or two, it looked a bit like I would need to be restitched, and it terrified me. She was so kind though that it helped me relax when she had to check the stitches. The nurse who found me crying after so much time getting the transfusions was also very kind.
After several days in the hospital, my admiration for nurses grew a whole lot. Nursing is not my interest at all, and sometimes I think nothing must be harder than the overwhelm of motherhood. But I realized it must be hard to be around hurting people so much and still keep a positive outlook on life. So many of them, maybe even more in these public hospitals, live thankless lives. Like the nurse who took care of my son.
So if you are one of those nurses or doctors who is living a thankless life around hurting people whom you keep patiently helping, thank you. If you are one of those who would have taken care of me or my baby, thank you. You do make a difference, and we know it, even though we don’t have the opportunity to thank you in person.