I remember my first time being in labor. I couldn’t stop asking questions. “Is it normal that my water hasn’t broken yet?” When it did, I asked, “Now that it did, should I push? When do I push?” My questions didn’t stop there. “Is the baby OK?” He was covered in white slime. “Should he be that color?”
I felt so unprepared and overwhelmed. I had been advised by a friend to relax and trust the process, but anxiety and relaxation are not good friends. I just wanted to understand everything. “You’re going to be a great mother and I promise your instincts will kick in,” my nurse told me. With nothing else to cling to, I held on to her promise like a like a newborn cub to its mama bear.
My nurse at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, Celeste Chacón was witty and calm. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked her. When my water broke in the hospital room, I was freaking out. I felt like at any moment, my baby was going to fall out and no one would be there to catch him. Like he was a home run ball headed toward a stand of drunken fans. Like my baby, the ball would come catapulting out too fast for the fans, focused on scarfing down overpriced hot dogs and soft pretzels, to grasp its arrival. Was my baby going to be a homerun ball baby? My thoughts were getting more irrational by the second.
Celeste simply looked me in the eyes and said, “It’s all going to be OK. This is what I’m here for.” When I began to push, she put a mirror between my legs so I could see my baby Liam’s entrance into the world. I hadn’t liked the suggestion, but she encouraged me anyway.
I was nervous. I felt out of control and she helped me feel in control. She knew, even when I didn’t, that I needed to have this experience. She helped me feel connected. She was my better judgment. Today, I can’t imagine myself having missed such a precious moment.
‘I’ve got your back’
She was also there to laugh with me about the not so precious moments. “Everyone poops during labor,” she warned. Luckily, I was spared from this precious horror. But because of her, I was able to laugh about those “ugly” birth things no one talks about. Not much is left sacred during labor. She made me feel respected and honored, even when my legs were spread eagle style, baring all, for the world to see. Her wit, her confidence, her patience kept me feeling safe.
Despite my constant panic, she remained calm and continued to tell me, “I’ve got your back.” After labor, I felt dizzy and she was there with oxygen. When I was nauseous, she was there to hold my hair back in case I vomited. When I yelled at my husband for pressing the epidural button, she was there with a side smile, reminding him that he too would make it through this, but also to NEVER mess with a woman in labor. Mama gets what Mama wants.
After Liam was born, she jumped for joy with us. She made sure to get Liam into my arms as fast as possible. She took speedy measurements of his height and weight and passed him over to me. There is no telling how sleep deprived she must have been that day or what was going on in her own life. Regardless, there was never a moment where she wasn’t present. Somehow, she made the best moment of our life feel even better.
‘It’s going to be OK’
At another point in my life, I experienced an ectopic pregnancy and needed emergency surgery. I was greeted with the most gentle beings. I was terrified of surgery and was in complete shock that I had no choice but to terminate my pregnancy.
My husband couldn’t be with me while they were prepping me for surgery. Alone, I pulled back my hair and started removing my clothing to don the dreaded hospital cap and gown. The only other times I had worn a cap and gown were for joyous things like birth and graduation. The stark contrast only made me feel more depressed. My hands were shaking so hard I could barely tie my gown.
When the nurse came in to give me her condolences, she stayed and talked. She asked me if I had any other children, their ages, and continued chatting. It was small talk but its impact was immense. She made me feel less alone. Another nurse came in to insert an IV. My skin was ice cold and, once again, I could not stop shaking. She held my hand and began to massage it to help with circulation. Her touch made me feel connected to someone. It was something I desperately needed as I went through what felt like a complete out-of-body experience.
I had no control. I couldn’t stop what was happening. But these two nurses held space for me in their hearts. Before I went under anesthesia, one had her hand on mine. She reassured me, “Everything is going to be OK.” That was my last memory.
As I came to afterward, I was waking up to an empty womb. My baby was gone. Yet because of those nurses, I was mentally and emotionally OK. I felt love and support. They were with me during my time of need when my husband couldn’t be.
Love and support
Nurses are there to take our loved one’s place when we are prepped for surgeries. They are the ones holding our hands as we cry tears of loss. They are the ones guiding us through a panic attack when we feel like we have lost all control. They are the ones who hold space for our emotions, no matter what they are. They are the ones who work tirelessly to comfort us, even though they have not slept. They are the ones who are always what we need, whatever that may be. They never complained or told me to get ahold of myself. They just loved me through it.
And we cannot forget about those special nurses I had in recovery. Those women are the angels of this world. While I sat in my bed bleeding, they cleaned me. When I could barely walk myself to the toilet, they carried me. When I cried because I was struggling to breastfeed, they helped me.
When I needed clean sheets, they became my maids. When I needed food, they served me. When I was in pain, they reminded me that it was OK to accept the pain medication. When I felt overwhelmed and tired, they cheered me on. When I lost all of my dignity after pushing out a baby and was unable to take myself to the bathroom without assistance, they reminded me that I was superwoman. These women never looked at me and said, “That isn’t my job.” They simply jumped to help me.
That is a hero. Someone who sacrifices his or her own time to become the hands and the feet to others who need them. They sacrifice their own emotional needs to support the emotional needs of their patients.
To the women who took care of me when I could not take care of myself, I see you, I thank you, I’ll never forget you. I don’t know what I would have done without you.
Ashleigh Beaver lives in Winston-Salem and is married to her high school sweetheart, Evan. They have two children. They lost two other children last year due to a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy. She began to write as a way to process and it turned into her passion. She writes about the daily struggles, joys, and life of a mother and a wife at Matriarchs and Maids. This article was originally featured on Love What Matters.
Your baby’s birth is one of the most miraculous moments you’ll ever experience in life. That’s why Novant Health strives to make your labor and delivery experience as comfortable as possible.