Why I became a nurse
I’ve been reluctant to “write” fearing loss of identity, rolling of eyes, or simply boring others to tears. However, I find writing therapeutic if for one one else than myself. With that, I begin my first blog.
So the big focus of my life at the moment is nursing school. I was accepted into the program in the fall of 2010 and will graduate this December. This is the first summer off I’ve had since nursing school began. I’ve had some time to reflect on what brought me to nursing, my struggles, and my aspirations.
In 2006, I was working for a wonderful church as a pastoral assistant. I loved the job! The people I came in contact with were simply amazing individuals. I saw people overcome huge obstacles, struggle with their faith, and leaders of various missions and classes that led selflessly to improve the lives of others. Among my various duties, one of the things that brought me joy was assisting in arranging funerals. I often am asked how that could ever bring someone joy. Initially, I had no idea why, but now it is really clear. In the darkest times of our lives, we are most vulnerable. We grope blindly in darkness for a shred of hope in which to cling. We feel…well…we feel alone. There is no worse fear than that of being alone. I think even the most socially awkward or most private people still need other people. I think perhaps we are that way by design. Regardless, in those moments, it’s easy to feel consumed. Bitter. Angry. Afraid. It is in those moments that we are challenged beyond what we thought we could ever handle. Whether those moments be the loss of a loved one, a medical diagnosis that threatens our peace, or otherwise finding out that our lives are about to be changed forever by something we have no control over. Is that not the most frightening and frustrating aspect of life? Having no control? I don’t mean losing control over emotions, rejection, inability to sleep, etc. I mean losing control over things we take for granted that we ever controlled in the first place. Our health. Our bodies. Our jobs. Our abilities, and the like.
Well, during this position at the church, I became pregnant with our 5th child. Though my child was not expected, I adapted to the idea very quickly and became extremely excited! So, after a lot of consideration, I decided to quit the job about 2 months before summer so that I could spend some quality time with my children prior to our baby’s arrival. Our lives were about to change again, and I was ready!
The pregnancy was a challenge from the beginning. I had intermittent bleeding, felt very weak and ill, and gained weight rapidly. For some reason, I truly believed something was wrong with my baby. But at each doctor visit, my concerns seemed dismissed and trivial. The visits typically ended with hearing the baby’s heart rate thumping away at the typical 150 beats per minute. Finally, the 19th week appointment came, and I chose to do the quad screening. I had been burned by the test before, when it indiciated two of my healthy children were at an increased risk for Downs Syndrome and for Spina Bifida, even though both the kids were born without illness. So I didn’t put a lot of stock into this test. Prior to receiving those results, it was time for my 20 week ultrasound.
I will never forget this experience for as long as I live. I remember the dimly lit room with the typical short table covered by the white paper. Somehow, the fact that my bladder was at capacity didn’t matter, I was egar to meet my baby for the first time. My husband was waiting in the waiting room while I was prepared for the ultrasound. The tech was talkative and pleasant, and since it was all so familiar to me, I had no anxiety. I simply wanted to see if our little one was a boy or a girl; it would resolve the endless betting my husband and I had up to this point.
The tech put the cold wet gel on my belly and began the scan. The monitor was pointed at her, so I couldn’t see anything. She became quiet as she squinted at the screen repetitively, tilting her head and clicking buttons on the keypad fevrently. I felt like I somehow needed to explain why she might be seeing something odd. “I have had bleeding off an on throughout the pregnancy.” No response. “I haven’t been feeling much movement like I have previously.” It became as if I wasn’t even in the room. Whatever she was looking at, had her entranced and dead silent. “I have been cramping, but I have been told the baby’s heart beat is fine.” Nothing. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she asked in a quiet voice that was notably different than it was at our initial encounter, “What is your husband’s name? I need to go get him.” I could barely respond, but uttered his name. She quickly left the room.
I was not a nurse, not a doctor, not a medically savy person, but I was a woman who had seen 4 other ultrasounds to date and was good at identifying a head, arms, legs, a heart, and even some organs on an ultrasound. I got off the bed and went to look at the monitor. Unfortunately, she had turned the big picture off, but there were small pictures that lined the right side of the screen. As I squinted and got closer to the screen, I knew something was wrong. I saw the abdomen, the arms, the legs, the heart, the stomach, even the spine, but I could not find anything that looked like a head. My heart sank. I knew I was about to hear difficult news.
I have never been one to support abortion on any count. I knew that regardless of my baby’s affliction, I would not let any harm come to my baby. My husband entered the room with the happy anticipation I had started with that day. He was side tracked by why it had taken so long to bring him back to me, and began talking about the possibility of having a son together and reviewing the names we had chosen for our baby. I couldn’t hardly talk, but told him I knew something was wrong. I took him to the monitor and showed him our baby on the small thumbnails. He was confused at what he saw, too. This only worsened by anxiety – I had hoped to hear, “Oh, no. Here it is, silly! Here’s our baby’s head.”
A man walked in and stated his name, and I was rather amazed he made it into the doorway… his ego was much larger than the door frame. He was wearing a white lab coat and spoke about 3 words to me before he began his scan. He quietly looked at the monitor, but didn’t seem nearly confused as the tech had previously. He ignored questions we asked, and remained quiet as his did a few measurements. He finally made his first eye contact with me, and he uttered the coldest words I have ever heard in my life.
“I’m sorry. Your baby’s head did not form right. Your baby will not survive.”
He then promptly turned his back to me and began typing what I could only assume were his notes onto the computer in the room. I felt a huge knot in my throat and hot tears stream from the corners of my eyes as I lay there on the table staring at the ceiling with the cold gel still resting on my stomach. My face became hot but the rest of me became numb. I looked at my husband who was without question in denial of what we had just heard. He still had the joyful anticipation in his eyes,but slowly, he came to hear what I heard loud and clear.
With his back still to me, I managed to ask, “I’m sorry. WHAT did you just say? I don’t understand.” He again repeated, “Your baby will not survive.” I asked how that could be? What does that mean? Won’t survive until age 1? Won’t survive to adulthood? I had no idea and felt as though we were now talking two different languages. The tech began cleaning off the gel, and I began to become increasingly angry. I asked again, “What do you mean, won’t survive? I don’t care about deformity! I don’t understand what you are telling me!” I became completely disconnnected from my surroundings. In that moment, my life changed. I began to scream out loud and burst into a full cry. My husband asked for more answers. The doctor said, “Your baby’s head did not form properly. The neurotube did not close, and your baby cannot survive like this. I’m sorry. You can have the room as long as you need it.”
PART TWO: PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
I could not stop crying. The tears fell rapidly and I could feel my own heart beat in my head. It’s all I could hear. I felt alone. After some time alone in the room with my husband, a nurse from my OB’s office came into the room. She hugged me and told me how sorry she was, but I was still not listening to the “sorrys” from anyone. I knew there had to be some sort of mistake. MY baby was going to survive, and though my baby may not be well, it would be loved unconditionally. My mind ran wild. My husband called our pastor, and he dropped everything to rush to our side. I couldn’t call anyone else. I knew there was a mistake, so why would I call everyone to tell them something so horrific and then have to call them again to say it was a mistake. I knew that’d be silly. No way. I’d wait until I heard the whole thing.
The nurse took me up the back way to my doctor’s office. We were escorted into her private office. It’s the part of the doctor’s office that most healthy people will never see. It’s the desk, the diplomas, the pictures, the countless books, the computer, and the huge stack of files. I remember staring at the files wondering if the doctor saw that pile as a simple stack of paper diagnoses, or a stack of people awaiting anxiously by their phones at home. Finally, she entered the room.
She greeted me with a hug and the seemingly overly used, “I’m so sorry.” I was numb again. I hated “I’m sorry.” I asked what was going on, and she seemed rather surprised that Dr. Congeniality in Ultrasound hadn’t told me the situation. I explained that I never even saw my baby, and I was only told that my baby “wouldn’t survive.” She apologized (ugh, again) for his lack of compassion, and opened a book. She showed it to my husband and said, “This is anencephaly.” She rambled on about the neurotube not closing, the brain not forming, the back and top of the head not closing, low set ears and eyes, and how our baby would not live. That’s the part I waited on, because I knew my objection would obviously disprove her theory about not living.
“How can my baby not live? My baby has a heartbeat! A WONDERFUL heartbeat! You have told me that for 20 weeks now! My baby moves inside me. Not the way my other babies did, but I feel the movement once in a while. How long will my baby live?” She again spoke in medical terms that didn’t really sink in well, but I managed to hear that my baby was only alive because of the umbilical cord that connected us. My baby’s heart beat only because mine does. My baby moves only because I do. Once the cord is severed, my baby will die. It may take a few days, but most do not survive more than an hour or so.
About that time, our pastor arrived. I felt as though Superman had entered the room. SURELY HE can rationalize with this beastly doctor and her crazy thoughts. I can honestly say that I was so numb and sick that I didn’t hear most of their conversation. I saw my husband, my pastor, and my doctor all pointing at things in this book and the occasional, “I don’t understand” being uttered from my pastor and my husband. The next conscious thing I can recall is the doctor giving us her office “for as long as we need it.” There must be a medical book that is handed out in medical school that teaches doctors to use wonderful cliches in hopes of calming people. Ugh. Seriously, that book should be updated.
My pastor, who had become somewhat of a father figure, hugged me and had tears streaming quietly from his eyes. He took my hand and my husband’s hand and said, “I don’t understand. I need to go home and pray, and I need to make some phone calls and do some research. I am so sorry. I have never heard of this before.” I took his words as hope that perhaps there was some way to negotiate this…there must be a way to prove it wrong. I had anger. I had fear. I had denial. He asked, “Would you like me to pray with you?” It was as if I could hear my own words, but wasn’t the person saying them. I responded in a curt manner, “I have nothing to say to God right now. I am far too angry to speak to him. I don’t have the words, and even if I did, he wouldn’t want to hear them.” In his calming pastoral voice he said, “It’s okay. God’s love for you is greater than your anger for him.” I will never forget those words. Ever. At that time, I rolled my eyes and thought that my faith, my entire belief system was simply…well… had been built on a falsehood. No God could ever do this to a mother and her child.
Prior to our leaving, the doctor gave me the card to a specialist. This doctor specialized in terminating late pregnancies. I was sick just to receive the card…gross. Who kills their baby based on their imperfections? It seemed cruel and cowardly. I would never join “those” ranks. I reluctantly took it, put it in my purse with no intent of ever calling that phone number.
The drive home was a quiet one.
PART THREE: DECISIONS WITH OUT DECISIVENESS
I did not sleep. I did not eat. I relived those moments of the day over and over again. “Do not research pictures online,” I recall my doctor warning me, “if you must research, just look at the text. The pictures can be very upsetting.” The computer sat in my bedroom beckoning me to start finding what I could.
Ah yes, there is no question for which Google does not have an answer. I was able to find countless websites with information. I couldn’t believe in all my life, I’d never heard of this. I’d never known one woman to have gone through this. Word spread quickly through the church (and if you are a church member, you know just how fast word can go)! I got phone calls that night that were surprising. The first call was from a member of our congregation who had befriended me because our sons were going through Confirmation together and we both taught Confirmation. She called to tell me that she had endured a loss of a baby with Anencephaly. She told me her story, and it was remarkably similar to mine. She wept with me. She explained how she had planted a pecan tree in the back yard in memory of her child. She said that each year, it grows, just as her baby would have. Each year, when in season, it bares fruit, just as her baby would have one day. It provides shade in the heat of the day, it sported a tire swing that her son had played on for many years in his early childhood. It was a beautiful thought.
The second call was from my pastor. He prayed for me, and then he said, “God would never fault you for terminating your pregnancy. Your child will return home whether it be now, or after your baby has been born. I will stand with you regardless of what choice you make.” With that, we were off the phone. I stared at the ceiling all night, crying, denying, rationalizing, debating, praying, cursing, thinking, and then doing it all over again.
I reflected on my children, who at the time were 13, 10, 5, and 4. They knew we were having a baby. They were anticipating a baby to come home soon. They watching my belly grow over those months, heard the baby’s heart beat, and had even drawn pictures for their sibling. I explained to each child, as best I could, that our baby was sick, and that God would call our baby to go back home soon. Even though our baby wouldn’t get to be a big part of our lives, our baby would be with us forever in our hearts.
I hated myself for the decision I knew I was going to make. I called the “specialist” the next day, and scheduled an appointment for a consultation.
PART FOUR: JUST TOO EASY FOR HIM
We arrived at the appointment the following day. I had done my research thoroughly, as had my husband. I sat in the waiting room wondering why I was even here in the first place. I felt as though everything a mother is, I was not. I wasn’t protecting my baby, and was contemplating terminating my baby’s life…all because of a deformity. I was a bad person. No one could convince me otherwise.
I was called in promptly, and I shook hands with this “high risk OB specialist.” He began using phrases like, “You’ll sign the consent for termination,” “we’ll start by dilating the cervix,” and again, I began hearing only a ringing in my ears. It was as if my mind didn’t want to hear it. I know my heart didn’t want to hear it, either. He rattled on as if I had done this 10 times before. I interrupted him and said, “Maybe you didn’t understand. I am here for a second opinion. All I want to know is if my baby really has Anencephaly. Maybe someone made a mistake.” He did an ultrasound and said, “Yes. The baby most definitely has Anencephaly.” For the first time, my husband looked at the monitor as the doctor pointed out the missing structures. I saw on my husband’s face the disappointment and also how heartbreaking it was to just see it first hand. I asked them if I could see. Both of them said it would be too much to handle in my fragile condition. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see anyway, so I didn’t. I couldn’t.
The doctor explained that because I was entering my 21st week of pregnancy, if we were terminating, we had to schedule it quickly. Beyond 21 weeks becomes a legal issue due to viability or complications. I said I needed time, and the doctor was quick to point out that we were all out of time. He scheduled me for two days from the day of the appointment for surgery.
It was then I pulled out a list of about 20 questions I had written down prior to the appointment. I can’t recall all 20, but the highlights were, “Does it hurt my baby?” He looked astounded that I even asked. His demeanor changed a lot in that moment. I think he had come to realize that this wasn’t a procedure, or a quick fix to me. This was my child we were talking about, and he knew this was far more important to me than he originally gave me credit for in the beginning of our appointment. “Well, you will be asleep, and thus, your baby will be asleep. The baby won’t feel anything.” I asked what will happen with my baby’s body. “Well” [insert a lot of hedge phrases like uhm, and err], “it will be thrown out with the hospital’s medical waste.” I replied, “But this is my baby, it is not medical waste. Can I have a funeral for my baby and get my baby sent to a funeral home?” He assured me that would be just fine and that he would ensure my baby would be transferred to the morgue, and not thrown out. After a lot of other questions, my husband and I had agreed to the termination of the pregnancy. I couldn’t fathom explaining to my children why our baby looked a certain way, why the baby died, etc. I hated my decision, but I made the decision I felt was best at that time.
PART FIVE: THE DAY
I was in the pre-op area, crying, praying, and then crying some more. I felt like I had been judged and scheduled for execution for my decision. My pastor arrived and prayed for me and my husband at my bedside. My best friend was there with flowers, and I know she lacked the right words. She hugged me and told me she loved me. With that, I was wheeled to OR.
I awoke in PACU. As soon as my eyes opened, I felt ashamed and weak. I became frantic. I screamed repeatedly “WHERE IS MY BABY??? I WANT MY BABY RIGHT NOW!!!” I began pulling out my IV, removing all medical devices, tubes, etc. Nothing mattered to me more than knowing where my baby was at that moment. A nurse left to go get my husband. I sat in the bed screaming and crying in vain. It was as if no one on the planet could hear me. I was alone, ashamed, broken, and felt the most empty a person could ever feel.
PART SIX: AN ANGEL
A nurse (not MY nurse) had come to my bedside. I think most others were trying to avoid dealing with me because of my mental state. She sat on the bed next to me and gained control of my hands. She held me tightly in a strong embrace. She whispered “It is going to be okay. You are okay. Your beautiful baby is in the morgue awaiting the funeral home to arrive. I promise, your baby is downstairs. I promise. You will heal. I promise.” She then held my face, looked in my eyes and said, “You are strong. You knew your baby was going home, and you spared you, your family, and your baby the pain, sadness, and fear of facing certain death.” I cried out, “I killed my baby! I am NOT okay, and I am NOT STRONG!” She replied in her quiet voice, “It’s not for anyone to judge you. You loved your baby, and you showed mercy. Mercy isn’t always delivered in pretty packages. Mercy can be delivered by providing simple peace and forgiveness.” Then she said something that will stay with me forever, “You are loved, and you love. When we sit at the bedside of a dying patient, often our prayer is that their anguish and pain will end promptly, and they can go home in peace. That is the love and compassion you gave your baby, and it is to be commended.”
Now, I won’t turn this into a philosophical debate. I understand it is very easy to judge regardless of what side of the debate one stands. But in that moment, in those seconds where I was at my lowest low, alienated, sad, alone, afraid, and angry, I had this woman holding me and bringing peace. I had been so numb for so long, that this was the first time I felt the warmth of an embrace from a stranger. She stayed with me and held me as I wept (loudly) in the PACU. She was gently rocking me, and she was silent. She didn’t need any words…and I didn’t need to hear any words. I just needed to be held. I never got her name, and I cannot recall her face. I don’t know what her ethnicity was, or much of what she looked like. I only remember her voice. It fell on me like a cloak of love, protecting me from the judgment and condemnation I had for myself, and from that of others which I surely knew I would face one day. She was an angel sent from God to bring peace to a very broken soul. I will always remember that moment. Forever.
PART SEVEN: LIFE COMES FULL CIRCLE
Well, that was some years ago now. I have since had a baby boy in 2009, who will be 3 in just one week. I look at him and the miracle of his birth. I believe that our baby guided him, watches over him, and lives in him in some way. It may not exactly line up with the principles of my faith, but it brings comfort to my heart. It took a very long time to forgive myself, and even longer to be open about what happened back then. I feared the judgment of others. Then I realized that anyone judging what happened to me, my baby, and my family does not truly embody the genuine love that is of God. It’s easy to label people, and to believe that perhaps we’d had done it differently – more nobly, or ethically. The biggest lesson I got from this was very simple. Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to go. It is full of surprises, set-backs, hardships, and joy. I don’t think God casted one set of hard and fast rules that say, “If this happens, then do this.” If that is what faith was, then everyone would have it and it would be easy. God gave us free will, a heart, a mind, and prayer. Praying is more than a one-way conversation. We have to listen, too. I know I often forgot that part, and sometimes, I still do.
I am at peace now with my choice, and I know that God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace is mine. And what I choose to do with those blessings is up to me. I reached my decision on what to do with unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. I will give it away.
PART EIGHT: FINALE
I decided that what that nurse gave me in that moment was far more beautiful than anything I could have gotten or deserved. I knew that I must give it back. I saw that the medical profession can be cold, methodical, and impersonal. It needs compassion. It needs love. I need and want to breath life into the sterile medical world.
I began my nursing school journey with that one nurse in my heart. I carry a high GPA and love everything I have studied. This past semester, I did my L&D rotation. I had feared this rotation since the beginning. I was afraid that it would be too emotional, and perhaps I would cry or be too weak to truly serve the women and fathers in this area. I was taken by surprise. I excelled at this area, and I fell in love with every aspect. I loved postpartum, antepartum, intrapartum, NICU and NBN. I never dreamed I would fall in love so completely with this experience. I was so honored to be involved in the lives of the various women I cared for during those 8 weeks. I cared for a woman who had given her baby up for adoption. She was struggling with so much and her mother was a bit harsh and judgmental with this young woman. When her mother stepped out, I entered her room. It was evident she had been crying. I held her hand, and I told her how brave and selfless she is and how I admired her courage. I asked her if she wanted to talk. She fell into my arms as we sat at the side of the bed, and I held her as she wept inconsolably. Admittedly, I think I was perhaps wanting to do this for me when I first entered her room, and yes, that’s a selfish notion. However, as I held her, it had NOTHING to do with me. I honestly loved her in that moment, and wanted her to know she is not alone. Being faithful can be challenging, because obviously you can’t preach or teach about God in those moments. But, I can SHOW God’s love through action and thought. I held her. He held her through me. I was honored to be there for her…genuinely honored.
I had another patient delivering her first baby after she had endured a previous termination. She had elected to terminate due to a “chromosomal abnormality” that wasn’t specified. I held her hand, and kept her calm during her delivery. While the doctor and the RN focused on the medications, the baby, the episiotomy, the blood loss, etc., my focus was on her. I watched cautiously for signs of embolism, thrombus, or hemorrhage. You see, she didn’t speak English. I had the privilege and honor of conversing with her and keeping her informed as well as calm, during her delivery. Her baby girl came into the world screaming and crying – and with a minor health issue -nothing serious. But mom had a retained placenta, which can be extremely dangerous. I stood by her side as both a nurse and an advocate. Watching and waiting and mentally planning the next move while holding her hand and staying close to her. My instructor let me stay late that day to work with that patient. Mom’s situation improved and she didn’t require any further invasive procedures. She’d recover, and her baby was doing well. I got to bring her baby to her, and she held her baby close and wept. I knew those tears. They are the same ones I cried when my baby boy son was born. They are the tears of rejoice and relief.
The stories are endless in my mind, though I was only there for 8 weeks. I also loved mental health nursing, OR nursing, med/surg…I have loved every rotation. I never, ever judge my patients. I have never walked in their shoes. I am but a fraction of a second in their lives, but for the time I am there, I promise to make that patient my priority. I will do what is required of me to protect them, advocate for them, and to offer the best care I can give them. I don’t care about their religion, their decisions, their sexual orientation, their addictions, etc. In the end, they are people. It’s a word I think is often over used and under appreciated. One person has a million stories, many experiences, aspirations, desires, goals, fears, and a life. I am entering a profession that places me right in the mix! I will honor them and my profession. If you enter my care, you should rest assured that I will not judge you. Know that I respect you and I don’t care what your history includes. That’s not my job (or even my desire). I know you right now…in this moment. And even when you curse me, scream at me, or complain that I don’t do things fast enough – I still respect you and will treat you the way I would want you to treat me or my child.
PART NINE: STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED
Several weeks into my rotation, we were required to attend a day at a high risk OB clinic. We were there only to observe, and if we participated, it would be only in simple ways (take weight and vital signs, greet the patient, help ensure privacy, etc.). I received my assignment and called to schedule my clinical time in their office. I had never seen the doctor’s name before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. The only experience I had with a high risk OB doctor was with the doctor who terminated my pregnancy. I remember how he treated me initially – like I was part of an assembly line – and like I was not well versed in medical jargon. He was cold and sterile.
I drove to the medical center, parked in the parking garage and finally found his office. I arrived early, so they were opened yet. I waiting out in the hall for someone to arrive. During that time, I took a deep breath and convinced myself it would be okay.
The nurse arrived and let me in the office. When the door opened, there was something about the waiting room that seemed really familiar. As I went behind the door that led to the examination rooms, it all came full circle. I found myself standing in the same office I stood in 4 years ago as a pregnant woman with an anencephalic baby!
It was an uncanny coincidence. I went to the bathroom, sat on the toilet, and fought back the tears. Initially, I thought I would tell them I was feeling ill, go home, call my professor, and reschedule this rotation somewhere else. But, something inside me insisted I stay, so I did. I wiped away the tears, washed my face, put on a rough smile, and went out to face the day.
We had 4 high risk patients, once of which was there for a selective reduction (the termination of an fetus when the mother is carrying more than one). The mother was carrying 4 babies, and was reducing one that had severe chromosomal abnormalities. She ended up not getting anything done because the baby was not in the position in which the procedure could be done safely, so they rescheduled her to come back at another time.
I did have the chance to care for a high risk pregnant woman who had a host of issues that placed her and her baby at risk. After having an opportunity to visit with her one on one (we were waiting for the doctor to return), we made small talk. She told me about her stresses and anxieties, and I simply listened. We are told to never say, “Everything is going to be okay.” We have no idea how things will turn out and can’t offer false assurances. Instead, I simply said things like, “You sound most concerned about…” “You appear to be upset about…” “What is your biggest issue right now?”
Later,she asked the doctor in private if I could return for her next visit. The doctor explained that I am a student and this would be my only rotation. She explained to the doctor that I really made her feel comfortable and would really want me to be there for her next appointment. I, at the time, didn’t know any of it. She finished her appointment, hugged me, and told me I would make a great nurse one day. I took that to heart and genuinely appreciated her encouragement. It was after she left that the doctor asked me to return at her next appointment and told me what she had said. I was incredibly honored and accepted the invitation to return.
At the end of my rotation, the doctor was typing his notes and his back was to me. After I had reviewed some charts, I asked if I could talk to him for a minute. He turned to face me. I noticed that up to this point, he had not interacted with me much (his nurse did – and she was awesome). I said, “I felt it somehow important for you to know that I am more than a student nurse – I am a former patient.” He seemed a bit taken back. He said, “I thought you looked familiar.” In my mind I giggled – he probably didn’t know me, had no idea I was a patient of his, and was trying to be nice. He said, “Remind me of your reason for coming to see me when you were a patient.” I told him about my experience with my anencephalic baby and how he did the termination. Honest to goodness, he said, “I’m so sorry.” (UGH! SERIOUSLY!) I told him I was fine now. He said, “I remember your case well. If I recall, we had to make the decision quickly because you were near 21 weeks. Yes, you were very upset. You asked me some questions that were really hard to answer. It’s not normal to get those types of questions.” I couldn’t believe it. He really DID remember me. He then asked, “How did you feel I treated you as a patient?” I warned him that I didn’t feel it appropriate to answer that. But, he insisted. I told him that initially, I felt as though he thought I was a repeat visitor – like I had little appreciation for the life of my baby. I told him I felt he was cold. I even told him that my initial impression was that he was a baby killer for money. I told him I see him differently now, and that my perception was less than acute back then. He said, “I bet you wonder why I do what I do.” It caught me off guard, but I responded, “Yes, I don’t think I can understand the desire to do this.”
He explained that he does it because he believes all women have the right to choose. He said, “I can do it for a woman in a safe, clean, sterile environment where I know she will be cared for by the best staff and doctors that are available. They can choose to have it done safely. What if they didn’t have that choice?” I thought for a moment, but he cut my thought off. “You see, if they didn’t have the choice, someone else would do it for them. They may not be licensed, maybe they wouldn’t have their best interest at heart. Maybe it wouldn’t be clean. Maybe it would cause far worse damage rendering her infertile, or worse.” He finished up with something that made me see him in a different light. “Do you think this job comes easy every day? I see every woman as a person. I care for my patients. When someone like you comes in for a termination, they can be emotional – even if they never wanted to be pregnant to begin with. I remember how devastated you were – and how you struggled desperately with your issue. I didn’t sleep well at all that night. There are lots of nights it’s not easy to sleep.” This doctor is older than the retirement age and has been practicing well over 30 years. It was a lesson in judgment once again. Never judge anyone. Period. This guy was cold. His reasoning helped me to understand why – and even though it doesn’t excuse his actions, it explains them.
I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked with him that day, and thankful for the opportunity to return. I am thankful for the nameless nurse that was there for me. I am thankful that life lead me down the path it has, and that I have been given the opportunity to serve my fellow man (or woman) in this capacity. I pray that I deliver the best of me to all of my patients, and I am honored to have such privilege.
Never underestimate the human spirit or what it is capable of – never let adversity or sadness define you. There can be blessings in the those darkest hours. My baby had a beautiful and emotional funeral – and many people attended. My unborn child had more people present that I could have ever imagined. I never found out the sex of my baby. We called my unborn child only, “Baby [Last name].” It may seem odd to some, but at that time, I didn’t want to know the sex of my baby. I didn’t want to give the baby a name. If I had given the baby a name, it’d had amplified the pain. It would no longer be a baby, it’d had become a person with a firm identity. That is my one regret – and I have decided that I am going to pursue the sex of my baby, and I will then give my baby a name. And after 4 years, my baby will have an identity. It’s what is right. My baby rests in an earn. After I pass, I intend for our ashes to be put together. One day, we will be reunited, and we will embrace each other for the first time. Do I regret my decision? Maybe sometimes I do, but I can’t undo it, and even if I could, I am not sure that I would. I think it was best for everyone involved, including our unborn baby. The idea of gasping a last breath or being in pain is not something I wanted for our child, and my young children were not ready to face such sadness.
I hope that if you are reading this, and you are facing this decision, you do what is right for you. I hope that if you are a nursing student or nurse, you take this to understand that your patient is a person and did not come to be your patient easily. I hope if you are a doctor, you learn that what you say and don’t say can have a huge impact on the psyche of your patient. I hope that if you are pro life (strictly), you understand that not everyone fits neatly into categories, and not everyone is destined to hell simply because you say so. I hope if you are a pastor, you remember that your congregation hangs on your every word in those moments. If you are a woman that has endured a recent loss, that you can take that agony and turn it into something useful. I hope if you are one who loves to judge, I hope you are never placed in such a situation. It challenges the last fiber of your integrity, your faith, and your beliefs. I think it takes a strong person to endure these situations- and I pray that anyone reading this will never have to experience such heartache.
Don’t waste your days being hateful, envious, or judgmental. Mend bridges as best you can. Love those around you everyday – tomorrow is never promised to us. Above all else, you are never alone.