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An interview with the most influential person that shaped my experience at Winnie Palmer Hospital: My labor nurse

April 30, 2014

Winnie Palmer Hospital is a special place to me because it is where both of my children were born. In December of 2009, my husband and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl. Although it took me nearly four years to convince myself to go through it all again, we welcomed a sweet little boy this past August.

After having two children in this hospital, I have gained such an appreciation for all of the hard work, expertise and care that takes place within these walls. Like a lot of women, the idea of childbirth was frightening to me, not only as a first-time mom but even more so after I’d been through it once before. It is a wonderful, life-changing experience, but until you see that little one enter the world safe and healthy, it can be full of challenges and anxiety.

When I gave birth to my son, the care I received was nothing short of extraordinary. There were a lot of factors that contributed to that, including my doctor and his colleagues and midwives that were there around-the-clock. The most influential person, though, that shaped my experience was my labor nurse. Her name was Julie, and I’ll never forget how well she took care of me that day.

She was so kind and compassionate. She listened when I told her I was anxious, and she understood what I was going through. She explained everything I needed to know with a calm, confident voice that made me feel like it was all going to be okay. I felt like I was in good hands, and it relieved so much of the anxiety that had plagued me the first time around.

I sat down with Julie recently to ask her a few questions about her job as a labor and delivery nurse. She shared with me her thoughts on the everyday miracles she witnesses and how she helps women like me get through what is often the hardest work they’ll ever do.

What brought you here to work at Winnie Palmer Hospital?

I have been working here for almost six years. I started out as a graduate nurse, straight out of school. I decided to become a labor nurse after I had my first child. I was in labor with my daughter, and I just remember thinking that this was what I wanted to do with my life.

What was it about that experience that captivated you?

My mom was a nurse, but that wasn’t the direction I was headed at the time. She loved it, but I didn’t necessarily want to do that. Once I experienced my daughter being born, it just hit me. It was such a powerful experience. I think babies being born is an amazing thing, and I like being a part of it.

What’s the best part of your job?

I like seeing the babies as they begin to crown. As they crown, they start turning their head a little bit. It’s really a cool thing, and then as you watch the head come out, they make these little faces. Sometimes their eyes open up when it’s just the head out and they’ll look around. Sometimes they’ll even cry with just their head out. It’s amazing. A lot of people never experience something like that, and I get to watch it every day.

What’s the hardest part of helping someone through the labor process?

Watching them get frustrated when it doesn’t go exactly as they planned. I see them getting anxious, thinking, “this isn’t what I wanted or what I planned.” I try to help reassure them that sometimes things don’t turn out the way you planned, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It’s still going to be one of the best days of your life. It can be both one of the best and the worst days of your life. In the end, you’ll go home with a healthy, happy baby, and that’s the ultimate goal.

What makes you uniquely suited to do this job well?

I think I have patience. I can be empathetic because I’ve been there. People also say that I’m very calm, mellow. They pick high anxiety patients just for me.

How do you navigate when you get an anxious patient?

I just like talking to them, giving them as much information as possible. I think overall, I’m very knowledgeable about what I do. A lot of people, once they understand, they become less anxious.

What kind of advice would you give a mother before she delivers?

I find for a new mom coming into labor- this experience redefines pain for the rest of her life. Realize that this may be one of the most difficult and painful days of your life, but it’s also going to be the best day of your life so try to enjoy the little parts. Try to enjoy that this happening, because this day will change the rest of your life.

I remember thinking after having my first baby, “What did I do before she came into my life?” I always felt that I was doing important things, but at the same time it felt like nothing else mattered anymore except for her. I once told one of my patients this story:

I remember looking one time at my daughter sleeping. I watched her breathing, and I remember feeling like there were strings on my heart, that she was really tugging on me. My whole life, I thought that my heart was inside my body, and I could always keep it safe. But, the day she was born, it was like I gave birth to my heart that day. And now, it was on the outside and everything that she did affected me. I told my patient that day- today you’re going to give birth to your heart and it’s going to be an amazing experience. This tough part is going to pass, but the good part is going to last for the rest of your life.

Any advice for the Dads-to-be?

Know that she is going to be in a lot of pain, but it will be okay. It’s always their job to keep their partner safe, make sure she isn’t hurting. And here, they have to sit back and watch as she’s in the worst pain she’s ever been in. But again, know that it’s going to be okay and it will all be worth it.

I see more men crying in this job than I ever thought I’d see in my life. Big scary-looking guys, even. And they see their baby come out and sometimes they just drop to their knees. They don’t even understand how much that moment is going to impact them. That’s what I love about that powerful moment when everybody is meeting each other for the first time. You don’t realize how much it will impact you.

Do you ever get emotional with your patients?

We all cry with our patients sometimes. Good tears and bad tears. You see so many births, but you get so bonded sometimes with your patients. Seeing that moment when they meet each other, it does make you tear up a little bit. I don’t know anybody who hasn’t cried with their patients. And sometimes there are the sad cases, and we cry right alongside them because it pulls at all of us.

Any final thoughts?

I love just being part of their experience, making it as good for them as I can. I want them to know that it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be great. I tell my patients- I’m going to be with you the whole time.; you aren’t alone. Today is going to change your life, and it will all be worth it.