This is what people often say when I tell them I am an OB nurse. "You must have the best job in the world!" "Yes", I tell them, "99 percent of the time".
We deal with many challenges and complications in our specialty, along with some of the most joyful moments life has to offer. Birth is a marvelous thing to behold, and bearing witness to it is never short of a miracle. There are the challenges that accompany these miracles and as nurses we all know that it is par for the course. Some days there will be good and some days will be horrendous, but holding this knowledge never truly prepares you for when a baby dies.
Driving to work last night I had a wave of suspicion. A premonition that we were going to have the unthinkable happen, a fetal demise. I am unfortunately graced with the ability to often predict when emergencies are going to arise, it's happened as long as I've worked on the unit. I will get a feeling right before going in to work, or have a dream in my nap before my shift, something to let on that a challenging incident is about to occur. Last night I was sorry to be right.
The floor was busy with nurses bustling around caring for laboring women and postpartum mothers and babies. The news of the woman in labor whose baby had no heartbeat spread quickly from one of us to the other, looming overhead like a storm cloud. Those of us not caring for the patient sat idly outside her door when we could, desperately wishing there was something we could do to help, praying for some sort of miracle.
The baby was stillborn in the early hours of the morning. The mother's wail was audible from every corner of the unit, a deafening innate sound erupting from the bottom of her soul letting us know that her child's life had left his body. Rendered powerless by our inability to make this better, we wept silently as we wrapped the baby in warm blankets, dried his eyes that would never open. He was a beautiful baby, each delicate feature of his face a reminder of what could have been, what should have been.
In the aftermath of tragedy, as we soldier on to provide care to our patients, we always remember those who have suffered the tremendous loss of a baby. It shapes who we are as nurses and deepens the well of compassion that we bring to others in their time of need, all the while leaving us with a small sense of distrust in the universe for letting someone so innocent slip away.
I returned home this morning to the smiling faces of my beautiful children and was overcome with emotion for the many blessings in my life. After witnessing this kind of sadness all else seems remarkably trivial. This family helped me to remember that life is short, unpredictable, and above all precious.