I’ve always had a nurturing side. For 15 years, I was a labor and delivery nurse. At times, it was incredibly rewarding. And sometimes, it was more heartbreaking than I could ever express. New life is beautiful. Moms are beautiful. But terrible things can happen, and although the process is amazing and awesome, it can also be devastating. I was so fortunate to experience the good, but with it came the difficult, as I’m sure you can imagine.
Over the years, I often saw the same families more than once. And sometimes, their hospital experiences differed greatly. One sweet memory was helping a wonderfully sweet family deliver a healthy baby boy two years after being in the delivery room with that same family as they experienced a tragic loss.
For 10 of my 15 years, I had the privilege of working in a birthing center, which contrasted greatly to my experience in the traditional labor and delivery unit. Working with midwives was collaborative, and I was able to leave the expectations of subservient behavior behind me.
And it was in the birth center that I planned to deliver children of my own. As is the way of the world, nothing goes according to plan. After 41+ weeks of pregnancy, I went in for a routine ultrasound. When they discovered my amniotic fluid was low, they immediately induced me. Although I knew what to expect, I freaked out. It wasn’t part of “the plan.”
Despite my state of mind, the midwives caring for my family were compassionate. They were wonderful. The morning after being induced, I was transferred to labor and delivery, determined to have a vaginal delivery. And 4 hours of pushing later, my beautiful Violet was born at 8 lb. 14 oz. We were in love.
It didn’t take long to realize that newborns don’t stay that way for long. Each new stage of development came with unique challenges. And, thankfully, with new milestones and overwhelming joy. I loved Violet unconditionally and unselfishly.
But for me, it wasn’t the first time.
Life is summarized by memories, and one of the first I have is of my mom in the hospital. I didn’t know why. She was just there for a long time. My dad would take us to the city for a fun dinner, and on the way home we would stop at the hospital, and he would go visit her. Kids weren’t allowed. When we asked my dad about it, he would say she was “getting some help.”
I also remember very vividly when my mom returned from the hospital. She seemed different, subdued. I wasn’t sure what happened. It wasn’t until years later that I found out: my mom was diagnosed with manic depression in her late 30s, shortly after she witnessed the passing of her mother-in-law.
My mother had a few more hospital stints as I was growing up. Sometimes she didn’t take her medication. She was hospitalized through her divorce. She had so many hard times, so many ups and downs. It was during those times that I really discovered my own nurturing side. Looking back on those times, it was also the first real instance of unconditional love.
But I needed a break, so I moved to Santa Barbara for two years. That was wonderful, but eventually, my studies brought me back to Chicago. I was close to my mom but distant enough that I could focus on my schooling and complete my nursing degree.
It was in Chicago that I met the love of my life. I found a sensitive, compassionate, amazing man. Not only with me but also with my mom. He never passed judgment, and he was always patient, kind and calm.
Always. My mother has never been easy. In fact, she’s had several spells of difficult times. She spent all she had. She even lost her home. Despite years of mental and physical breakdowns, I love my mom. She now lives in a nursing home under hospice care. She has dementia, a result of taking psychotropic medication for decades.
I am so grateful that Violet, now 14, and my son Miles (10), are sensitive, kind children. They grew up with my mom, and they learned early on to love and show compassion to her even though she struggled from something they couldn’t fully understand.
Although I don’t have any anger about my dysfunctional upbringing, I am sad that I can’t call up my mother and just chat. And I’m sad that my children won’t get to experience a traditional grandma. My life, my memories, have made me who I am. It has made me into a nurturing soul, and I know that I am responsible for my own happiness. For me, that means being the best wife, mother, and friend I can possibly be.