Nurses are a reassuring presence as parenting journey begins

(News Tribune) I’ll just get to the point: I have never been more impressed with a single occupation than I was with the nurses who helped us before, during and after our son was born last year.

And if you’re about to have your first child, or second, or third, or… OK, I’ll stop there, then spend a little time with your nurses and watch how they work.

Now, I’m not suggesting you lengthen your stay at the hospital because one day that health care bill will arrive in the mail and it will land with a noticeable thud. But I look back now at the extra time we spent at the hospital and I’m grateful for it. And I’m grateful for the nurses we met and who worked with us. So is my wife. Just ask her.

As new parents, we tried to be as prepared as possible.

We bought baby and child-rearing books, we attended classes on labor and breast feeding and we got a tour of the hospital delivery area. But then a funny thing happens on your way to becoming a parent: you’re nervous and don’t get a lot of sleep as you prepare to go the hospital; you’re nervous and don’t get a lot of sleep as labor begins; you’re nervous and don’t get a lot of sleep after the child is born.

By then, the nurse has handed you a screaming bundle of joy, while the parent is crying just as much as the baby is. Our son got a bath, was swaddled and then was handed to mom for breast feeding. Don’t ask me what happened after that because I barely remember.

By then, you realize you’ve been up for 48 hours and contemplating that next step in child care is a huge step, if not a complete blank because you’re so tired.

But because my wife had a C-section birth, she needed to spend a few extra days in the hospital to recover. And that extra time gave us plenty of time to learn from our nurses.

The nurses — all women in our case — seemed to work 12-hour shifts, and every 12 hours a new nurse would show up, introduce herself and check how we and the baby were doing.

Each also brought a welcome set of tips. We got tips on breast feeding, on burping — don’t pat his back, but rub his back gently in an upward motion — and on sleeping, on holding our son and how to supplement his diet. All of that was so welcome as we entered 72 hours of little to no sleep.

I observed the nurses with amazement.

A 12-hour shift is long, but each brought her best bedside manner to the job. I also imagined all of the different people and cultures they must work with, along with the easy-going parents and cranky babies they must see, as well as the easy-going babies and cranky parents, too.

Somewhat nervous as a new parent, I recall that I began to question one nurse in particular, asking questions that fell somewhere between know-it-all and exhausted.

But she was patient enough with me to answer my strange questions in whatever strange language I was speaking at the time. I eventually shut up.

Although we learned so much from the nurses, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the doctors we worked with and the invaluable skills they bring to the world of medicine.

A quirky personality helps, too.

As my wife’s C-section birth was about to begin, I was invited in by the nurses and doctors to sit with her, although we were shielded from the procedure by a curtain-like material that had been raised. Sitting next to me was the anesthesiologist, getting ready to turn on the stereo so that our son’s birth would be accompanied by rock music.

“Journey, OK?” he asked.

I have never been much of a fan of Steve Perry and Journey, so for a split second I was against the idea.

But then I realized, no, that’s perfect.