‘Everyone poops during labor,’ she warned. It was my first time. I couldn’t stop asking questions. ‘Is it normal my water hasn’t broken yet?’ ‘Should I push? When do I push?’

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A love letter to my nurses:

To the women who took care of me when I could not take care of myself, thank you.

I remember my first time being in labor. I couldn’t stop asking questions. I remember asking, ‘Is it normal that my water hasn’t broken yet?’ When it did, I asked, ‘Now that it did, should I push? When do I push?’ My questions didn’t stop there. ‘Is the baby okay?’ He was covered in white slime. ‘Should he be that color?’ I felt so unprepared and completely overwhelmed. I had been advised by a friend to relax and trust the process, but anxiety and relaxation are not good friends. I just wanted to understand everything. ‘You’re going to be a great mother and I promise your instincts will kick in,’ my nurse told me. With nothing else to cling to, I held onto her promise like a like a newborn cub to its mama bear.

My nurse, Celeste, was witty and calm. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked her. When my water broke and I called her in there, I was freaking out. Like at any moment my baby was going to fall out and no one would be there to catch him. Like he was a home run ball headed toward a stand of inattentive, drunken fans. Like my baby, the ball would come catapulting out too fast for the fans, focused on scarfing down ridiculously priced hot dogs and soft pretzels, to grasp its arrival. Was my baby going to be a homerun ball baby? My thoughts were getting more and more irrational by the second.

Celeste simply looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Just try to be calm. It’s all going to be okay. This is what I’m here for.’  When I began to push, she put a mirror between my legs so I could see my baby Liam’s entrance into the world. I hadn’t liked the suggestion, but she encouraged me anyway. I was nervous. I felt out of control and she helped me feel in control. She knew, even when I didn’t, that I needed to see this experience. She helped me feel connected. She was my better judgement. Today, I can’t imagine myself having missed such a precious moment.

She was also there to laugh with me about the not so precious moments. ‘Everyone poops during labor,’ she warned. Luckily, I was spared from this precious horror. But because of her, I was able to laugh about those ‘ugly’ birth things no one talks about. Not much is left sacred during labor. She made me feel respected and honored, even when my legs were spread eagle style, bearing all, for the world to see. Her wit, her confidence, her patience kept me feeling safe.

Despite my constant panic, she remained calm and continued to tell me, ‘I’ve got your back.’ After labor, I felt dizzy and she was there with oxygen. When I was nauseous, she was there to hold my hair back in case I vomited. When I yelled at my husband for pressing the epidural button, she was there with a side smile, reminding him that he too would make it through this, but also to NEVER mess with a woman in labor. Momma gets what momma wants.

After Liam was born, she jumped for joy with us. She made sure to get Liam into my arms as fast as possible. She took speedy measurements of his height and weight and passed him over to me. There is no telling how sleep deprived she must have been that day or what was going on in her own personal life. Regardless, there was never a moment where she wasn’t present. Somehow, she made the best moment of our life feel even better.

Courtesy of Ashleigh Beaver
Courtesy of Ashleigh Beaver
Courtesy of Ashleigh Beaver

When I experienced an ectopic pregnancy and needed emergency surgery, I was greeted with the most gentle beings. I was terrified of surgery and was in complete shock that I had no choice but to terminate my pregnancy. My husband couldn’t be with me while they were prepping me for surgery. Alone, I pulled back my hair and started removing my clothing in order to put on the dreaded hospital cap and gown. The only other times I had worn a cap and gown was for joyous things like birth and graduation. The stark contrast only made me feel more depressed. My hands began shaking so hard and fast that I could barely tie my gown.

When the nurse came in to give me her condolences, she stayed and talked with me. She asked me if I had any other children, their ages, and continued small talk. It was small talk but its impact was nothing of the size. She made me feel less alone. Another came in to place an IV. My skin was ice cold and, once again, I was shaking and couldn’t stop. She held my hand and began to massage it to help with circulation. Little did she know that her touch made me feel connected to someone, something, as I was going through what felt like a complete out-of-body experience.

I had no control. I couldn’t stop what was happening. But these two nurses held space for me in their hearts. Before I was put to sleep, one had her hand on mine. She reassured me, ‘Everything is going to be okay.’ That was my last memory before falling asleep. When I woke up, I felt secure and safe. I was waking up to an empty womb, my baby gone. Yet because of those nurses, I was mentally and emotionally okay. I felt nothing but love and support. They were with me during my time of need when my husband couldn’t be.

They are the ones who take our loved one’s place when we are prepped for surgeries. They are the ones holding our hands as we cry tears of loss. They are the ones guiding us through a panic attack when we feel like we have lost all control. They are the ones who hold space for our emotions, no matter what they are. They are the ones who work tirelessly to comfort us, even though they have not slept in ungodly hours. They are the ones who are always what we need, whatever that may be. They never complained or told me to get ahold of myself. They just loved me through it.

And we cannot forget about those special nurses that we have in recovery. Those women are the angels of this world. While I sat in my bed bleeding, they cleaned me. When I could barely walk myself to the toilet, they carried me. When I cried because I was struggling to breastfeed, they helped me. When I needed clean sheets, they became my maid. When I needed food, they served me. When I was in pain, they reminded me that it was okay to accept the pain medication. When I felt overwhelmed and tired, they cheered me on. When I lost all of my dignity after pushing out a baby and was unable to take myself to the bathroom without assistance, they reminded me that I was superwoman. These women never looked at me and said, ‘That isn’t my job.’ They simply jumped to help me.

That is a hero. Someone who sacrifices their own time, their own family, to become the hands and the feet to others who need them. They sacrifice their own emotional needs to support the emotional needs of their patients.

To the women who took care of me when I could not take care of myself, I see you, I thank you, I’ll never forget you. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashleigh Beaver of Winston Salem, North Carolina. You can follow her journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our free email newsletter.

Read more from Ashleigh:

‘When I was 13, my family and I moved into my mother’s ‘dream home.’ Just 8 months later, things would take a drastic turn.’

‘I was raised not to have sex before marriage, and now I am unwed and pregnant. I sat in the bathroom alone and terrified.’

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