Nursing Nightmares (Part 1)

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Nursing Nightmares (Part 1)

“Mama, your baby boy has lost more weight—almost a full pound now. Would you like for me to give him a little formula, just a few drops, or do you want to wait for the pediatrician’s advice in the morning?” asked the local hospital’s night nurse where my son was born. 

Thank God for the night nurse—the only nurse I encountered in the maternity ward with a sweet disposition or seemingly any sense at all. What was her name? Judith? Nancy? No, Judith was the evil day nurse whom I “fired” or kicked out my room on the previous day, now known from this point forward as Nurse Ratchet. Nancy was the lactation Nazi—I mean consultant. I cringe at the thought of her manhandling my newborn son in an attempt to “help” him nurse. 

The night nurse, Glenda, was an angel, a friendly face I looked forward to seeing when she brought my baby boy to breastfeed. Her image remains clear in my mind, with halo perfectly intact. My intent was to march home from the hospital (as quickly as I could get away) and belt out a complimentary letter to her supervisor, acknowledging her care and kindness. A second letter would follow, reporting in scathing detail my complaints about Nurse Ratchet and the lactation Nazi. However, somewhere along the way, sleep deprivation and new mommy-hood got the best of my intentions.

“Yes, please give Benjamin some formula—I know the pediatrician is going to advise me to supplement after yesterday’s conversation,” I gratefully responded, ignoring the lactation consultant’s earlier warning, now replaying in my mind. “Once your baby is given a bottle or formula, he is less likely to breastfeed, and breastfeeding is best.” 

Sure enough, the following morning my pediatrician expressed concern about our baby’s weight loss, which now registered more than the norm. He advised giving formula until my “milk came in,” and I confessed that the night nurse had already done so with my permission. I felt relieved, confident in my decision, thinking it was only a matter of time until I produced enough milk to grow my boy into a strapping young man—that is until the lactation consultant arrived. 

“You gave your baby formula?” she scolded. “Yes,” I replied earnestly, “my pediatrician advised it; the baby has lost too much weight. I don’t think he is getting enough from me when I breastfeed.” At this news, she flew into a panic, ordering the urgent delivery of my breast pump from home, “You must begin pumping immediately and often to encourage your milk supply. No more formula—if the baby is hungry, he will breastfeed!” 

Seriously?—she was ignoring my pediatrician’s advice? I countered, “I’m not married to the whole breastfeeding thing—if it happens, fine; if not, I’m okay with it—my first concern is a healthy baby!” She looked visibly shaken at this announcement, “Let me assist you,” she ordered, through gritted teeth, and then proceeded to seize Ben from my arms, startling him from his nap, “The football position is best for c-section deliveries,” she snapped as she rearranged him into the correct position. I cooperated with her, attempting to coax Ben to latch properly, but he only dozed off instead, returning to his nap.

“Sometimes they need a little encouragement,” she barked, as she stripped Ben to his diaper and proceeded to roughly wipe him all over with a cold, wet washcloth. I watched in horror as my newborn turned bright red and began to wail. After numerous attempts to get him to nurse and many tears (now I was crying, too), I ended the session, “Enough!—we’ll try again later.” Finally, thankfully, she left us. Sure enough, in a short time, Ben awoke from his nap, happier and hungry, and he nursed peacefully until my husband arrived from work for his evening visit, breast pump in tow.

“Honey, she’s crazy—she’s militant!” I protested when he arrived, and I shared my encounter with one of La Leche’s finest. “Keep her out of here!” I bellowed as he cradled our sweet baby in his arms. 

About that time, Nurse Ratchet arrived to discuss the afternoon’s nursing fiasco. She already held first place on my shit-list because she took my infusion (pain-management) pump only hours after my c-section delivery. Apparently, our community’s new hospital didn’t own enough equipment. “Sorry, we don’t have enough pumps on the ward, and we need yours,” she snipped. “If your pain reaches a four on a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest, give us a ring.” If I need pain meds? Of course I need pain meds! 

Honey, I need to ask you a question,” she crooned as she seated herself next to me on the bed, her blonde bouffant tilted to one side, “Do you have a history of depression?” 

That did it. I was pissed. No, I was infuriated—beyond the ability to reason. My poor husband witnessed a spectacle in me he has never seen before or since. My head might as well have spun around like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. 

“No!” I sobbed—and it was messy. Snotty nosed and red faced, I unleashed a fury on Nurse Ratchet and delivered my list of grievances. Where to begin? She took my pain pump too soon, she ignored my requests for pain meds for most of the day, then when she finally came, she injected pain medication into an IV port with a collapsed vein, causing a huge lump to form under the skin which burned like fire—ouch!—and then, embarrassed, I’m sure, she refused to call and ask my OB/GYN for another pain prescription to replace the one she wasted. I had to call her myself! She disregarded my request for assistance with a shower, and then when she appeared and noticed I had showered alone, she was rude and condescending, and … “No, I do not have a history of depression!

I don’t recall ever making anyone cry before. I’ve taught high school students for years, and sometimes tough love and a firm tone are required, yet as far as I know, no one has cried. Nurse Ratchet cried. I told her she reminded me of a teacher who has been in the classroom too many years, one whose burnout and surly attitude hurt kids more than helped them. I wanted a different day nurse, and I did not want to see her again! She ran from the room in tears. 

Wow, I couldn’t believe I actually said those things—and out loud! Usually, I bite my tongue and only wish I had the guts to speak frankly. Did I feel remorse? Actually, surprisingly—no.  

Part 1 | Part 2