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Shaking Like a Leaf

“So hold me Jesus, ‘cause I’m shaking like a leaf. You have been King of my glory. Won’t You be my Prince of Peace?”—Rich Mullins 

My job is not always a joyous occasion. I love to share the funny, heart warming stories of labor and delivery. The miracles are the best stories to tell ... the ones where a baby was saved.

What I rarely write about are the stories that we all know to be true ... but would like to pretend do not exist. You know what I’m talking about ... the not-so-happy endings.

I witness babies emerge from the womb for a living. But, there are some days when I ask myself ... why me? I can recall on more than one occasion, carrying a full term baby down the hall after he or she’s first and only bath ... and I always find myself asking, “How did I get here? Who in their right mind wants to do this?”

I’ve placed a precious girl into the arms of her elderly great grandmother. It was the most beautiful ...  sad ... moment of my nursing career. Her wrinkled white arms were trembling as I handed her the infant. I said, “support her head like this.” Great Grandma tearfully told her “I love you Little One” and then softly kissed her forehead. The crocheted hat was too big, and as it fell back, thick black curls were revealed. Everyone in the room was holding their breath.

Life was forging ahead all around us ... babies were being born right and left that night. For me, this could have been quite possible my first or second of several attended deliveries in one night. But, time stood still in this room at that moment. Tears were ample, heartache was evident.

I do a lot of “caring” on nights like these. Words like “emotional support given” and “good familial support at bedside” are charted. But, how do you really chart things like “hugged mother and grandmother as they sobbed incessantly into my neck?” How do you accept “Thank You” when you really feel like you’ve done nothing significant at all? How do you hold the gaze of a mother’s eyes who are stricken with such grief and despair ... when all you want to do is look away... run away and hide?

A nurse is also supposed to ask hard questions to a grieving mother. In my opinion ... unfair. Hard words that sear like a knife ... words like “autopsy, chaplain services, funeral home ...” Like I said before, who in their right mind wants to do this? How did I find myself here?

When my night is over, I go home and hug my own. My three babies are growing and thriving ... and dare I say ... “alive.” Days later, my heart is usually still broken. As a nurse I process situations over and over in my head. Eventually, my hands stop shaking ... and I am not the same.

As a labor and delivery nurse ... I have great miraculous stories to tell. I also have stories that aren’t so easy hidden in my heart. I have witnessed beauty, despair, and pain. Once you’ve been there, once you’ve experienced it ... situations that once seemed so hard ... become simply insignificant.