I never even knew your name, and I had never met you before that moment.
Five years ago, I was laying in a hospital bed with swollen ankles and an even more swollen belly. I had been in and out of preterm labor for two weeks, along with battling high blood pressure and other symptoms of borderline preeclampsia.
I was exhausted. I was beaten down. I. Was. Done.
Just moments before, one of the leading doctors at the hospital I was at had just been in to ‘see’ me. I use that term loosely because she never actually spoke to me, but instead spoke to my midwife and pretended I didn’t exist. However, this wasn’t the first doctor there to do so, being that I was a nineteen-year-old unmarried mother-to-be. By this point, I had been talked down to, belittled, and ignored so much that it was close to becoming the norm.
But this doctor was supposed to be the best perinatologist in the hospital. She was supposed to be able to figure out what was going wrong with my body, and why my baby and I were having such a tough time.
You see, I had a labor that stopped and started. I would dilate and then go backwards (I’m sure you knew that was possible but I sure didn’t) and then dilate again. I had finally settled at a five (after having been at a seven) when I was sent home, only to be readmitted four days later for a blood pressure reading of 160/110. More tests, more sleepless nights, and I was told I would get a consult with Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
But upon reading my chart that Thursday, this doctor entered the room with my midwife and looked me over, all without actually engaging with me, and then said to my midwife that she saw nothing wrong and just wanted to wait it out.
My heart was breaking. I could feel in my gut that something was wrong, but no one was willing to listen to me. My voice meant nothing to the majority of the professionals I encountered. Many of your fellow nurses spoke to me with kindness, but I couldn’t get a doctor to hear a word I said.
They stepped out of the room for a moment to talk, and that’s when I lost it.
It was in that moment, in the midst of my tears and frustration, that the ever-present monitors got loose on my belly, prompting you to come in and see what was going on.
Like I said, I never knew your name, but I felt comfort the moment you walked in. You calmly walked over with a smile on your face and proceeded to get those straps hooked back up and placed so that my little guy’s heartbeat could be heard again. Upon noticing my waterfall of tears, you stopped and asked me what was happening, and like a flood I poured out my every worry and frustration. My mom stood by my side holding my hand, and I finally was able to clearly say, ‘There is something going on with my baby. I just know it. He needs to come out.’
I will never forget the way you looked at me and said, ‘Well if I’ve learned one thing, it’s to trust a momma’s instinct.’ And then, even though I was hooked up and all the monitors were working, you didn’t leave the room.
Moments later, my midwife and the doctor walked back towards my door. I heard the doctor say to my midwife, ‘Well, let’s just go tell her what she doesn’t want to hear’ and then the door opened. As my midwife proceeded to tell me their plan to just leave me be in that bed until I naturally went into labor, your eyes were on the contraction/heart rate monitor. After just a moment, you said to the doctor, ‘Um, he’s decel-ing!’ And made sure they looked there too. I came to know later that what you were telling them was that my son’s heart rate was decelerating dramatically after each contraction. You then spoke up and went to bat for me, listing off all of the concerns of the blood pressures, the hyper joint reflexes, the days upon days of contractions. You stood in the gap for me and advocated for me when I didn’t know how to advocate for myself.
The doctor grabbed the paper that was ever-flowing out of that machine and looked it over. After a few moments, she said her first and only words to me. ‘Well, it looks like you might get what you want after all.’ She wasn’t kind about it, but I looked at you and I remember your smile.
They walked out and I remember thanking you and my mom thanking you as well. After a few more moments, you headed back to where you were needed. After all, you weren’t even my nurse in the first place. But you were there when it mattered most.
The next morning, I was induced. Based upon the findings, it was decided that that was the safest route. When my son was born that afternoon, he emerged with his cord wrapped twice around his neck, around his body, and around his feet. There was a reason that he was struggling, and I hate to think what it could have meant if you hadn’t been there to see it and let them know.
I want you to know that my little guy turns five tomorrow. Many times, around his birthday, I find myself thanking God for you and the fact that you walked into my room that afternoon. You validated my feelings and fears and spoke up for me when it mattered so much. Now, I serve in a ministry that helps and advocates for teen moms like myself, and I dream of becoming a doula just so I can stand alongside young mothers to make sure that they get the care they deserve, no matter the situation.
So on this day, five years after the first and only time I got to meet you, I want to say thank you. Thank you for hearing me, thank you for validating me, thank you for standing up for me. Thank you for being a part of our story, and a big part of my son making it safely here. I could never, ever, thank you enough.