When a Nurse’s Letter Showed Me I Wasn’t a ‘Monster’ for Crying in the Delivery Room
To set the stage for a letter that I cherish like religion, I must give you some background information. Before my son Judah was born, I became convinced he had Down syndrome. Despite doctors disagreeing, ultrasound technicians “not seeing anything” and family and friends wondering if I needed help for my anxiety — I knew! Credit to my husband here — he never once wavered in his belief. In fact, he advocated for me.
So when our son was born three weeks early on the cusp of December, nerves cloaked me like an overcoat. A dear friend joined us as one of the nurses in the delivery room. When my baby came into this world, I asked, “Are you sure he’s OK?” She answered with the warmest eyes, sincerest soul and kindest smile, “Yes.” When I was finally able to see my baby, I saw his calm, closed eyes and I knew my son had Down syndrome.
A great deal of pain and fear shared our hospital bed. But it didn’t last long. Only weeks later, I would be sharing and writing and advocating like a momma bear. I replaced pain with education and fear with faith and love. I was reading a book called “Bloom” by Kelle Hampton. She had a beautiful little girl named Nella who shared my son’s extra chromosome. She told how on Nella’s first birthday, she was going to return to the hospital room where she was born. As I held my tiny son, I vowed to do the same.
On Judah’s first birthday, my nurse friend arranged it so that my husband, Judah and I could be reacquainted with the room that gave us such joy and pain. She met us at the door and weaved us to our old delivery room. As she did, she told us she had a surprise: The nurse who helped deliver both my sons was there, too! She wanted to be there for the revisitation. As we walked and talked, my friend told me how this nurse thought it was a sign of adoration that I cried — that I was so worried for my baby, so concerned about his health and future that tears fell out of love.
But here’s the kicker: Not one of those tears fell in Judah’s honor. I cried for me. I welled up with fear others wouldn’t love us. I sobbed because I thought I should’ve had “the test.” What does that say about me? So, it didn’t matter how passionately or how quickly the love grew. All I could conceive as we walked was, “My God, I am a monster” — until I got the letter.
After a short reunion in the hospital room, the welcomers trickled out. They left us to absorb all the feelings about returning. As my friend turned to leave, she handed us a bright yellow envelope. Then, just us three squeezed onto the bed, the way we all snuggled just a year before, and I opened that envelope and I read. I read and saw through a different set of spectacles, with a new set of eyes and with an exhale that uttered relief. I was not the horrible person I believed myself to be. The part of the letter that dissolved me:
“From the perspective of those privileged to be in attendance during his beautiful birth, you and [your husband] Bobby and Judah were a perfect trio in that room.
For you see, as nurses, we too have our vault of secret memories that we wish we could “re-do” for the families we care for. And for some, just erase all together. The heart-wrenching silence of a delivery when parents know they will never hear a cry; the indifference of a father who hardly looks up from his phone or lifts his head from a pillow, despite the pleading eyes of his once-girlfriend… only to walk out of the delivery room and most likely his baby’s life forever; or the emergency deliveries attended by NICU staff using every skill possible in order to resuscitate a tiny fragile one, while we simultaneously pray there won’t be long-term effects on this new life… Those deliveries. Those are some of the ones in our re-do pile.”
The part that saved me:
“… Deliveries like Judah’s are a “do again.” Judah arrived to a room spilling over with your love. And I don’t want that to sound horribly cliché, because that love was so essential. I wasn’t lying when you asked me if he was OK. Even if I had the insight that you had of his extra chromosome or was given the benefit of retrospect, I would honestly again answer “yes.” In that snapshot of time he was pink and cuddling skin-to-skin with you. I promise you he only felt love as he listened to the comforting sound of his mother’s heartbeat. That moment was a genuine gift.”
And the part that spoke to me:
“… in that moment, you weren’t sure if the heart he heard beating could handle what you knowingly suspected. It was normal for you to be suspicious of what lied ahead. Of course, if we could have done it for you, we would have barricaded the delivery room door to those unwanted visitors… Fear, Doubt, Sadness, Guilt, and their awkward friends who eventually showed up… Silence and Says-the-wrong-thing. But, as you’ve said before, those bullies had to come in and cause their ruckus and pain, but thankfully their once presence is insignificant now in the greater picture. They did their job of helping you evolve to boldly say, ‘Yes, I’d do it all again.'”
Yes! I was never indifferent to my baby. I never looked at him with disdain. I was in emotional anguish, yes. I felt sorry for myself, that I cannot deny. But now? Now he is alive and well and I am captivated by the way this little wonder has morphed my soul.
And, as my treasured letter so clearly exclaimed, there was something in the room the day my son was born, something grand.
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