If you are reading this, you are venturing into an emotion laden hole in my heart – albeit one that is healing with time and absolute love and adoration for my son and who he is. This post is two things to me: 1) a shortened birth story of my son (born unexpectedly with Down syndrome) and 2) an enormous thank you to the nurse who had the wherewithal and the courage to comfort me in the way only she and I knew I needed to be comforted.
The birth was at 11:30pm. At 1:30am, we still hadn’t sent out an announcement to our families. Tears had been shed, fears were brought to the surface and life had taken an unexpected turn. We were shocked, we were sad, and above all else, we were working under a limited, and therefore, dangerous take on perspective. At some point during the night I started desperately and anxiously texting those who I knew were sleeping, “I know my baby has Down syndrome, but no one will tell me.” No responses came. Just silence.
As the night grew older and my tear-stained cheeks failed to hold a smile upright, I continued to yearn for something – an explanation, a suddenly clear perspective, something. Unable to pinpoint what that was, yet also unable to accept the gift of embrace and comfort from my husband, I somehow allowed myself to drift off into a restless slumber. One that shared visions of my newly born son the way I expected him to be and nightmares of my then reality.
The light of the new day filtered into the sterile uncomfortable hospital room, yet the light did not make its way to my soul. The light, the hope, the acceptance of my son was out of my grasp and somehow, even out of my sight. The minutes were hours and the hours were days. Suffering through the news that I was unable to accept was perhaps the worst form of torture I’d ever experienced.
I eventually rose from my hospital bed and peered into the mirror – the reflection was something I had never seen before. The reflection: a puffy-faced stranger with bags under her eyes the color of storm clouds. Bags that showed the world that her soul was homeless and that her mind was lost. Whoever the woman in the mirror was, I never wanted to meet her. Let alone be her.
As I sat back down on my hospital bed, the tears turned to sobs. I didn’t understand what was happening and why I felt so out of control with my world. Why did I look so foreign? Where was my positivity? Why was I kissing, hugging, feeding this baby all while pretending he wasn’t really mine? And then there she was.
I don’t remember seeing her walk in – she must have approached my side with the same gentleness that came in the minutes to follow. But suddenly I found myself brought to the chest of a middle-aged nurse who was not assigned to me, yet was embracing me like I was her very own daughter. As I wept into her shoulder and she kissed the top of my head too many times to count, layers of grief and pain were shed. She held me tighter than I can ever remember being held. She kissed me and through her own tears, she whispered in my ear, “I know you’re hurting. I am so sorry. It’s going to get better, honey.” Over and over again. She felt my grief and she truly – truly – tried to take it from me. She did not rush our embrace and she did not minimize or invalidate my experience. She held and rocked me until she knew her job was complete.
And then she was gone.
At this point, I knew I would think of her often and always. She was truly the light at the end of my tunnel. She was a nurse who used nothing but her instincts to help a stranger through a storm by showing love. In one simple and caring gesture, she took from me what I had been unable – yet desperate – to conquer: my pain.
I am so grateful that I have the ability to look back on that painful time in my life and reminisce about that loving embrace. I am also grateful that this experience serves as a constant reminder that when my instinct tells me someone is in need, that I follow what I know. To think outside of oneself is not always easy, but is so fundamentally important and spiritually rewarding. Call it “paying it forward” or simply “lending a helping hand.” Whatever it is, the work is meaningful. The work is crucial. The work may just turn someone’s life around.