Dear Nurse Julie- a letter to my labor and delivery nurse

Dear Nurse Julie,

You were in my life for about two and a half days 13 years ago, I’d never met you before nor have I seen you since.  It may have been brief but you made a huge difference in my life and I owe you a deep debt of gratitude.

I had prepared so much for the birth, read everything I could get my hands on including an OB text book, took a childbirth education class, and practiced Bradley method relaxation for weeks at home with The Piano Man.  We knew what we wanted for our birth and after a complicated pregnancy, we were prepared to fight for it.  When I went into labor at 41 weeks and 4 days we were ready.  The Piano Man was an amazing advocate for me, actively intercepting anyone that entered the room and questioning every procedure (no enema!) while helping me relax and focus on the work of birthing our daughter.  Together, he and I made a great labor and birthing team.  I’m pleased to say that 5 babies later and one on the way, we still do.

Our bags were packed, there was film in the camera (remember that?  Cameras that used film?), we were so ready to have a baby.  Except for one thing: we had done nothing to prepare for breastfeeding.  The thought hadn’t even occurred to us.  We knew that was how we were going to feed out baby once we had her in our arms but we read nothing, took no classes, and never even thought to see if there was anything we needed to know before breastfeeding.  Both of our mothers had breastfed, we knew a few friends that had so really, how hard could it be?

All our nurses were nice enough and the birth was mostly amazing with some traumatic experiences.  Earth Baby was born at 6.39am and we met you shortly after with the shift change.  Instantly I felt connected to you, your smile, your warmth, and your genuine congratulations on our baby as if you hadn’t seen hundreds of births and newborns every week.  After I was all stitched up, hydrated, and my blood loss dealt with you asked me an incredibly important question: “are you ready to breastfeed your baby?”

Nobody had mentioned it.  I knew it was in my chart because something I had read about birth plans suggested to ask for it to be put in my chart.  Still, you were the first to say anything about it.  Having just lost a lot of blood with a partially retained placenta and manual D&C, I was feeling weak and more tired than I had ever felt in my life.  Holding my baby, let alone breastfeeding her, completely wore me out.  Like a dear in headlights I told you yes, but only because I remembered that it was the plan.  Your response: “good, because she’s hungry and I think she’s ready to eat well for you” jarred me out of feeling my exhaustion and into the reality that my baby needed me to meet her needs.  I really was ready to feed my baby.

I don’t remember how long you stayed in my room but somehow, you made me feel like I was the only mom that needed your attention.  Perched on the side of my bed, you helped me get into a position I found comfortable, plumped plenty of pillows to support Earth Baby and I, encouraged me to drop the shoulder of the hospital gown, and talked me through latching Earth Baby for the first time.  Your encouragement for how well we were doing, what a healthy strong latch Earth Baby had, and suggestions for positions made me feel like not only could I breastfeed my baby, I already was and doing great!  You answered every one of my questions, no matter how basic or obvious the answer may have been, as though it was a pleasure to answer my important concerns with patience and care.  Even when Earth Baby was latched and I was comfortable, you stayed and chatted, telling me about your 2 boys, that you had breastfed your second one but not the first, and telling me about how you were drawn to OB nursing and how you loved helping moms.

It showed.

Once I was moved to the postpartum wing, you continued to visit me.  You’re ongoing support regarding everything I was experiencing from peeing for the first time after giving birth to changing my baby’s diaper to breastfeeding helped grow my confidence that I could, in fact, take this baby home and not kill either of us.  When I told you my nipples were hurting you showed me how to position my baby’s chin lower on my breast so she took a big mouthful of nipple.  When I was still drained from the birth, you explained different positions and helped me practice using them.  Constantly considerate, you never touched me without asking and receiving my permission first and even then you rarely handled my breast choosing instead to carefully and patiently explain how I could do it myself.  I can’t even begin to tell you how far that went in helping me not be afraid or feel strange about my own body.  From the bottom of my heart I thank you for that gift, it has remained with me to today, growing stronger over the years.

When the grumpy nurse, who’s name I can’t recall because for the last 13 years I’ve referred to her as “grumpy nurse,” told me I was starving my baby because my breasts were empty and not meeting my baby’s needs, I cried.  A lot.  Earth Baby had lost over a pound in just a matter of 2 days and the grumpy nursery nurse that made me cry told me I’d never be sent home with my baby if I didn’t agree to give her formula.  Oh the things I know now!  All those fluids we had in labor… but back then I had now idea.  I caved.  Still weak from the blood loss, recovering from a 4th degree tear, and afraid my baby was hurting I agreed to a bottle of formula.  My heart ached, I never meant to starve my baby and my fears were confirmed, I was already failing as a mother.  She whisked my baby away, a satisfied smile on her face as she told me I was making a good choice for the good of my baby, and ran off with my daughter to feed her the bottle of formula.  I sobbed.  You came in shortly after and was surprised Earth Baby wasn’t with me.  When I told you why I saw the storm clouds gather in your normally incredibly friendly eyes and you told me you’d be back.  What I didn’t know is that you must have marched out to that nurses station, called our pediatrician, asked him about the situation, advocated for our breastfeeding relationship, asked him to call the nursery, and headed down there to get my baby back for me.  When you walked in about 15 minutes later with grumpy nursery nurse and my daughter, I had already spoken with our pediatrician who called me to assure me our baby was going to be fine breastfeeding and at this point did not need any formula.  He told me that he had spoken with you and trusted you that Earth Baby and I were doing great breastfeeding, that my milk was coming in, and that I was already a pro.  I cried again.  Someone believed in me.

Somewhere I still have the picture of you and I and Earth Baby just before we were discharged.  My face is red from crying having just gotten Earth Baby back.  You had told me that we were going to be fine, that I was a natural, that Earth Baby was lucky to have me as her mom, and that you enjoyed working with me.  That’s what you told me.  Some many had dismissed me as a young mom and at 20 I was, but you stuck with me respectfully teaching me as though my age was of no consequence.  What you taught me without directly saying so was that I could feed my baby, my body was amazing, I didn’t need to be afraid of my breasts, and I could advocate for myself and my baby.  My husband believed in me but I knew he was just as clueless as I was.  But you?  You were not only an experienced mother, you were a nurse that saw mother after mother with new babies and you believed in me.  If you said I could do it, I probably really could.

Today, 13 years later, I owe a lot to you.  For starters, my breastfeeding relationship with Earth Baby which lasted a year and then extending on to 4 (now almost 5!) babies.  Thanks to you, today I now help support other mothers with their birthing and breastfeeding journeys.  Thank you for supporting me even when I wasn’t sure how to support myself.  Thank you for giving me the courage to be the kind of mother I naturally was but was insecure about stepping into.  Thank you for being kind and encouraging when I was most vulnerable.  Thank you for making a difference in my life and the lives of my children.  You have touched more than you know.  I want to be like you and just love helping moms.

I hope it shows.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jessica Martin-Weber

The Leaky Boob

 

Share

Comments

  1. This is beautiful. I too had both a wonderful ob nurse and a grumpy ob nurse, but can’t remember her name.

  2. This is almost the same letter I would write to my first labor and delivery nurse, Rachel. What a wondeful gift to have so much amazing support when your body is so tired and your mind is so impressionable! I took a pic with my angel nurse and have it in my daughter’s baby book.

  3. That was lovely! I too assumed breastfeeding would be easy, and was discouraged when it wasn’t immediately. I too had a nurse who helped me to realize I could do it that first time. Without these wonderful women’s encouragement, perhaps we would have given up. Who knows? This is why I love The Leaky B@@b facebook page. Four children later I don’t need the help, but it’s obvious so many women out there do, and don’t have anyone to turn to. So thanks to YOU for helping out so many women that you’ll never meet. I hope occasionally you get an email letting you know how helpful your page has been to so many.

  4. If only every mother had someone like that! Thankfully I had my sisters and some decent lactation specialist and the knowledge to know that I would not starve my baby with breastfeeding. So many don’t!

    Thank you for this post!

  5. Nurse Stacey saved nursing for us when it seemed everyone else wanted to sabotage it. It’s only been two years and I am almost certain she is still there. I should write her a note thanking her. She may not remember us, but I will never forget her.

  6. I loved this! It sounds a lot like my birth experience a year ago minus the helpful postpartum nurse.

    • I went back to work full-time 7 weeks after my 5th child was born, and here’s what I did. Keep nursing at night, even tuohgh you’re screaming for sleep. That helps keep your production up. Nurse the last thing before you leave, then pump about 2 1/2 3 hours later (even if you have to unfortunately discard the milk because of no refrigeration). If you can have the baby brought to you during lunch, nurse then, or pump. Pump again during afternoon. Don’t feel guilty about this. Lots of people get up to smoke, take a cell phone call, etc. This is what you need to do. Also see if you can communicate this to those in charge before you get there. They may be able to make some accommodation. And nurse the first thing when you get back to the baby. Also, keep your fluid intake way, way up, and don’t forget proper nourishment. If you’ve established nursing strongly in those first 4 weeks, the 2 days shouldn’t mean the end of breastfeeding. And, even if it is the end, you did a good job and gave your baby a huge head start on a healthy life. Good luck to both of you!

  7. wow – so touching!! if you don’t mind me asking… what was the complication with pregnancy/delivery? sounds a lot like what I just went through and they’re discouraging me from having babies again 🙁 i’m devastated and looking for some success stories out there….

  8. Crystal B. says:

    How wonderful!!! This brought tears to my eyes. Isn’t it amazing how much of an impact people have on us. Much love!!!

  9. I wish I had a nurse like that when I had my son, and one in the NICU would have been great. Everyone knew I wanted to nurse and saw me struggling with the pumping and my supply but it wasn’t till the week that she was going home that a nurse asked if I wanted to nurse her.

  10. What a beautiful story. I wish every mom had a nurse Julie with them when their baby is first born.

  11. LOVE THIS! I’m so grateful for the nurses and the LCs that helped me the second time around. After a hard labor and birth with my first and having the supplement forced on me my first daughter never latched no matter how much I tried and after 4 weeks of exclusively pumped milk my milk ran out 🙁 The second time around I was determined and latched within 20 minutes of getting to recovery (had a c-section both times – not exactly by choice but by necessity) and she has been a rockstar ever since. Nursing her still at 14 months old and loving every second of it!!!!! (Also, a work out of the house Mom who pumped every day for 11 months and have a stash the size of a chest freezer!) Amazing what awesome support will do!

  12. The nurses were wonderful in the hospital where both of my children were born. They were extremely knowledgable and supportive of breastfeeding and always telling me what a great job I was doing, even as my son’s weight kept dropping. Just when I would become attached to a nurse, the shifts would change, and I would think, there’s no way this one will be as great as the last one, but every one of them made me feel like I was their most important patient. Made my birth experience a little better after a traumatic induction (my 1st) and an emergency CS (my 2nd). I wish all mothers could have a Nurse Julie – wonderful post.

    • First,You may be able to talk to the the profs. about leaving the cloosrasm to nurse your baby, if you can find someone to drive him/her to you for those two days. Many college profs. admire a women who is making that effort and will help them out, even when classes start keep that in mind.If you pump is should not hurt your supply to much, drink lots of water, use some supplements, nurse a ton when you get home and through the night (easier when baby is in room some how). Try to pump every 2 hours (about how often your baby would nurse). Take a little cooler, or ask about a fridge in the teachers lounge and you can keep that milk!!!Also start pumping before hand so you have milk for him/her while you are gone (don’t be discouraged if you only get a little most women don’t fill up a bottle while pumping) Introduce the bottle after you have a good latch and nursing bond. maybe 2 or 3 weeks. If you will have to use a supplement, mix it with breastmilk to introduce and then slowly move the ration as needed to more formula so she gets use to the taste. . (If you do offer both when gone, it is best to offer a bottle of breastmilk and then the formula to top off with.Good Luck and Kudos to you for looking ahead like that!

  13. Rebecca Collier says:

    Brought tears to my eyes :). My first birth experience at 20 was nothing like this, my second almost a year ago was what I wanted from the start. My nurse’s name was Nancy, she was GREAT! She helped me and my husband deliver naturally and really listened to me. She made me feel so good and proud 🙂 She was so proud of me too, because I had a short natural birth after I had nursed Kalem and was fed and cleaned myself and ready to move she said she wanted to show me off by walking with me to my pp room. I’m pretty sure I never stopped smiling.

  14. Thank you for your story. I am so envious of your nurse. We had such a hard time and they made us give our baby formula before we left or said that we could not. The hospital L/C even walked out on us as we had trouble. We are still BFing but it has been hard and I am envious of your start!

  15. I’m crying! 🙂 Such a beautiful experience – even with all the bumps in the road. How lucky you are to have had her go to bat for you!

  16. I wish that I had such attentive nurses : I had one nurse who listened to my twice daily report on my son’s eating/peeing/pooing schedule and then remarked “If you are feeding him as much as you say you are, he would be producing more wet diapers.” And when we were discharged by her a day later she told us that if he didn’t pass another stool in 3 days that we should be concerned.

    Now I know MUCH better. It’s not unusual for breastfed babies to pee and poo less often than a formula fed baby. Colostrum and breastmilk are very rapidly absorbed and almost all of it gets used. Formula has materials and water that the baby does not need an so therefore passes more quickly.

    I also had a lactation consultant who would not listen to me when I said that breastfeeding hurt. She told me that the “sting” would go away in a day or two. Yeah. Turns out my kid had a clamping issue that needed to be addressed before the “sting” would go away. Had to figure that out on my own. I even told her that when I took my nipple out of his mouth that it was flat and white and that bruising was occurring around the nipple. *sigh*

    I also wish that the first time I tried that the nurses were more understanding. I wanted to try ASAP (before the apgar test). My Mom tried to give me a few pointers because he wasn’t getting on right. The nurse tried to put more of my breast in. In the meantime my IV machine was beeping like crazy because my arm was bent trying to hold him. So they put him a football hold which I didn’t get at all and didn’t like. So when I adjusted him back they took him away :

    Next time, things will be different.

  17. This is so beautiful! I am crying 🙂 What a difference one little gesture can make in the new life of mother and baby. And YOU, of course, without determination, wouldn’t be where you are today. I wonder how many mothers have given up because someone told them they couldn’t do it. I was newly 18 when my first baby was born. I am so thankful that I had support and older friends with breastfed babies that I could look up to. I knew nothing compared to what I know now. And my labor and delivery of my newest little one was quite similar to my first–quick and easy. And when the nurses came in to peek at my son’s latch, they knew I needed no help.

    Thankyou for your courage and experience–for your support through your website and Facebook, and your stories. You have a wonderful way of connecting to those who need reassurance in their breastfeeding journeys. I love that you are not afraid to share personal details about your trails. You are human and you admit it! (PS: the rest of us are human too. Cool huh?)

  18. As mother of three, this story made me all teary eyed. If only all nurses working with new moms could read and internalize the message from your story.

  19. I wish I had a nurse as great as you did! I only had grumpy nurses 🙁 My labor and delivery nurses were nice, but we got rushed to post partum immediately because of over crowding (popular day to have a baby I guess). No one was outstanding there, and everyone kept pushing formula on my babies because they were under 5 lbs (premature twins). Even the LC that came to my room was NOT helpful!! All she did was tell me that breastfeeding was hard and that there was no shame in formula feeding my babies. She then told me that pumping and bfing was going to be really hard for me because my nipples were so big (really?!?!). I tried asking for a different LC but it was just her for the whole overcrowded floor (over 50 babies at that time). Another nurse that came in told me all about her life and then would forget to bring me my pills and a drink and not come back!! She even told me it was ok to just put down a crying baby and walk away since she put her son in his car seat, put him in the basement as she went to her bedroom and slept for 10 hours straight!!!! When he was 1 week old!!!! I never felt so lonely. Luckily my mom came in shortly after all this and helped me out 🙂 If I weren’t so strong willed I probably would have caved in to them and given up. After a 1 week NICU stay for one of the twins we’re doing great now!!! I have two babies that love bfing 🙂 Next time I have a baby, I won’t be afraid to ask for a different nurse 🙂 Your blog posts inspire me every day 🙂

  20. i love this! our labor and delivery nurse was amazing! she was there when i needed her, just enough without being too much. she brought me yummy juice to stay hydrated so i wouldn’t have to have the iv i wanted so desperately to avoid, and which later i found out she mixed up herself (there was no apple cranberry juice, there was apple and then there was cranberry. but she made it happen for me) and then after it was all over, she thanked me! SHE thanked ME. for having an intervention free, medication free, natural birth. she told us that she doesn’t get to see them very much anymore. and she must have spread the word, because one by one the nurses came in to see us. “we have heard about you!” they said. i felt like a million bucks, flabby tummy and all. a good nurse makes all the difference in the world.

  21. *sob*

    Beautiful! 🙂 I’m so grateful that you had this nurse! She has done something far beyond amazing in SO MANY LIVES by helping one mother 13 years ago! 🙂

  22. Kirstie Farrar says:

    And you, my friend, have paid her kindness forward in spades. One person can make a huge difference!!

  23. Stephanie Bieniewski says:

    I wish I had a LC like that with my first baby. I was trying desperately to BF my son and tried every chance I could, never when she came in the room though, and she kept screaming at me that I was starving him. With this second baby, I will not allow anyone to talk to me that way. I am much older (38 years old) and not the insecure 26 year old who was afraid she was going to do something wrong with her new baby.

  24. Thank you for sharing about the difference a compassionate nurse can make. As a 1st semester nursing student who’s desire is to work LD or NICU and help mothers as they learn that they are capable of caring for their babies, your words have brought me to tears and reminded me that I will be able to make a difference.

  25. This brought happy tears streaming from my eyes. It’s day 2 of being with my first child and feeling inadequate as a breast feeding mother. My own Mother not helping the situation stating I’m not helping my baby. The OB staff at my hospital have spent some extra time with me and restored my self-confidence in the knowledge that I can and WILL provide for my baby. Thank you for the inspiring letter.

  26. Atyourcervix78 says:

    Thank you. I needed to read this. I’m glad you wrote it. It’s nice to know that somehow we impact lives positively.
    <3,
    Kristin

  27. Thank you! This was a beautiful post! I, too, had a “Nurse Julie” and a “grumpy nurse” and without the patient, friendly, loving guidance and support, I would have let the grumpy, latch-scoring (as in, we had to score three 8s before being discharged unless I would agree to formula feed!) nurses convince me that I couldn’t provide enough for my baby. I am still letting go of the anger over how my husband and I cried when even one of the sweet nurses basically forced my husband to give my hours old baby a bottle of formula. It makes me sad to think how many moms are left discouraged and lacking confidence when they go home with their babies. Thank God for “Nurse Julies” everywhere! 23 months to the day later and we are still nursing strong!

  28. Missjewel22 says:

    Jessica,

    What hospital did you deliver at?

  29. Stephanie, RNC, IBCLC says:

    Us nurses love stuff like this! Send it. It might even help “grumpy nurse” more self aware.

    Send it!

  30. Thank you so much for posting this! At 22, I had already decided I was going to BF my DS when he was born. DH has many, many medical problems and I wanted to make sure without a doubt that I would do everything in my power to try to BF, even if I absolutely hated it. Three days into our postpartum stay after an awful labor, I had a “grumpy nurse” that came in telling me that I was going to end up with my child in the NICU for losing weight, and that I was harming him. She called the pediatrician on call since it was after-hours (this was NOT my son’s pediatrician, and unbeknownst to me he had already been RELEASED by his pediatrician to go home) and they both decided he HAD to have formula. As I was trying to rest about ten minutes later, the same nurse came back in and said they needed to do some extra weighing for DS. I agreed to let them take him to the nursery, not knowing what was actually going on. About ten minutes later, I told DH to go get our son RIGHT NOW, as I was calling the nursery, they wheeled my son back in, with an opened package of formula underneath his little bassinet. I asked the nurse what was going on, and she said she had to go get my nurse to explain. They gave my son formula without my permission, putting it in my chart that I had okay’d it. I completely broke down and told her to get out of my room, called the charge nurse, who defended her nurse saying she was doing what was best for my baby. After an awful night of crying and feeling like a failure, I had the LC come in as soon as she was able to, she immediately asked which nurse was sabotaging breastfeeding, and told me that my DS had gained MORE weight FASTER on my brestmilk, than any other babies on our floor, and she went and called my OB. He came in less than an hour later, asked for the nurse’s name, and stalked out. After waiting all the morning/early afternoon for DS’ pediatrician to release him so we could take him home, a pediatrician came in and said he had been released the previous afternoon, before that nurse had even come on duty! I am happy to say we are still breastfeeding 16 months in, and I am two months pregnant with our second baby. I will NOT let anyone try to take breastfeeding away from me, and I refuse to send this next baby to the nursery, they can do everything they need to do right in front of us. I am sure our hospital had plenty of wonderful nurses, but my LC and OB were my “wonderful nurses”.

  31. As an OB nurse myself, I can’t tell you how nice it is to receive letters like this from patients. We (most of us) love our jobs more than anything and helping parents get to know their baby and feel comfortable is a priority and a pleasure. I am so glad you had a mostly wonderful experience and so happy a nurse was a part of it. 🙂