It was recently brought to my attention through a sweet comment left on my blog that I've never really talked much here about my career as a nurse...so here, for all of you who are curious, is the long version!
Darren and I had been married for two and a half years and I was six months pregnant with Dylan when I graduated from nursing school in May 2001. I was not at all enthusiastic about the prospect of immediate employment, from which I'd soon be taking an extended maternity leave, anyway, so it was decided that I would take that summer off to rest and nest. Those few months were absolutely unforgettable, and even now, looking back from a distance of only six short years, it is with a sense of nostalgia that I know will only grow stronger with time. There was just something so warm and wonderful about staying home for the first time in our marriage, washing and folding little onesies and socks, watching daily episodes of "A Baby Story" on TLC, reading novel after novel with a few baby books thrown in every now and then for good measure. I reveled in that time spent just wondering and waiting. It was a perfect world, made even more so in hindsight as Dylan was born just ten days following 9/11. My memories of that summer are etched forever in my mind as the time "before"; there will always be that division of time, and I will always be sad that none of my children will ever know the privilege of having lived in the pre-9/11 era.
But, wow. I digress.
Dylan was born in September 2001, and our lives were changed in more profound ways than we could ever have imagined. All at once, he became the center of our entire universe and there was no way we would even consider leaving him in the care of anyone else. Something had to give. Darren was working at that time as an admissions counselor at the Graduate School, but we soon realized that if I were to go to work full time--which would be only three days a week as compared to his five--then he could quit his job to stay home with Dylan and we'd actually be earning enough money to buy a house. Not only that, we'd have more time to spend together as a family, and Darren would also have more time to work on his Master's Thesis. Though I hated to leave Dylan for any length of time, there was really no question about it. My going to work was just the logical choice. I took my state board exam (a computerized test that friends and classmates had warned me about) when Dylan was only six weeks old, and I was so certain that I had failed it. But to my great relief, I had passed with only the minimum number of questions, and in less than one hour!
With the approach of the new year we decided that I had better start looking for a job, and as fate would have it, a recruiter from one of our local hospitals happened to walk into Darren's office one day to inquire about returning to school for her Master's Degree. During the course of their conversation, Darren gave her our number, and she called me that day to set up an interview with the director of the Maternal/Child unit I was interested in. My first choice would have been a position as a Pediatric nurse, but since there were no openings at that time, I was offered a job as a Labor and Delivery nurse, which I accepted on the spot and instantly regretted. My personality is just not compatible with the high level of stress experienced on a daily basis by L&D nurses! They are amazing, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the incredible ladies with whom I have the honor of working.
But I did take the position, and I did give it my best, until the anxiety I felt going to work every day began to manifest in physical, and no longer just psychological, symptoms. Finally, I went to my Director's office one day with a speech mentally prepared and a friend in tow to wait outside for moral support. I didn't know, at that moment, whether I would just quit or be granted the job change I so desired: from Labor and Delivery nurse to Mother/Baby nurse on the postpartum unit. With a warm smile and a huge hug, I was instantly granted my request and an enormous weight of worry was lifted from my heart. I'm pretty sure I cried! In retrospect, I know that there were many contributing factors at that time playing in to my overall unhappiness. What I didn't realize at the time was that I was suffering from a bad case of the baby blues; while I'm not sure I'd classify it as actual postpartum depression, I know that I was definitely affected by hormones and emotional instability at that time, which were compounded by the personality clash I was experiencing with the nurse preceptor who had been training me in Labor and Delivery and the pressure of being, then, the sole provider for my little family in a job I was rapidly beginning to loathe!
Transferring to the postpartum unit was like inhaling a gulp of fresh air after nearly drowning in a turbulent sea. The pace was slower, the nurses kind and helpful, and the entire experience was lovely. I was happy again, and I really did like my work. Meanwhile, Darren was proving himself to be a phenomenal stay-at-home dad, bringing Dylan to visit me on my breaks so we could continue our breastfeeding relationship, which was important to all of us, and preparing him bottles of stored breast milk when he couldn't be with me. We bought our first house, which we've loved ever since. I transitioned off of day shift orientation to a full time position on the night shift, and after a while we all adapted to my new schedule. I enjoyed being able to see more of Dylan and Darren during the day. They'd play together and run errands and read books and watch movies together while I slept, and Darren would bring Dylan to our bed for nursing and nap times. It was a great arrangement, really, and it helped knowing that I wasn't really missing out on much of anything while I was at work...both my guys would just be sleeping! In fact, it is for that reason that I've chosen to remain working on the night shift, which, at this hospital, is from 7p.m. to 7a.m. I'll admit that this schedule wasn't always ideal, and, at times, felt quite torturous during my pregnancies with Caitlyn and Meghan, but in the grand scheme of things it has still been what works best for our family.
I'm fortunate now to be able to share shifts with a dear friend and coworker. We began this arrangement following my maternity leave with Meghan, and it has worked out beautifully! (She, too, has a young daughter, so the arrangement works out well for her, too.) We arrange our schedules so that one of us works from 7p.m. to 1a.m., and the other works from 1a.m. to 7a.m. In this way, each of us only has to work for six hours, which has been such a blessing since my kids rarely take naps during the day at the same time anymore. I usually get very little, if any, sleep before or after I work, so an entire twelve hour night shift would be virtually impossible.
While I will always consider marriage and motherhood my primary vocations in life, I know that I am so blessed to have a job which offers such flexibility to accommodate my first priorities. And I work so seldom now that it really doesn't feel much at all like a job: six hours two or three times a month, during which time I get to help and care for mommies and their brand new babies! Our hospital offers couplet care, in which both moms and babies room together for the duration of their stay, so I get to do a lot of hands on education with a lot of the young, first time moms who come through our doors. Many are teenagers, hardly more than babies themselves, and know little about actual infant care. And there is such a sense of gratification that comes from assisting frustrated moms to finally achieve a successful breastfeeding session! We have a separate level II neonatal nursery, so the babies I care for are, for the most part, healthy, full term newborns under routine care and observation. The moms I care for are stable, recovering from normal uncomplicated deliveries or C-sections, but sometimes we also take care of antepartum patients who require hospitalization during the course of their pregnancy, or postoperative gyn patients.
There may come a day when we'll decide to terminate my employment outside of the home. But until then, I will "endeavor to aid the physician, in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care."
My two best nursing school friends and me, on the day of our nurse pinning ceremony.