(A picture of a mom at a store went viral. But you can see this at any store you go to!).
I remember when I first started working in labor and delivery. I was 22 and fresh and new to the world. Seeing babies being born was truly awe inspiring. My brain was so packed with information during that time. I was learning how to become an RN, perform IVs, read the fetal monitors, do all the necessary paperwork and charting, and learn how to take care of precious mothers and babies. I had just had my own baby 9 months before becoming a nurse and I remember clearly the feeling of watching that first baby being born and thinking, “wow, my body did THAT??”
I worked in different areas of the OB floor for several years and later stayed home for a couple of years with my second child. When I came back to labor and delivery, I came in experienced and was no longer overwhelmed with learning. I had the opportunity to just watch and see how women give birth. And I was totally blown away by what I saw.
Over and over again, I just couldn’t believe how strong women were. I saw women work, sweat, go through scary situations, experience pain, endure procedures or surgery, vomit etc. Sometimes this was a fast and furious 2 hour experience and sometimes this lasted for days. There is so much unknown when you have a baby and I saw women cry, shake or be afraid. I saw women have their babies pulled out of their bodies when they were under distress with forceps or the vacuum extractor. I saw women have surgery to have babies. No matter how the method of delivery or pain management plan of these women, ALL deliveries are powerful and intense experiences.
But here’s the thing, no matter how scary, painful, intense the experience, what I noticed as an older wiser nurse, was that almost always as soon as these moms met their babies, they smiled and joy took over. I saw women who had experienced great pain or fear, turn to laughter and happiness as they clutched their new wet warm babies to their chest and kissed their heads. Sometimes the fear and pain remained as women or babies experienced complications after birth and this moment of joy was delayed, but it always seemed to happen. I saw women who didn’t necessarily feel that incredible bond or love for their baby, still work hard to do all the best things for them. To nurse them and care for them even though it wasn’t in their heart yet to do that.
No longer was I focused on the moment (which seems humanly impossible!) of that baby coming out of her body, I focused on the look on her face when she saw her baby.
I would often cry at seeing how strong women were! It was, in every sense of the word, amazing.
Even though I don’t work in labor and delivery anymore, I swear I have that SAME feeling when I go to the grocery store. Which sounds silly to say. Giving birth and grocery shopping don’t seem to be the same. The grocery store is so mundane and a chore. But you can’t go to the grocery store near me without seeing a multitude of women pushing 1, 2, 3, 4 or more kids in carts while they gather food for their families. Often the moms are in their work clothes after a long day. Or they are wearing their clothes from yesterday (or the day before) because they haven’t been away from their babies to even change their clothes, let alone take a shower. Wearing their babies in carriers. Organizing lists. Watching their budgets. Reviewing their plans for the week. Trying to get healthy foods (“will anyone eat this”) and fun foods (but not too many). I see lots of dads too, but often this work falls to the mothers so today I want to focus on them.
While they do this, they are trying to keep their kids happy. Shushing. Smiling and laughing. Kissing heads again. Bribing. Begging. Weaving through the other carts. They are stressed, but trying really hard to not look stressed. Their kid spills their drink. Or drops a glass jar. Screaming because they want this thing and that. A stranger gives them an annoyed look. Their little pushes the kid cart onto their bare ankle. Again. They are exasperated, but try to stay calm. Their baby cries because they need to nurse so they rush again so they can be done.
In other words, IT IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. But they fight to get through it and do what needs to be done. With smiles and laughter. Although it may be through clinched teeth. I am absolutely positive that some cry in their cars or when they get home.
Next time you are at the store, really look at the moms around you. They are doing amazing work and it is hard. They are heroes to their kids and families and I am not sure we always see the strength in that.
But you are witnessing the miracle of the strength of mothers. Don’t ever forget that.
Smile at them. Or tell them how awesome their kids are. That is one of a mom’s favorite things to hear. Tell them they are doing a great job and it won’t be this hard forever. Offer to help them carry something. Tell them you will stay by the broken glass jar until the employee comes back with a mop. Hand them a Starbucks gift card (they don’t have an extra hand to carry a cup of coffee!). Bring that young mother neighbor of yours a dinner some night so she can stay home. But more than anything;
Tell them they are strong.
Photo by Zach Lake