One of the most delightful duties in nursing school was working with mothers and babies. Having three young children myself I felt a special attachment to laboring moms, but the newborns stole my heart.
With great excitement I reported for duty in the newborn nursery on my first day. I loved newborns, especially the kind that didn’t go home with me at the end of the shift. Staffing was low, but no one told the babies so we would be expected to pitch in and help. Our instructor had not finished showing us around when a delivery room nurse came flying through the swinging doors, her arms clutching a screaming bundle. She thrust the infant into the instructor’s hands, turned back toward the doors exclaiming, “Uneventful delivery, paperwork inside the blanket, parents’ name ‘Smith’ and another mom is about to pop!”
“Great! Anyone here have kids of their own?” I looked around at the 18-year-old-something group of girls and slowly raised my hand.
“I have three,” I admitted.
“Come with me. You’re going to do an admission while the rest watch. Nothing like learning while doing.”
The bundle snuggled into my chest and stopped crying. Off I went to the infant admission room, the herd of students trailing behind. When I removed the blanket there was a collective sigh of disbelief. The instructor and I exchanged glances. She began to lecture on the admission routine while I performed each step. Everyone spoke in hushed voices as they pushed closer to see the baby’s features. Baby Girl Smith had all the requisite fingers and toes, two eyes, a nose, active arms and legs, and a strange look about her face. It was her eyes: they were small, dark and almond shaped. Her skin was pale, her black hair straight. I checked her leg band to be sure it said ‘Smith.’
We weighed, measured, washed, oiled and diapered. Her reflexes were good, her grasp strong, but something just wasn’t right.
Our most recent lecture class had focused on the possible birth defects we might see. We were sure that Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s daughter might have a genetic disorder.
My instructor and I readied Baby Girl Smith to meet her parents. I found it easy to identify with them as we discussed the various reactions we might encounter when they saw their daughter. My third child was born with a cleft palate although it had been repaired. The unspoken concern here was ‘this didn’t look fixable.’ I instantly fell in love with this little girl and her parents whom I had not yet met.
“Are you OK with this?” my instructor asked.
“Yes. I can handle it. I’ll just follow their lead and point out how beautiful she is.”
“The physician should have already explained things to them. They may have a million questions or none at all.”
As we walked done the hall, out the locked doors at the nursery entrance, it occurred to me that I had seen no physician. Being new to the procedures, I decided the doctor’s examination was probably done in the delivery room. But why hadn’t any of Baby Girl Smith’s paperwork indicated a problem?
Tension filled the air as we stood before the Smith’s door. From inside the room came happy, laughing voices as father and mother relived the birth and made future plans. I took a deep breath and put on a smile: a smile not too gay or bouncy but quietly peaceful. I looked into the baby’s eyes: I think she smiled back at me. I held her closer and rocked her gently as the door opened.
“Mr. and Mrs. Smith, meet your new baby girl,” I said as I crossed the threshold while gazing at the bundle in my arms.
When I looked up I stopped, opened my eyes wide, then turned to catch the look on my instructor’s face. She quickly took over by adding her congratulations as she approached the parents to shake their hands. I reluctantly placed my burden into her mother’s waiting arms. There was no one else in the room at that moment but their baby. We offered to answer questions and tiptoed out when none were asked.
We could hardly get out the door without bursting with laughter. All the tension, all the sadness that had built to this point rushed out. Amazing what a little direct observation could reveal. Mrs. Smith was Chinese.
Word count: 743
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