28: Spring Surprise

28: Spring Surprise

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Spring Surprise

The only thing that should surprise us is that there are still some things that can surprise us.

~François de La Rochefoucauld

I was excited about the upcoming obstetrics rotation my junior year of nursing school. My classmates and I considered OB the “happy place” to work. I had the distinct advantage of having three small siblings at home. Many times I had taken my turn at feeding late-night bottles, changing diapers and preparing formula.

According to friends who had completed the rotation, I would likely spend much of my time teaching mothers how to bathe their newborns, using a doll that never cried, wet or spit up formula, and passing out nutritious treats in the sunny kitchen.

True, the actual delivery could be dramatic, but I had already observed a delivery and had successfully squelched the memories of cries coming from the labor rooms.

When a late spring snowstorm arrived unannounced by the weatherman, I eagerly asked for OB when an instructor informed us that students would fill in for staff personnel stranded at home. Armed with the bravado of a nineteen-year-old and my vast personal experience, I believed this undertaking would prove no problem at all.

The unit was nearly empty. Mothers and infants who could be safely discharged had been released.

My assignment was to monitor a patient in the early stages of labor who had arrived when the storm had intensified. I was to report progress to the only nurse on duty, a woman who had already worked fourteen hours and had little hope of relief in the near future.

Before I entered the room I heard my patient scream, “I want Demerol!” I found a Trilene nebulizer lying on the floor beside the bed.

“Here, breathe some of this to take the edge off the pain,” I said, beaming my most winning smile.

I ducked as she hurled the apparatus in my direction and yelled, “That stuff doesn’t work and it burns my nose!”

Green as I was, even I knew better than to contradict a woman in labor. I certainly was not about to tell her that she had another hour to go before I could dispense more pain medicine.

Her husband murmured soothing nonsense to his wife. The nurse had mentioned earlier that after having three boys, they hoped this baby was a girl.

Stalling for time, I said, “I’ll check when you can have your next dose of pain medicine and be right back.” I remembered she had a medicine for nausea that might do in a pinch. I explained the dilemma to her doctor when I met him in the hallway.

She was quieter when we entered the room. “You are progressing really well,” he said, pleasantly. “Let’s hold off on any more medication.”

He leaned over her to check fetal heart tones. With energy I never suspected, she sat straight up in bed and nearly jerked the doctor off his feet, grabbing the front of his scrub shirt. Pens and pocket paraphernalia flew in all directions. “Get me Demerol, now!” she seethed through clenched teeth.

Her husband dived for her hands while I plastered myself against the wall trying to regain my wits. The doctor shook himself loose seconds before her right fist connected with her husband’s chin. I dashed over with a wet washcloth while the doctor assisted the dazed man into a chair.

Both spouses slept after I administered the injection of Demerol.

“I didn’t expect that kind of ruckus,” I explained to the seasoned nurse as I charted.

She grinned at my naïveté. “OB is full of surprises. Get something to eat now. I’ll probably see you tomorrow.” The corners of her mouth drooped as we watched the wind whip up the snow piling higher outside the window.

School regulations allowed junior students to work no longer than eight hours at a time. The next morning I learned my patient had delivered a healthy girl named April Snow.

I paused in the doorway of her room to drink in the scene before me. Mom was bathed, wearing a fresh gown, and cooing at the bundle in her husband’s arms. Daddy, with a horrendous bruise on his chin and stars in his eyes, was holding the answer to his prayers.

I understood then that OB was truly the “happy place” filled with surprises. I also understood that, although I might have had vast personal experience in caring for infants, I had a lot to learn about laboring moms!

~Mariah Julio

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