To be honest, my first hospital stay after giving birth was epically bad. I felt like the nurses looked at me like I was nothing more than a list of duties they needed to check off before the end of their shift. They ignored my complaints about pain, rushed through things like breastfeeding, and dismissed my concerns about my baby losing too much weight. In retrospect there are so many things I wish I would've told my maternity nurse before leaving the hospital. Namely, I would have demanded that they slow down and listen to my concerns, instead of making me feel unimportant.
Thankfully, the last time I gave birth was wonderfully different. The nurses listened to me and my concerns, answered my questions with respect, and treated me with dignity and empathy. And when my baby started losing weight and his blood sugar dipped too low, the nurses were on top of it and more than happy to give me formula while alerting the doctor to his condition. I would love to tell them how empowered they made me feel, especially when I was feeling so vulnerable.
When I’ve talk to other parents about their experiences in the maternity ward, I’ve learned that your mileage may vary. And like all professionals, when it comes to maternity nurses some are rockstars, and others are, well, not. So with that in mind, here's what the following moms wish they could've said to their maternity nurses before they left the hospital with their babies:
"I'm not ready to go home yet. Also, thank you for overruling my birth plan and just getting my baby out safely, and for giving him that bit of formula when he needed it, even though I was devastated about it."
"Please give me something stronger than ibuprofen. I know that some women can tolerate the post C-section pain better than others, but I'm miserable."
"Fed is best."
"Thank you so much for your support and encouragement, and for staying past your shift just to see my daughter be born. You helped transform what could have been a traumatic birth into a positive experience. Even though we only met once, I will always remember you."
"Y'all get your damn acts together with regard to practical combo-feeding help and advice. It’s a legitimate baby-feeding practice, and was my goal. I didn't have to make up my mind. Consistency among eight different nurses would have been great for my mental health."
"A huge thank you to all of the nurses who supported me through 36 hours of labor, a C-section, and the first few nights. Thank you for taking my baby to the nurses station and telling me a pacifier wouldn’t sabotage breastfeeding. I don’t know how I would have survived the first days without that sleep. I do wish they had encouraged me to use formula after breastfeeding until my milk came in. I had no idea and still feel sick about letting my babies go hungry."
"Thank you for telling me 'you can do this,' and holding me like a baby against your chest while I sobbed during my spinal for my emergency C-section at 26 weeks."
"It is not OK to fat shame someone who is in labor. Also, when I told you to get out of my room it wasn't a suggestion."
"Thank you for understanding that my first birth and emergency C-section made me wary and nervous that my second birth was not going as planned. Thank you for holding my hand, and for helping my spouse have necessary conversations with providers to help them understand. Thank you for your smiles while I was delirious and for putting my newborn baby girl on my chest while I was still in the OR so that I could see and feel her for myself."
"Thank you for looking me in the eyes and telling me you heard me when I told you I was scared, for staying by my side the whole time doctors and nurses were working to save my life after a massive hemorrhage, and for sneaking me a popsicle after my epidural."
"Thank you for suggesting formula supplementation for my starving, jaundiced baby. I needed someone in 'authority' to tell me it was OK."
"Thank you for taking my baby for two hours so I could sleep. And thank you for not making me feel like an awful mother, because I needed that brief time away."
"Thanks for sneaking me a pacifier and assuring me nipple confusion isn’t a thing, even though you said you weren’t supposed to because the hospital follows the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Seriously, you saved my life!"
"Thank you to the nurse who told me I was never going to make enough milk if I didn't get some sleep, and broke the rules by offering formula."
"Next time, when a woman says stop, stop. Her aggressive uterine massage tore through my abdominal wall."
"I wish the staff had focused more on helping us get nursing started, not just pushed the formula on us. We did get the help we needed the next morning and there was absolutely nothing wrong with me nor the baby. I was just an inexperienced first-timer. Fed is best, yes, but I was perfectly capable of nursing."
"I would have liked you to keep me better informed. Failing to mention there were pending blood tests that resulted in my baby being pulled from my arms and rushed to the NICU with zero warning was incredibly traumatic."
"I started motherhood off feeling inferior because of the attitude you showed me once you found out that I had previously exercised my right to choose. If you truly care about babies, stop shaming their caretakers, during their most vulnerable moments. When people feel inferior, we are not great caretakers."
"In December 2016, I was airlifted to a hospital with a high level NICU and was on hospital bed rest in the Trendelenburg position for five days during Hanukkah and Christmas. The nurses decorated my room, shared stories and words of encouragement, and went above and beyond when caring for me (they even shaved my legs). On December 27, my daughter was born via emergency C-section at 23 weeks 3 days gestation. She lived for 11 days, and passed away peacefully in our arms. During those 11 days my nurses frequently visited her and would sneak into postpartum to tell me how strong and beautiful she was. I will always remember how loving and caring they were. When my daughter Naomi passed away, I wanted to get away from that hospital as quickly as possible. I wish I told my nurses how much they meant to me and my family. They helped me maintain my dignity when I was my most vulnerable. They made me feel strong when I was my weakest. They were the most amazing group of people I have ever met, and I will forever be grateful for them."