I never fully understood the complete role of nurses until I spent 80 days in their care.
While I was at UF Health on bedrest, the nurses and PCAs took care of me, physically and emotionally. They made me laugh, calmed my fears, and made me feel connected to the “outside world,” all while making sure I was comfortable and getting everything I needed to take care of myself and the baby. Including a late-night bowl of cereal while I watched Jimmy Fallon.
I saw my nurses and PCAs every four hours throughout the day and night, and sometimes more often if they needed to take blood or check on anything. The last few weeks of my stay, they did skip the 3 a.m. vitals/fetal heartbeat check if all had been great that evening. That was wonderful!
Every morning, a PCA would wheel me over to triage in Labor & Delivery, where a nurse would hook me up for an NST (Non-stress test) to check on the baby. After a few weeks, it didn’t matter which nurse was there, they all knew my first name and that I’d love an apple juice to sip during the test. They knew I was a surrogate and I had four boys of my own. They knew baby boy kicked like a mad man when the belt was on tight and they’d probably have to come in and readjust it at some point. Most of them knew the bio parents because they’d come over with me to the NSTs and ultrasounds on their numerous visits up to Gainesville. They knew our goal was 34 weeks, and they knew how long I’d been there.
That daily trip became a huge source of comfort when I had the chance to chat with these sweet nurses and get a thumbs-up on the little one. And, when I was absolutely losing my mind, they laughed at my silly selfie, and they let me shed a few tears and make a quick joke to get myself back in the game.
They encouraged me to decorate my room with all the artwork my boys brought me, cards from friends and family, and yes, even the poster the boys bought me from their school book fair. It did help. It made me so happy to see these cheerful things as I woke up each day, instead of lonely, stark white walls.
We even added a little Christmas tree to help me feel like I wasn’t missing out on everything. (I placed it on top of the fan the nurses recommended I use, to cut down on the hallway noise so I could get better sleep. Such a smart tip!)
I guess I just wasn’t fully prepared, in my mind, for such a long hospital stay. I imagined bedrest to be boring but restful, frustrating but healing. I didn’t have any idea how lonely it would be.
I kept myself busy through TV, internet (Christmas shopping and planning a spring getaway to Key West), books and magazines, and texting friends and family. And visitors were always a fun treat! (*Note to self: If someone I care about is hospitalized, make sure to visit them and lift their spirits for a bit!)
But, without the nurses and PCAs to talk to throughout the day and night, my state of mind would have gone downhill quickly. We chatted about their book club selections, what they were buying their kiddos for Christmas, how their parent-teacher conferences went, how our favorite college and NFL teams did each week, and even the plans for an upcoming wedding!
They got to know me well, and they knew my favorite days were when Jeff and the boys were able to come by. Jeff sent me this picture one day to let me know they were on their way to see me … it made me bawl. I couldn’t wait to see them, and at the same time I already dreaded telling them goodbye at the end of their visit. Whew. Lots of emotions running through me during that time. Deep, crazy love mixed with some mommy guilt, some loneliness, a lot of relentless optimism, and most importantly, hope ... which my nurses provided day in and day out.
There were many late night visits after the boys' baseball games, or on Jeff’s way home from work at 9-9:30, and no one ever said a word to us about visiting hours. I think they knew I needed my family, even if only for a quick visit, and even if one of the visitors fell asleep. :)
The nurses updated my white board each day with the new number and a smiley face as we counted down to our goal delivery day. I took this picture through tears as I realized how far we’d come. Sweet baby boy would be born the next morning!
I am so, so grateful for the care I received. I can’t imagine a better scenario for our situation. No matter how I was feeling, my nurses and PCAs lifted me up and got me through it. They smiled, laughed, cried and prayed with me. They were my bedrest angels. And they are forever forever forever in my heart.
Love (and hug a nurse) more,