Daughter, son, brother, teacher, astronaut, runner, singer, we take on many different roles in our lives. We transition through these roles at different ages and stages, sometimes we are just one, and sometimes we are multiple roles at the same time.
I was a daughter. Then I was a student, a swim teacher, a runner, a nurse. Now I’m a mum.
But I’m a mum AND a nurse.
When you work as a nurse you develop relationships with parents, families, and children. You develop these relationships sometimes without realising it, and when you handover to the next nurse on duty you find yourself saying ‘the mum is lovely’ or ‘the mum is anxious’ or (and we shouldn’t say this) ‘the mum is difficult’. The one we ALL dread is..’the mum is a nurse’. Not because mums who are nurses are horrible, but because there is now this weird balance to maintain of remaining the nurse for this child, and practicing in the way you always practice, while also trying not to give the ‘mum that’s a nurse’ any reason to step out of the mum role and into the nurse role.
I have experienced this at work, as a nurse. Now I’m on the other side and am experiencing this as a mum.
So I stepped into the nicu on the 29th of may (okay, I rolled in on the wheelchair) and I tried to bring my ‘mum’ to the front and move my ‘nurse’ to the back.
I can hear the nurse handover in my head ‘that mum is a nurse’, but not only that…’that mum is a nurse, who works upstairs, who has worked here, who is good family friends with the consultant, whose family is well known to the hospital’ the list goes on.
And so my approach to this was to shut the nurse down and not say anything.
So when our nurse did something I disagreed with, or was concerned about I didn’t speak up. When our nurse would touch our babies in a way that I can only describe as rough, I said nothing.
I had studied and talked with others about the power relationships in hospital, the powerlessness that comes from being a parent, but to experience it firsthand was so much more painful than I ever imagined.
I cried, I breathed. We went home early some days when it was too distressing to watch that nurse touch our child. Then we battled with the feelings of abandonment, of leaving our darling boy alone without us. If we couldn’t advocate for our baby who could??
Then came the 15th of July. Oliver had reached 6 weeks, and was stable enough for his immunisations. Remarkably he dealt with an injection into each of his tiny legs really well, a cry and a big sleep.
Unfortunately, the rotovirus vaccine isn’t an injection, it’s a liquid oral vaccination. 2ml of liquid into Oliver’s tummy. At this time that was a lot for Oliver, he had a history of significant ABD (apnoea, bradycardia, desaturation) whenever anything more than 0.5ml was put into his tummy.
But she’s his nurse, she knows that.
And she gave it slowly, I’ll give her that.
And as expected his heart rate dropped, but there was no marked desaturation on his monitor. We looked at our boy, mouth, hands and feet all going a lovely shade of grey/blue.
He’s done this before. So I left (more freaking expressing!) him in the hands of his capable nurse.
He had minutes and minutes of being blue, of a saturation probe that wasn’t reading correctly, of a nurse who made a bad clinical decision and left his side. When the probe was moved he was saturating at 20% (this is bad, bad).
A flurry of movement, and a number of meetings with nurses, doctors, and managers – cue debrief therapy session.
And all I can think is I should have said something. My baby is blue. Look at my baby.
Yes, I’m a mum. But I’m also a nurse. And both a mum and a nurse should feel able to speak up.
So I’m a mum at the front now, but my nurse is floating just below the surface and she feels comfortable now to say she doesn’t agree. To say please be gentle with my boy. I’m happy to be ‘that’ mum, because Charlie would want that, and Oliver deserves that.