As a nurse, I have been present many times when a last breath is taken. I have also been present when a baby takes their first breath; a special moment that is cherished and I am honoured to be apart of.
After becoming burnt out on a busy trauma ward at Auckland City Hospital, seeing far too much death and tragedy beyond my years, I needed a change a pace. So I spent some time working in a small rural Birthing Unit in Northland. We only accepted well babies and mothers, I was the only employee on for 12-hour shifts, working independently caring for mother and baby needs, focusing primarily on breastfeeding. It was a joy.
The first 48 hours of having a baby, are a sleep-deprived, emotional and at times, frustrating blur. I do whatever I can to ease this, even for a moment. This may be small things like holding baby so mum can have a shower, preparing meals, calming an anxious dad who doesn’t know why his son’s poop is yellow! And even the hands-on approach of teaching mum how to express colostrum for the first time.
One day, I cared for a mum who just had triplets. Talk about having your hands full! Breastfeeding proved to be challenging as a third baby was always left waiting, often crying hysterically waiting to be feed while the siblings had their feed. Luckily for mum, she had an extremely supportive husband and family who helped to feed expressed milk to the smaller baby who had difficulty latching and took turns doing diaper changes. I knew for this woman, it would take a village. Never underestimate the power of a community!
What I learnt is that no matter how scary it all seems and if you’re unsure if you are doing the right thing, remember that your maternal/paternal instincts are stronger than you know and to trust that. Also, the poop won’t stay yellow for long and yes, the umbilical cord will eventually fall out!