I anticipate learning a lot of new things over the next 18 years. How to care for diaper rash, how to feed my son a bottle in the middle of the night while half asleep, how to discern the meaning behind different coos and cries. Most lessons will directly involve the little guy who joined our family 12 days ago. But my first lesson in fatherhood started to take shape in the hours leading up to his arrival.
The night before we were scheduled to show up at the hospital to be induced, my wife and I enjoyed one last meal together (greasy JL Beers cheeseburgers and chips) and double-checked our overnight bags to make sure we had everything we needed for our stay. As we made our final preparations in the fleeting peace and quiet, I was secretly playing out in my head how I thought the following day’s events would unfold.
We had taken the four-week lamaze class, and I had even attended a class for first-time dads. In my naivete, I had assumed I knew what to expect come delivery day. What I envisioned was a slow day of sitting in a hospital room, waiting for the action to start. I expected a lot of alone time. I expected the doctor to play dictator and lead us to victory… I mean baby.
I was wrong about everything.
Nurses Rule the Room
Before I changed my first diaper or snugged up my first swaddle, I learned an important lesson in gratitude that sneaked up on me like burpless spit-up. My mom was a nurse for more than 40 years, so I grew up holding the medical establishment in high regard. Specifically, doctors. While she could diagnose most minor ailments in the comfort of our own home, she was never hesitant to haul us into the walk-in clinic to get a legit diagnosis from the doctor. Even today she’ll be the one to tell my sister or me when it’s time to go in and get checked.
I was trained to believe the doctor knew everything. As a result, I expected the doctor to also do everything. I went in on that Wednesday morning with my wife intending to watch the doctor walk and talk us through the whole ordeal.
Again, I was wrong. Childishly wrong. Foolishly wrong. In every way wrong.
The nurses did everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. They were there to check us in with a comforting smile. They were there every 20 minutes (or sooner) to check on my wife and our baby. They were even there to check on me and make sure my legs weren’t about to give way underneath me. And not only did they do everything, they seemed to know everything, too… things I would’ve guessed only doctors should know.
[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]From the second we walked off the sixth floor elevator to the moment we clicked the carseat into the backseat of our Subaru the morning we left for home, our nurses cared for us with impressive skill and amazing grace.[/gdlr_quote]
Now, I’m not here to belittle doctors. When he did show up, he did a great job of making sure our toddler-sized baby came out in one piece and in such a way that he did as little damage as possible. In our case—because our baby was so big—I feel his commanding presence was certainly helpful during those last few minutes. But had he not been there, there’s no question our nurses would’ve done a fine job on their own.
During our two-day stay, we must have had ten different nurses attending to us at any given time. Each one deserves more recognition than I’m afraid they’ll ever receive. At the very least, I hope they know how grateful we patients are to have them in charge of our care… because make no mistake: the nurses (not the doctors) are in charge.