We certainly take for granted the amount of and intensity of experience we have every single day on our unit. We hold and process on a spectrum of "healthy". Some of us keep it all in, some of us pretty much wear it from the inside out but most are in the middle. And most of the time, most of us just get through the day. We see what we see and we get through the damn day.
So when you get sucker punched in the face with the reality of your job it's kind of unnerving. Whenever I have the privilege of taking care of a deceased baby I feel the hit. I take my time, take care and talk to the sweet, limp, cold body and try to make the two of us not so alone in the room where these things take place. I don't always cry, but I always weigh the moment. I'm seeing so many things at once: A dead body, an infant who most likely wasn't old enough to live outside it's mother's belly. I'm seeing a mystery, science, love, fear... all of it. I weigh the moment and it is dense and heavy like stone.
The day after our patient dropped to the floor I was given the opportunity to see her. Her 36 hour postpartum body needed to be assessed by an L&D nurse. She was so still. Her uterus hard as a rock (as it should be) and her skin warm and pink. Tubes everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Machines thumping and whizzing. Her ICU nurse asked me about her breasts, should she be lactating? We developed a plan to try to get her breasts producing in the one in a million chance she'd be able to feel her sweet baby's sucks one day. I went to talk to her family about our thoughts. I never saw our patient again.
Back on my unit I went to the room where her husband, family and friends had been staying. I did my quick "nurse knock" and I walked in. Holymotherfuckingshit. HOLY SHIT. I was twisted instantly. I did not, could not understand what I was seeing. Nothing about the scene in that room made sense to me and I wanted to cry and run and leave. I had no intrinsic skills. Everything I did and said felt like it was coming from another mouth. Another brain.
I take care of women and babies. My patients are always women and are most always accompanied by women. Husbands, boyfriends and baby-daddies aren't foreign, are mostly welcomed but are never my patients.
When I walked in the room and faced the husband of our patient and I saw him laying in a patient bed, under the covers, eyes red, arm across his forehead, exhausted, pale, I took a bowling ball to the chest. It's not supposed to be like that. And to make the scene more marked with the absurd, he was surrounded entirely by other men. Men who looked at the floor, who were touching his bed, holding his hand & comforting their tortured, devastated friend, brother, son.
I will never forget it. And I never want to see it again.