Most first-time moms walk into the hospital’s maternity wing not quite knowing what to expect as they prepare to meet their baby. Unless you’re Jessica — a 34-year-old nurse at Community Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility in Toms River. A nurse with a 15-year career under her belt, Jessica worked on the maternity unit at the RWJBarnabas Health facility for 5 years, where she spent shift after shift welcoming babies and caring for moms, before she found herself there giving birth for the first time. I got a chance to talk with her, hear her birth story, and find out how the defining moment of becoming a mom has not only shaped her life, but changed her career perspective as well.
It was the day before Jessica’s due date and she was increasingly uncomfortable. With some serious lower back issues, numbness in her leg, and a baby measuring on the larger side, her doctor recommended induction to start the birthing process.
“I went in that night and almost immediately began having extremely painful contractions,” Jessica says. “But I was only 1 centimeter dilated and it was too soon for an epidural.”
But fortunately, Jessica says, the nurses– her colleagues– were wonderful. Her night nurse, Jamie, tried to keep her as comfortable as possible through the waves of contractions. By morning, her water broke, and it was time for the epidural, but it was not completely effective.
“My day nurse Maria kept turning me, doing whatever she could to help me through the pain,” Jessica says. “Even though all the nurses knew me, it didn’t make much of a difference. I know from working there that we all treat every patient equally, and give them the same care and compassion.”
It was going on 24 hours of labor when Jessica spiked a fever, and the baby’s heart rate jumped to 200. Jessica was 6 centimeters dilated and the doctor told her they needed to think fast and prep for a C-section. While she knew the ins and outs of the process, and having cared for hundreds of C-section patients over the years, facing the unexpected was nerve-wracking for her.
“That was very scary to me, because I like to prepare myself. I needed to just say okay, we have to go with it. Even though I take care of patients every day, people have a ton of c-sections…because it was my own body it was different. I was so scared.”
With her husband by her side, and her doctor and nurses keeping her calm, it was time to meet their baby.
“My husband was with me right by my head, talking me through it.The anesthesiologist was the sweetest person I’ve ever come across, putting cold rags on my forehead, rubbing my head, telling me it was going to be okay. I felt more at ease because I trust them and I know how diligent they are. I know how the doctors perform. As anxious as I was, knowing all of that made me feel more comfortable.”
And at 11:03 PM, Jessica’s world changed when her baby girl, Ella, was born. 7 pounds, 8 ounces of love, placed in her arms. She moved to the post-partum unit knowing she and her baby would be in great hands.
“I knew all the nurses who would touch my baby and be with her…some of the nurses were my best work friends. I texted my one friend because I knew she was working and asked her, ‘Would you be my nurse?’ Of course she said, ‘Sure, gladly!’ That was nice.”
And naturally, all of Jessica’s co-workers wanted to see how she was doing and get a glimpse of sweet little Ella.
“They all made visits. Everyone who was working those days and nights wanted to come check in on her and me, but still gave us privacy when we wanted it,” adds Jessica.
As for how the whole experience changed her, Jessica says the transformation was not just personal, but professional as well.
“A lot of patients ask me, do you have kids? And I have my story to tell them now,” she explains. “I feel for c-section patients 100 times more. I’ve always been patient and compassionate. Now I understand what they’re going through. You can’t really understand it 100 percent until you go through it.”
Her birth experience has also given her newfound appreciation for what she and her colleagues do day-in and day-out.
“I just think Community (Medical Center) is wonderful. I wouldn’t go anywhere else. I trust the nurses, I trust the physicians. Everyone was just amazing. Just naturally wonderful,” she says.
And little Ella? Over a year later, she’s thriving and keeping mom on her toes, as one-year-olds do.
“Ella is doing great. She’s learning how to walk, we’re still nursing, she’s really good. She has a lot of personality…she’s my life.”
This post is sponsored by RWJBarnabas Health.