While working on a women’s post-op floor, I was asked to float to the mother/baby unit. I had a strong history in pediatrics, had shadowed a nurse there a few months before, and was told that taking care of the mothers would be “a piece of cake.” They were desperate for help, so I hesitantly agreed, hoping for the best.
One of the charge nurses showed me how to do a “fundal check” – this consists of pressing hard on the woman’s abdomen to feel where the uterus is and making sure it feels firm. It seemed simple enough.
They assigned me to several easy patients- women who had delivered the day before and should have been uncomplicated. Their IV’s had already been removed since they were no longer needed, and the women only needed to be checked on every few hours.
The first patient I assessed was an ER nurse in her late twenties who had delivered the cutest baby girl I’d ever seen. I’m not sure if it was the fact that my ID badge said “Women’s Surgery” instead of “Mother/Baby” or because I thought the closet was the bathroom, but she immediately asked if I was new. I told her the truth– I was a “float.” She promised to take it easy on me, but mentioned that she’d noticed some heavy bleeding while going to the bathroom.
I fumbled through my fundal check, pressing on her abdomen as I’d been taught. But I didn’t feel her uterus. And as I pushed, I noticed a gigantic blood clot plop onto the bed between her legs. I’m not exaggerating, this thing was HUGE.
“Is that normal?” She pointed at the blood flowing from her body.
Yeah, I seriously doubted it. “I’ll be right back!” I said as I sprinted out the door. The charge nurse hadn’t prepared me for this situation.
The hallway and nurses’ station were completely empty. I felt a huge lump in my throat and started to squeak when I breathed.
I ran to the nursery and thankfully there were two nurses there. “Is a clot this big normal?” I showed the size with my hands.
“Which room?” One of the nurses, Stacey, started running. I took that as a “no.”
We ran to the room and the patient was still bleeding. “She’s hemorrhaging, we need Pitocin and to do a fundal massage,” the nurse said.
Maybe my memory is unreliable due to the state of shock I found myself in, but I swear that mother/baby nurse started punching my patient’s stomach. The patient was screaming, blood was gushing, I was crying… well I wasn’t actually crying but I wanted to. “You take over while I call the doctor,” the nurse told me.
I began “massaging” (beating) the poor woman’s stomach. Her uterus was starting to firm up, which I knew was a good sign. Several nurses appeared and took over. An IV was started, meds were given, doctors called… and finally, the patient stopped bleeding.
Once everything was cleaned up and the patient was considered stable again, the charge nurse apologized. “Usually patients only hemorrhage the day of delivery, but sometimes that happens. Sorry it happened to you.”
“No problem. But I’m never coming back. Ever.” Even if I was given a proper orientation, I didn’t want to do that to a patient ever again. They called me five times over the next month begging me to come back, but I refused. I was scarred for life.
I do believe that everything happens for a reason, though.
A few years later, I was pregnant with Samantha. I watched several biased birthing documentaries, such as The Business of Being Born and Pregnant in America. I didn’t believe most of what I heard or saw, but liked the idea of a home birth or going to a birthing center. After working in a hospital, I really wanted a more natural experience without all the machines and doctors. But something kept holding me back– the memory of that patient’s bleeding. Had she been at home, she could have easily bled out before she’d made it to the hospital.
I struggled with the decision for several months, and finally decided to deliver naturally, but at the hospital. That patient was my deciding factor. I had an extremely fast labor, and ended up having complications. Samantha was in distress and I had an emergency C-section. Samantha’s APGAR score was a 4, and she was taken straight to the NICU. The doctors and nurses saved her life, and although she had a rocky start, she’s perfectly healthy now. Had I delivered outside the hospital (at home or a birthing center), we would not have had the resources she desperately needed. I don’t want to even imagine what would have happened.
So now with every new milestone that Samantha reaches, I thank God that I had that horrible experience on mother/baby, because I truly believe that it saved my daughter’s life.