The Nursery Mothers

I remember when I held my first child. It was in the early morning hours of a clear, spring day in 2012. After undergoing a grueling marathon of two hours of pushing, a vacuum, forceps, and ultimately an episiotomy, my wife birthed a slimy, seven-pound one-ounce shrieking creature – our daughter. When I held her, something struck me that I had never experienced before: a combination of adoration, affection, and desire to protect. It was instantaneous, it was love. Surely this was a once in a lifetime event; yet somehow, I found myself in the same situation two years later. I was standing useless beside a delivery bed, like the always present extra road construction worker leaning on their shovel, while my wife again amazingly delivered one of these wailing slippery creatures – my son. The emotions swept over me once again.

Apparently, I am not the only one to have this feeling, as I have seen while working in the nursery this month. Currently, we have 10 mothers with 12 babies between them. These babies would literally not be alive if it were not for the unwavering, tireless devotion of their mothers. Day and night the mothers are there. Unlike a NICU in the United States, we do not have one nurse for every two babies, and we do not have monitors. Instead, we have the babies’ mothers. They monitor breathing, provide food, cleanliness, warmth, tenderness, and comfort. Often, babies will be in the nursery for over two months and their mothers are there with them the entire time. They are there for each feeding and vital sign check every three hours, day and night, seven days a week. Time goes on and on, but the mothers are seemingly immune to weariness.

When I see them with their babies, I see the same infatuation I experienced with my own two children, except their babies are more fragile, their lives more tenuous. The mothers whisper in their ears. They sing and rock their infants to sleep. They take pride in every gram gained, delight in every coo. They worry over troubled breathing, yellow eyes, swollen bellies, and abnormal vitals. Their dedication inspires, their love uplifts. Their grief is moving, their sorrow heart-wrenching. It is a privilege to witness their diligence, their affection, their resilience.

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