They don’t want me monitoring their blood pressure, checking blood loss and watching their very breath like a hawk. They want their partner, their home, to be an obstetric case again rather than relegated to the gynaecological side of care.
I was in such a situation when a baby was crying nearby when my patient woke up from surgery. The first thing she heard following her operation was not my voice, reassuring her, or even the quiet of the hospital ward but a visitor’s baby crying. I can’t think of many more upsetting experiences than that.
She looked up at me with a confused face. ‘Is that a baby crying?’ she asked. I nodded, and apologised rather lamely, ashamed. I was ashamed of the way that, even though I had made sure that the windows were shut tight, this women could still hear the crying baby in the car park outside.
I wish that I could have made this situation better for her; I wish that I could have done something a little bit more concrete than murmur anodyne and insipid reassurances.
It’s hard to volunteer the right kind of emotional support, and all I could do was offer her a box of tissues and try to gauge whether she wanted to talk or would rather be left to cry alone. It was a tightrope walk and I didn’t want to lose my footing.
She shut her eyes tight and two tears rolled down her face. I dabbed at them ineffectively with a tissue and made a soothing kind of noise. She opened her eyes and smiled, rather firmly. ‘Life goes on,’ she said.
There’s no way I could ever be as generous as that.
Arabella Sinclair-Penwarden is a newly qualified staff nurse
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