Tragedy a source of inspiration: a family tragedy provided the inspiration one woman needed to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a nurse.
Article Type: Viewpoint essay
Subject: Still-birth (Personal narratives)
Still-birth (Influence)
Nurses (Beliefs, opinions and attitudes)
Nurses (Practice)
Author: Snape, Janine
Pub Date: 06/01/2009
Publication: Name: Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand Publisher: New Zealand Nurses' Organisation Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 New Zealand Nurses' Organisation ISSN: 1173-2032
Issue: Date: June, 2009 Source Volume: 15 Source Issue: 5
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics
Product: Product Code: 8043100 Nurses NAICS Code: 621399 Offices of All Other Miscellaneous Health Practitioners
Geographic: Geographic Scope: New Zealand Geographic Code: 8NEWZ New Zealand
Accession Number: 203135226
Full Text: As a child I always wanted to be a nurse. There was never any question about it. But when, at the tender age of 16, my application for nursing declined, I was knocked for a sixer. By the time the next year rotted around and it was time to apply again, I was already working full-time, earning my own pay packet, so my interest had waned and my dream of becoming a nurse was a thing of the past, I thought.

In my early 20s I gave birth to two beautiful children and loved being a mum. I also looked after other children and did some Playcentre training towards an early childhood teaching qualification. When my second child was three, I became pregnant with Jamie--a much wanted third child. But sadly, at 40 weeks' gestation, he was stillborn.

Immense grieving

The grieving process was immense. I can still remember very clearly the turmoil, the shock, the anger ... and the eventual acceptance that followed over the next few years. I had Jamie by emergency caesarean section, so spent three days in hospital coming home the night before his funeral. The magnitude of emotions I felt throughout that week in the hospital and at home that night were almost unbearable.

Despite going into shock in the first few hours after he was born (apparently I held Jamie but sadly I have no recollection of this), I awoke with a clarity a few hours later, knowing I needed, him back in the room with me, and throughout that morning, although I was too scared myself to hold him--my six-year-old daughter did. I also asked a nurse if she would take him into another room, undress him and take photos for me. I know now this was a big ask and I will be forever grateful to that nurse.

My family tell me that I spent most of that first week crying, which is strange, because I don't remember crying that much. I remember blaming myself. I also remember being afraid to be by myself, even to walk into the bathroom. I felt so vulnerable and lost. Despite thinking the funeral was going to be the worst day ever, it was actually a lovely day and was very helpful in my heating process. Due to my toying and supportive fatuity and friends, and Stillborn and Newborn Death Support (SANDS), I survived this time of extreme sadness and vulnerability, and I'm still surviving.

I went on to have another baby, Mason, now eight years old, and I feel very blessed to have three beautiful healthy children. When Mason was two I decided to revisit the idea of becoming a nurse. I was scared, especially of leaving the comfort of my "at-home mothering" job, to jump into the world of education again. No more stopping around in our "PJs" till 11am, or being there every day to take my children to school or watch my little one play throughout every day.

But I was ready for a new journey. I was ready to give back some of the comfort and care I had received as a vulnerable patient after having Jamie. Due to my emotional state at the time, I can't recall faces or names of the nurses who cared for me, but I'll always remember their "warmth". I'll always remember Phyll and Wendy, two very caring midwives who also supported my family and me through this time.

So in 2003, I started at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, as a part-time student. But I soon realised I needed to go in "boots and all" so changed to full-time within the first two weeks. I'm sure my husband and kids (then aged 9, 7 and 2) didn't know what had hit them, but they supported me all the way, and then some! As a student, I regained some of my lost confidence and also gained some very valuable and lasting friendships.

Learning patience and understanding

One of my placements in my second year was at Nelson Hospice. At the beginning, I thought it was a bit stow, with little action and not enough "happening" for me. But I was to learn so much from that placement, including patience and an understanding that nursing isn't always about intervention and "saving" lives, it is also about helping people die with dignity. In my second week, I herd a lady's hand as she died. I learnt calmness, which has been invaluable in my nursing journey. I am also less scared of death and dying now.

This is the start of my fourth year of practice. It's a hard profession. Some days are just plain exhausting. But in among the hard work I get to meet so many different people, to care for and support them in their time of need, and hopefully to provide an empathetic listening ear. Every day I learn something new from the people I care for. My experience in giving birth to Jamie and the events that followed re-ignited my decision to become a nurse.

Rewarding work

Since qualifying, I have worked in surgical and medical wards and older persons' mental hearth. I am currently working in an acute surgical ward, which I rove. I took forward to coming to work each duty--most days anyway! Over the past year, I have been a preceptor to students on our ward, and have recently become a preceptor to a new graduate nurse. This is very rewarding work and I find it keeps me open-minded and on my toes. I'm not sure where my nursing career will take me but, for now, I feet I'm following the right path.

The other day I found a cupping I had placed in the "In Memoriam" section of the local newspaper on Jamie's second birthday. I'd completely forgotten I'd written these words: "And when the sun shines down on my face on this beautiful spring day, I'll keep reminding myself that there's a reason for everything."

Janine Snape, RN, BN, is a staff nurse on a surgical ward at Nelson hospital, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.
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