The day my life changed in a K-Mart parking lot…….no, seriously!

It is always interesting to me how many different responses I get from individuals when I divulge that I am a Registered Nurse. Comments range from “oh my gosh, how do you do that, blood grosses me out; oh, you’re a nurse, that is so sexy; to, how much money do you make?” Let me premise by stating that nurses get grossed out, we are not sexy in our jobs (there is NOTHING sexy about being a labor and delivery nurse), and we are certainly not compensated for the amount of work, effort, and heart that we put into our jobs. It is true that nursing is one of the most respected professions, a labor of love many days, and one that I truly believe I was destined to do. A destiny that began in a K-Mart parking lot.

I mentioned in my first blog post, that I have always been a care-taker of sorts. I also remember being fascinated with pregnant women from a very early age. I remember being 4 years old, when my mom became pregnant with my sister. I was just blown away with the sight of her growing abdomen. I remember my 4 year old mind trying to wrap itself around the concept of what was going on inside of my mother. It was interesting, beautiful, and a bit scary to me. When I was one month from my fifth birthday, mom and I were running errands. That day we had to go to K-Mart to pick up photos that she had processed from our old 110 camera. I remember the day vividly. There we were my mom and I, and her giant belly. It was unseasonably warm for mid November. It was early evening and we had just picked up our pictures. We were walking in the parking lot to our car; it was a new charcoal gray, Chevy Camaro. I sit now and think how very impractical that car was for a growing family. Perhaps I should ask my mother what they were thinking buying that car with a 4 year old and a baby on the way. Just a thought. Anyhow, I remember walking with mom, not a care in the world. I was standing next to her on the driver’s side of the car as she was getting her keys from her purse. She then unlocked the door, and suddenly, it looked as if my mother literally was peeing on the ground in front of me. I, being the curious child I was, asked my mom why she was “peeing her pants?” She blurted out her favorite explicative (even to this day it is her go-to word), told me to shush, and to hurry up into the car. I jumped across to the passenger side of the car, while my mother fired up that 1980 Camaro, and drove home like Danika Patrick. I sat quietly the entire trip home. I was petrified. What was happening?
We arrived home, and mom in a flurry ran inside to tell her husband that it was “time to go.” I simply sat on our navy blue couch, staring at the rust and brown colored flowers that adorned it. I remember the way it felt, it was soft velour, and I just sat there staring, and tracing the floral pattern with my small hands. I remember my mother sounding frantic as she was gathering her things to head to the hospital. Her husband insisted on taking a shower as I recall, and she was trying to reach my grandmother on the phone. Grandma’s phone was busy, and mom had to contact the operator to “break the line.” A few moments later, my grandmother was at our apartment, and she took me home with her. Not much time had passed and mom called to tell me I had a new sister. This I believe is what started my journey in nursing, and ultimately my becoming a Labor and Delivery nurse.

It was after that experience, I was forever fascinated as I said, with the childbearing process. It would take me nearly 24 years after that event for me to realize what I was meant to do. I had entertained the idea of becoming a nurse when I was graduating high school. Sadly, I did not think that I was smart enough or brave enough to become a nurse. The idea of “me” being a nurse seemed unattainable. I stepped foot into a college classroom, for the first time when I was 24, married, and the mother of three small precious boys, all under the age of four. I had no idea when I took that first college English class, where it would lead. Jump ahead four years, which is how long it took me to complete my Associate’s degree (I was raising babies, remember). I had graduated with honors, and was set to transfer to complete my Bachelor’s in secondary education. Nursing was still something that intimidated me, and seemed unreachable, but it still lingered in the back of my mind. Late that summer, my grandmother, who was my rock and my best friend, lost her battle with liver disease. The day before I was to start class, she entered the hospital and never returned home. I sat with her day in and day out. I watched her struggle to breath, I watched her sleep, and I watched her trying to not be afraid and to be brave. One afternoon, a few days after she was admitted, I was sitting alone with her in the ICU. She was sleeping when I had gotten there. She awakened and told me to go home. I told her no. She had a device on her face to help her to breath called, a bi-pap mask. She was so thirsty, from the force of the oxygen going through the mask. We were able to pull the mask carefully back so that I could get a straw to her mouth. She took a couple of sips, and then breathlessly looked at me, straight in the eye, and said “I still think you’d make a good nurse.” I smiled at her, straightened her mask, and told her to stop talking so she could save her energy, and promised we would “talk about this later.” She smiled softly, nodded, and fell back asleep. She was intubated for respiratory failure that night, she then was airlifted to another facility, and I never had another conversation with my precious grandmother again. She passed away a week and a half later.

That was in September of 2004. My life took a sharp turn when she died, which I will touch on at a later time. I did not return to school to become a high school English teacher. I made a phone call to the junior college from which I had just graduated, to see if the entrance test scores from the nursing program, that I had taken three years prior, were still applicable. The director looked up my file, said I was good to go because I had scored so high on the test. That January of 2005, I started nursing school. I was a nursing student. I was scared to death, but I was there, and I was going to do it.

In December of 2006, I made it. I was wearing my cap proudly and received my coveted nursing pin. I thought I had arrived, so to speak. Little did I understand I had only begun my journey. A journey that I continue to walk daily. Becoming a nurse was what I was “supposed” to do. I was so scared as I said when I started. I am still scared some days. But I have found strength, courage, and compassion that I never knew that I had possessed on my journey. Every time a mother’s water breaks at work, I go back to that K-Mart parking lot when I was nearly five years old. It still amazes me. The cycle of life. I never grow tired of seeing a brand new life make its entrance into this world. Cheering on mother’s who just feel like they “can’t do it” for another moment, and I tell them, yes they can, and then, this tiny person emerges from her womb. Like magic the pain, the exhaustion, it is gone and there they are, mother and child, in their own world. I feel so blessed to be allowed to witness these miracles over and over, and it really never gets old.

So yes, the so-called “line in the sand” for my life’s path was drawn that November day in a K-Mart parking lot. I hid from my calling for years, and it took me finding my courage to dive into this crazy life called nursing. I would not change a thing most days, the only thing would be perhaps I would not have been so afraid to do it sooner. But, again, I still believe things happen for a reason. So I somehow must believe that I did things the way they were supposed to happen.

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