After a few tries to choose a path in life, I had to take a step back and think about what was most important to me. I turned to my faith and what I had learned from my Jesuit upbringing, the Ignatian values I had stored away, never knowing that I would need to call them again.
In what career could I find God in all things, embrace cura personalis (take care of the whole person), live up to the ideal of being “men and women for and with others” and serve a faith that does justice? I began to pray, asking God, “How can I serve you better? How can I do my best to do your job? The answer became clear: pursue a vocation as a nurse. Serve God by caring for his people – not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.
After I finished nursing school I began to work in labor and delivery at Pine Ridge Hospital in Pine Ridge, SD I was fortunate enough to be able to serve my Lakota people and share the living at home with my family as I found my way through this new journey in my life. Over the years, I have become more comfortable in my role as a nurse because of the guidance of the people God has brought into my life. Each of them taught me lessons and skills that have helped me in difficult situations. One night, however, all Ignatian values, spiritual wisdom, answers to my prayers were put to what seemed like an almost impossible test.
Welcoming God’s creation to this world is probably the most satisfying feeling a soul can have.
Working in labor and childbirth can be beautiful work – you welcome new life into the world, transporting a being from the spiritual world to the human world. Welcoming God’s creation to this world is probably the most satisfying feeling a soul can have. What I didn’t know is that there are also hard and difficult times, like when life ends too soon.
One evening, I was assigned to take care of a family who would never know the joy of having a new life placed in their arms. A moment that should be filled with smiles, joy, and even awe would be replaced by grief and questions of “why?” The expectant mother would give birth to a stillborn baby, and I was the nurse in charge of their care.
As delivery nurses, we are responsible for monitoring the progress of the mother’s labor, part of which is making sure that the fetal heart tones are tolerating the process. In this case, there was no fetal heart tone to monitor. I was just watching the mother, trying to support her while giving her and her husband time to cry.
“I know you put me here for a reason, but please be with me while I do my best to take care of this family.
Once labor has progressed to the stage of delivery, we call the obstetrician and begin the delivery of a child who had only lived in the womb. Once all the necessary paperwork is complete – with the time of delivery and the time of death, the baby’s weight and measurements are still taken – the family begins the long journey of mourning the loss.
It was my first time taking care of a patient like this. Nothing had been taught to me in nursing school and no previous experience had prepared me for it. I was filled with so many conflicting emotions and thoughts that I was not sure I was ready to take on this task. I was sure I didn’t have enough experience and knowledge to give this family what they needed during this devastating time. There I was, with this seemingly impossible mission, and I was considering turning it down.
I did not do it. I continued what I had been called to do. Before entering the patient’s room and introducing myself, probably as someone they would never want to remember, I found myself in a deserted corner of our floor, returning once more to my faith. I knew my coworkers would always be available if I needed help, but spiritually I was so alone.
I started to pray silently, but felt I was begging God more than praying. “God, I know you guided me here to do your job, but I don’t know what to do. I know you put me here for a reason, but be with me as I do my best to take care of this family.
I wouldn’t say I knew exactly what to do in the delivery room at the time, but I felt I was not alone in caring for the mother.
I then took a deep breath, walked into the room, and at that moment I felt that I had God by my side. The feeling in the room was filled with painful emotions and I still didn’t know how to begin our interaction. As soon as I opened my mouth, I felt God take over and lead me to find the right words. “My name is Kristin and I will be with you tonight. That was it. With the few words I was guided to, I felt peace in my heart.
I wouldn’t say I knew exactly what to do in the delivery room at the time, but I felt I was not alone in caring for the mother. I felt I had someone by my side, helping my actions and helping me find words to try to comfort a grieving family. Through this experience, I achieved something that has played a big part in my nursing career ever since. I have found that in my work I am never alone. I have God with me, even when I feel like I don’t know what to do. I don’t have to be afraid to go through difficult situations with patients on my own.
I can trust that God will not lead me astray because he is the one who helped me find the best way to serve him. This is not unlike the passage from Joshua: “Be strong and courageous, be neither afraid nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1: 9). His words couldn’t be more suited to my work.