By Carolyn Comeau
Despite the many ways COVID-19 has turned life upside down, one of the things the virus cannot stop is timeless and universal: childbirth. As both National Nurses Week (May 6-12) and Mother’s Day are upon us, Labor and Delivery nurses at Mission Health like Liz Barker, RNC-OB, commit to ensuring a safe experience for all during such a life-changing event.
Bonding with Baby
Barker confirmed that the steady compassion required for her work hasn’t wavered among her team. “I’m incredibly lucky. My dream job is what I do every day,” she said. “Unlike an inpatient nurse, who might care for a patient for days or weeks, I often see a patient for just one shift, but in that time we forge an amazing bond as we welcome their baby into the world.”
Adding that she often recognizes women around town whose babies she helped deliver. “Some I’ll remember until the day I die,” she declared.
Adapting to a New Normal
Universal masking, scrub hats and other safety measures are required at Mission Hospital now due to the pandemic. “We’re especially careful with COVID-19 preventive measures in L&D because of the role that breathing plays in labor, and because exposure to body fluids is normal during birth,” said Barker.
Barker won’t allow safety to hinder her connections with her patients. “Even though my hair and half my face are covered, my patients still hear my care and concern through my voice,” she said. “Our team is even more laser-focused on ensuring that every birth is smooth and safe, whether our patient is 14 or 50, whether it’s her first baby or her fifth.”
Moms-to-be are currently allowed just one support person while in labor as well, due to highly limited visitor restrictions, but Barker’s devotion to her patients has only intensified with the advent of this rule. “I know I can’t take a loved one’s place, but I can stand in as a support, whether that’s as a labor coach or simply to take photographs. I’m here to do whatever my families need,” she said.
Every Mother Deserves the Best Birth Experience Possible
Barker is fully there for her patients, no matter what their life circumstances, and clearly relishes walking patients through wildly different birth journeys. “Some women arrive with partners while others are single moms; I also get to help teen moms through their births, and women who are homeless; each is an honor.” Barker is a single mom.
Many moms must shift how they pictured their births at a moment’s notice. If they need an emergency C-section or to be induced for safety reasons, she is there for them. “I help them come to a place of acceptance,” said Barker.
Choosing her career was a no-brainer, according to Barker. “I’ve always loved children and babies, and chose pregnancy as the topic for a high school anatomy project,” said Barker. “I’ve been in L&D for the past four years, since I graduated nursing school.”
Ensuring a Safe Experience during a Life-Changing Event
“All of us in Labor and Delivery will be here for them no matter how protocols may change,” said Barker. “Having a baby now might be more anxiety-producing than a year ago, but I’ll always help every one of my patients to have the safest and best birth possible.”
It’s me, your nurse.
I know you didn’t plan to deliver your sweet babe in the middle of a pandemic. I know you’ve had to adjust so many plans and expectations surrounding the birth of your little one. I know you are likely disappointed that your mom or sister or best friend can’t be at your delivery. But I’ll be there.
I can’t take the place of your friends or family. I am wearing a mask and a scrub cap. You likely won’t really know what I look like. But I’ll be there.
Behind my mask I will smile with you.
Behind my mask I will laugh with you.
Behind my mask I will whisper words of encouragement as you breathe through your contractions.
Behind my mask I will cheer you on.
Behind my mask I will coach you how to push.
Behind my mask I will cry with you.
I may be wearing a mask. We may be told to social distance. But I will still hold your hand. I will still hold you up while you get your epidural. I will still get close to help you nurse your baby for the first time. I will still take pictures of your new family. I will still help you to the bathroom when your legs are shaky after delivery. I will still be there, doing everything in my power to make sure your birth goes smoothly.
You may not recognize me if we run into each other in target months from now. But just because you can’t see my face, does not mean the way I care for you will be any different. In fact I will go above and beyond for you during this time.
Stay strong, Mama. I’ll see you soon!
– Liz Barker
Liz Barker, RNC-OB, is a register nurse on the Labor and Delivery team at Mission Hospital.