I have this disgust with maternity wards. It, amazingly, has nothing to do with all the new mamas and babies. I could sit and coo over them all day. It doesn’t have anything to do with the “hospital” feel, as I worked in that arena for a few years and loved it.
In fact, it has taken me quite some time to put together the why of my disgust. I’ve managed it though. Are you ready? It never fails that at some point during my short visits to see new mamas and tiny infants a doctor or nurse will treat me disrespectfully.
I walked in to visit my brother and his wife and Trystan, my adorable new nephew, and when I asked for a room number, the nurse launched into a spiel about knocking and waiting because they might want some privacy. Okay, no big deal. I smiled, said, “Of course.” Then shrugged, “I’m his sister so…” and what I was going to say was, “he’ll have no problem telling me to bug off if they need a little space.” However, before I could finish the nurse gave me a lecture on how it doesn’t matter because they’re the parents and it’s their baby and blah, blah, blah.
I thought about throwing my camera at her.
Here’s the deal: I know that there are people (especially family) who come into maternity wards and overpower new parents. Who tell them what to do and how to do it and stick their nose into every last little thing. I know that a good nurse will be watching out for the welfare of the parents and will not hesitate to step in to give them space and quiet and a chance to rest if necessary.
But how do I explain in a two minute meeting that every step down that maternity hall way is painful? That I’m grasping for breath and trying to keep tears away and fighting a battle for joy in the middle of sorrow?
How do I say that I’m ecstatically excited for my brother and in mourning for myself?
How do I remain victorious when I’m shaking in grief?
As I slipped into the room and my brother wrapped his arms around me totally accepting and loving and open the nurses words faded. I peeked at a little sleeping baby, no bigger than a sack of sugar, and felt joy to the tips of my toes that this beloved brother and sister-in-law of mine will never taste this sorrow that I carry.
But then later, I’m telling my husband about the visit and I’m remembering that feeling of being sliced open by a nurse who doesn’t know me or my pain and I’m feeling that burning at the back of my eyes. “Why, God?” I whisper, “Why do I have to be wounded again? Why can’t I just manage to visit a hospital without someone, somewhere, making me feel like I am less-than-worthy of their grace?”
And His words rang clear and strong, clattering around the barn with the cows mooing and donkey munching on hay and a little puppy dancing in circles around my feet.
This happens that you may remember, Natasha, that every person you meet has pain. Whenever you are tempted to treat someone in a condescending way, remember this. Whenever you feel like running over someone in the name of “protecting” someone else, remember this. You have no idea what pain another carries. Treat all, every single person you meet, with the respect and love that you would treat me.
Have I not done this? Oh, dear, God, how many times have I sliced open other people by speaking or acting without thought? How many times have I trampled people’s pain in the name of protecting someone else? How many trails of blood have I left in my wake? All because I forget that every, single, person bears pain.
Forgive me, Father. Forgive me.
I pray, oh, how I pray, that my pain will be the thing that transforms me. That I will learn to always be an instrument of healing in others lives. That my thoughts and my words and my actions will cover every single person I meet with grace.
And I can’t help but think, even for a moment, even through tears, that pain is not actually my enemy in this life.
I know. I’m shocked too.