Our nurse was the biggest blessing imaginable when I was in labor and delivery with our first baby. We knew he would be too little to live if he was born. There was nothing the doctors could do except try to keep him in my body, but I had a uterine infection. My body was purging all contents of the uterus... perfectly formed baby included.
As the day progressed, it became increasingly clear that Levi was going to be born. Here is what our nurse, Leanne, did that helped so much. She prepped us. She knew every time the doctor was planning to come in and talk about the next steps. She told me ahead of time what the doctor would probably be saying and what I could be thinking about.
For example, "The doctor is going to want to induce. You can agree to that, or you can ask to wait for labor to begin naturally. Think about what you want. The doctor will probably be willing to wait until tomorrow morning." Then she would give me some water or ask me how I was feeling, and go on her way. Because of this, I had the mental preparation to be just one fraction of a step in front of the experience, which made all the difference in feeling empowered vs. utterly along for the ride.
This week, I applied this experience of my nurse to my parenting.
My oldest daughter, Ruah, is in 5th grade. Friendships are deeply important to her and becoming slightly more complex. She and one of her closest friends had a difference of opinion over the weekend. With the combination of some blunt texts, a sizable dose of frustration, and possibly hurt feelings, I saw a recipe for a misunderstanding and maybe even a hurtful conflict at school on Monday. So I modeled after my nurse and prepped Ruah just a tad.
"Everything might be fine with _____ today. Or there might be some hurt feelings," I said, "in which case, ____ might say something jabby or act angry with you. If she is acting different, she might just need some reassurance from you that all is well." Ruah took it in. Then she felt sick and didn't want to go to school. She took her temperature. She couldn't hear out of her right ear. She had a stomach ache.
Anxiety and avoidance were not my intended outcomes, and it was time to go. So I tried again. "Let's pretend you are her and I am you," I said. I acted out an uncomfortable, avoidant greeting at school. Then I acted out a friendly, all-is-well greeting. Which got a laugh out of Ruah since I was being so uncool in my role-playing. It put the spring back in Ru's step though, and I sensed that she was equipped for her first potential friend-conflict.
I said a little prayer for Ruah after drop off that she and her friend would both know how loved and awesome they each are, then I went about my day.
Ruah came home feeling great about life. No trouble at all. She talked on and on about her day. Perhaps my prepping wasn't even necessary. Or perhaps it really made a difference. Either way, I think Ruah got the message that I am there for her. I have her back. The next day at drop off, she spontaneously gave me a kiss on the cheek as she got out of the car.
Thank you to my nurse, for teaching me by example that a little bit of prep and guidance can make all the difference. I have a feeling this tool will come in handy again in the future.
Sometimes we make a profound difference in someone's life and never even know it.
Sarah Pemberton is a teacher, a writer, and the founder of Write Now!. Sarah lives in Portland, Oregon with her two daughters.