Often, when we think of giving birth, we picture expectant mothers reclined in stirrups, their partners pacing nervously, a calm, but firm doctor between their legs. We hear the mother's screams, the chorus of "Push!" and "Almost there!" and eventually, the gurgly cry of a new baby. But before, during and after all of this, another, often overlooked group of people is working to ensure everything goes smoothly: nurses. This week, a photo has gone viral which shows a postpartum nurse caring for a woman who had just given birth. Moved by the image, Jill Krause, a writer and mother of four, wrote a Facebook post praising the nurses who helped her after her own deliveries:
I'll never forget the faces of the nurses who followed me into the bathroom after delivering each baby. That moment when I was so vulnerable, so tired, scared, shaky. My swollen belly deflating, and my modesty long gone. They treated me with such kindness and dignity. For me, these have been moments of empowerment and confirmation that I have a real village to help me, even if just for that little bit of time in a bathroom, on a toilet, while a kind nurse shows me how to put an ice pad on my mesh undies. This photo by my friend MommaKT Shoots just takes me right back. Like, I can smell the Dermaplast. Let's hear it for the nurses and the doulas and anyone else who shows us how to make ice pad underwear (or helps with that first shower post c-section!) <3
In less than a day, Krause's post was shared over 24,000 times by other parents who wanted to share stories of the nurses who helped them through their deliveries.
"When I was pushing, I'll never forget pulling my face away fromy nurse's chest to see her scrub top SOAKED with my sweat and tears. I was like, "Oh my god I'm so sorry!" And she went, "Baby, this is life all over my shirt. Nowhere else I'd rather be. Now let's get that baby out,'" wrote one mother.
"I was so exhausted and in so much pain after a long labor and c-section that once I got to the shower, I just stood there frozen in pain. My sweet nurse lovingly soaped me up and rinsed me off. It was a very humbling experience. I'll never forget her," shared another.
"My delivery nurse grabbed my cellphone without me asking and snapped pictures of my boyfriend and I when they first put the baby on my chest. It was honestly one of the sweetest things anyone could've done for me that day. I'll always be thankful for that," said another one of the nearly 5,000 comments.
The now-viral photo was taken by Katie Lacer, a birth photographer who captures the challenging, beautiful, occasionally ugly experience of labor for families.
"I tell people that there are no do-overs for births," Lacer told Bustle. "We can often recreate parts of a wedding day, we can almost always reshoot a portrait session, but you only get one shot for a birth - so I document all of it. Literally."
She said she's been overwhelmed by the response her picture has gotten, but that the vulnerability of that postpartum period is universal.
"Being vulnerable, receiving help from someone that is basically a complete stranger in an extremely intimate way ... as a Mother, I've been that woman. It's so anonymous, with just Mom's legs and the side profile of the nurse, that it could be any woman and any nurse in any hospital, and I think we're able to put ourselves there when we look at it, no matter how many years have passed since we've welcomed a fresh babe."
Check out the entire Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.