Labor Day can be almost any day|[9/04/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 4, 2006

Today isn’t the only Labor Day Jennifer Hopkins and Melanie Sones experience during the year. Nearly every day brings with it the sounds and emotions of expectant mothers and crying newborns.

Hopkins and Sones are both labor and delivery nurses at River Region Medical Center, and from the time they arrive daily at 7 a.m. in &#8220The Birthplace,” the wing of the hospital devoted to delivering babies, that’s when the relationship with the mother-to-be begins.

&#8220We get to know the patients well,” said Hopkins, who has been a registered labor and delivery nurse at the hospital for three years.

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A lot of times, they follow the expectant mothers through the entire process – from their initial fears all the way to a swaddled newborn.

&#8220It can be scary sometimes – especially going from being a pregnant woman to going home with a new baby,” Hopkins said.

The hospital’s delivery suites, with hardwood floors and inset lighting, help calm patients’ fears. The room looks more like hotel rooms than hospital rooms. Monitors and wires are hidden in the cabinets made of cherry, and recliners are scattered around the hospital bed that could easily be mistaken for a full size bed in anyone’s home. Nurses give tours of the rooms before future moms.

While the 12-hour shifts can often be tiring, Sones, who has been a registered nurse for 31 years and has worked in labor and delivery for about 17, said she is constantly reminded that she chose the right career.

&#8220Every time I walk out of a delivery, I think ‘This is why I do this,’” she said. &#8220It’s the most exciting thing in the world. Giving birth is the most significant event in any woman’s life.”

It’s not just the nurses, who consider themselves &#8220sisters,” on duty in labor and delivery who bask in the joy of new births.

The feeling of new life spreads through the entire hospital each time a baby is born, with the tune &#8220Happy Birthday” bringing a pause and a smile to people who fill the building, said Diane Gawronski, director of marketing and public relations.

But, it’s Hopkins, Sones and fellow nurses who provide the hands-on care for baby and mom. Whether it’s rubbing a mom’s back, pushing with them through the delivery or coaching them through the first few steps of parenthood, they are there. And, it can be emotional.

&#8220There’s nothing better than seeing a daddy after a baby is born – that’s what gets me,” Hopkins said.

Tears of joy and sadness are part of the job. While most babies come out happy and healthy, Sones said every now and then they have to deal with a miscarriage or other complications.

But, for the most part, Sones and Hopkins are part of people’s &#8220magical moments.” And it’s a relationship that follows the nurses throughout their daily lives.

&#8220You can’t go to Wal-Mart without a mom chasing you down the aisle,” Hopkins said.

New mothers will also bring their babies by to visit with the nurses – or they come back to deliver another.

It’s not just a job for these two nurses. It’s an adrenaline rush, a workout and sometimes an emotional roller coaster.

&#8220We get rid of any pent up emotions,” Sones said.

One thing is for sure in labor and delivery, though.

&#8220Nothing but the unexpected,” Hopkins said.

They could go from not having any babies to many births at one time. After more than 30 years of experiencing this, Sones said she has begun to believe the weather has as much to do with it as anything.

&#8220It’s not just full moons. I think it’s the barometric pressure. When the pressure drops or it storms, …,” she said.

What it all comes down to at the end of the day is the people – the personal connections the nurses make from caring for their patients in their &#8220magic” moments.

&#8220They all just want a healthy baby,” Hopkins said.