for regina.

When she wheeled her cart into the room, I sat on the bed, still shaking.

“I’m Regina, and I’ll be the nurse for both you and the baby tonight,” she said while writing Regina 1807 on a dry erase board.

She said I could call her, pointing to the phone by the bed, “anytime, for anything”. She offered me morphine in addition to Percocet for the pain, and encouraged me to order food, warning me to stay away from the chicken noodle soup. It was for the heart patients and didn’t have any salt.

I held my baby girl with shaking hands, still unable to process the monumental event that happened earlier that evening. My identity had changed. I was no longer just an employee, a wife, a friend, a sister. Now, I held the weighty responsibility of a mother. Did I know what I was doing? Absolutely not. Was I terrified of messing up? Yes. Did I love that little girl so much that my heart overflowed and exploded a thousand times a minute? Absolutely, yes.

Regina returned to give June a bath, and carefully pried her out of my shaking arms to bathe her. June cried. My husband got up to watch Regina's professional bath methods, but I hurt too much to move. My body turned towards June, helpless. I hated that all I could do was lie there. I hated that I couldn't help. I hated that I didn't even know HOW to help. I asked Regina about her background to take my mind off not just the physical pain, but my emotional pain, too. Regina’s sweet Southern accent was soothing despite June’s cries. Somehow she slipped into what I assumed was her mother-side and started calling me ‘honey’. I think one time she even called me ‘honey bunches.'

I asked Regina question after question and she answered, ending her responses with reassurance of my ability to be a mom. I was scared I wouldn’t be any good at it. I worried I wouldn’t know how to comfort my daughter, but Regina kept telling me that everything would be just fine. She told me I was already a good mom.

After the bath was over and June was bundled back in my arms, Regina encouraged us to send her to the nursery for the evening. Tears came just thinking about making that decision.

After going back and forth, lots of crying, and utter confusion about how to handle my new role, I dialed 1807 and asked Regina to take June to the nursery so we could get a little sleep. Michael said he’d walk next to the cart to make sure our baby girl got there safely. It was cold in the hallway, so all the babies were swaddled in thick blankets and wore little striped hats.

I fell asleep, but woke up in a complete panic. Where was June? How long had it been? Didn’t she need to eat? I called Regina and she said she was with another family, but June was doing fine. No, this wouldn’t do.

I stumbled my way down to the nursery to bring June back. I didn’t have time to wait for Regina. I walked into the room full of babies, scanning each crib desperately looking for June. I didn’t recognize her. I had no idea which baby in a striped hat was mine!

Naturally, I started balling. A nurse scurried over and asked if she could help me. She spoke to me as if I was not crying, which only made me cry harder. I told her I was looking for June. She paused and looked at me. Is that her last name?

Regina came into the nursery, wheeling another baby (I felt cheated on), and told me I needed to get some sleep. But I did sleep! I protested. She told me June had only been in the nursery for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes? That’s it? I knew that I was not thinking rationally, but I couldn’t stop it. I was scared. I was still shaking. I couldn’t catch up to all that had happened in the last twelve hours.

I insisted I could wheel June back to our room just fine. I called Regina again.

"Regina, I think I am going to take that shot of morphine."

She appeared within minutes with her needle.

“Now honey, I have to give this to you in your rear end." 

(One of the reasons Regina is my favorite is that she knew when a white lie wouldn’t hurt anyone. Regina said I didn’t have enough ‘meat on my bones’ while giving me a shot in my rear end, the same rear end that had been nine months pregnant just hours before. Sure, Regina, sure.)

The next six hours consisted of a lot of pain, very little sleep, and constant worry about the tiny life entrusted to me. 

When I woke up the next morning, I called Regina’s number and a new nurse answered. She told me Regina’s shift was over and that she had gone home.

“Will she be back tonight?” I asked.

“No, she doesn’t work until Monday,” the new nurse informed me. 

On Monday I’d be at home, a bittersweet realization. 

To Regina, I'm sure it was just another night at work, another infant, another basket-case mom. This is her job and we were probably nothing special to her. But I will never forget Regina and the role she played in my first few hours of motherhood. She was the first person who told me I have what it takes to be a good mom, and she will always be special to me. 

Ruthie Dean is learning what life looks like as a working mama. On her blog, Ruthie writes about healthy relationships–believing that a life overflowing with joy stems from a healthy relationship with men, with our friends and family, with our bodies, with our children, and with our past. Check out her sweet June on Instagram.