10 Ways Being a Nurse Prepared Me for Motherhood

In case you don't know, I am a registered nurse.

I graduated seven years ago with an associate's degree, got my license, and recently finished my bachelor's degree online while we were overseas (Go UMKC!). I worked in the emergency room of a children's hospital back home and loved it. So I've been an RN a lot longer than I've been a mother.

And this week, I realized being a nurse prepared me for motherhood in a lot of ways. Some of them gross, some of them sweet, but all very practical. If it makes you squeamish to read this, just wait til you're in the thick of it yourself.

1. I am extremely comfortable with poop.

As a nurse, you deal with poop. A lot. Big people, small people - everyone poops. And personally, I definitely prefer the little people. You haven't been a nurse til you've seen a digital disimpaction (don't google that. you'll never want to grow old.). So a little bit of runny breast-fed-poop? Total breeze.

2. I've been vomited on before. No big deal.

Of course, never on my bare chest while nursing. That's a new one. But vomiting is a big reason kids go to the ER, and I've seen it in all colors. Spit-up is much easier to take care of. (although literally while typing this, my son managed to spit up all.over.my.skirt but completely miss his own outfit. thanks, kid.)

3. I'm used to waiting to use the restroom for hours at a time.

It's the constant joke with nurses - when the call lights are going off and patients are going crazy, we know how to hold our bladders. And when your baby is screaming for a feed and having a blow out, going to the bathroom is just going to have to wait (at least for you).

4. Eating on the run or while standing up? Done.

I've gone nine hours on my shift without a single bit to eat. When chaos reigns, you don't get to eat whenever you want as a nurse. And it's the same for moms. I know I should be eating big meals and frequent snacks, but some days? Ain't nobody got time for that.

5. I learned to multitask and prioritize.

One of the greatest life lessons I've had as a nurse is learning how to spin lots of plates at the same time. I may have three patients, each with a set of ordered medications or tests. Which one goes first? Who is more urgent? And as a parent and homemaker, I have to figure out - what is the most important priority of my day? How can I time feeding the baby, washing clothes, going to the market, and making dinner so that everything gets done before 10pm?

This kid must be on the Poop Clean-Up Patrol...

6. I was exposed to a lot of different styles of parenting.

Working in a children's ER, you see the worst and the best of parents. I've seen parents who are belligerent, calm, furious, crying, overbearing, laid back, punching walls, swearing at me, and giving me hugs. And hopefully I've learned what kind of parent is the best to act like in a serious situation.

7. I learned what was a true emergency and what I should stay home for.

Your two-year-old has had a runny nose and low grade fever for two day? And you're in the ER...why? Or, your kid has had severe abdominal pain for three days, and you're just now coming in? We've seen it all. And I do not want to be the parent that brings their kid in too late or too early. Nursing pride, y'all.

8. I'm used to taking care of people who can't (or won't) thank me.

Babies can't say thank you, except with their smiles and coos. And I've taken care of both children and adults who were incapable of saying anything. Sometimes you aren't a nurse (or a mother) for the thanks; you do it for the calling. 

9. I learned the importance of stepping away and taking a breath.

Sometimes it gets to be too much. The angry parent, or the yelling baby. I have learned to recognize when my patience is running dangerously low, and I need to step away from the situation. Sometimes just five minutes away to calm my mind and pray is enough to get me through the next few minutes.

10. I'm used to working the night shift.

For the first few years of nursing, I worked night shift. I loved my night shift coworkers. There's just a different atmosphere in the hospital in the wee hours of the morning. And guess what? As a mother, you get work night shift every night. And day shift too. Let's just say I find it amazing how well I function with sleep deprivation.

But seriously, nothing prepares you 100% for motherhood. It is beautiful and exhausting and challenging in ways you won't find in any other area of life. There are no shift changes in nursing - and for that, I'm thankful.

Now excuse me, I've got a diaper to change.

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