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Caring nurses help new moms, babies thrive

T-L Photo/SHELLEY HANSON POWHATAN POINT residents Layne Hendershot and Tyler Grant pose with their new baby, Leighton Grant, born May 5, while nurse manager Wendy Cook gives Hendershot a flower gift just in time for Mother’s Day. The baby, born at WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital, weighed 7 pounds and 12.5 ounces.

WHEELING — For the nurses who care for the new babies and their mothers at WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital, there is no greater gift than seeing the miracle of life occur before their very eyes.

Nursery nurse Kristi Bates said she isn’t quite ready to have her own children yet, but she has learned a lot from working in her job taking care of the newborns.

“It is great practice. We do all kinds of things with babies. We feed babies, change diapers, help moms feed babies. Everything I learned about breastfeeding I’ve learned on the job, which is pretty cool,” Bates said.

“I know I want to be a mom in the future, just not now. It kind of made me realize that, I guess.”

Bates said she had not taken care of newborns prior to becoming a nursery nurse. At first she was a little intimidated by the idea.

“It was kind of scary at first, because you have this teeny tiny baby you’re taking care of. … It’s not as scary as you think it is. They’re a little bit more indestructible than you think they are. It’s pretty awesome — best job ever,” Bates said.

She noted there are times when the moms and families must go through difficulties such as when a baby is sick or born premature. And if the baby must be transferred to another facility, it can be difficult to see them leave.

“You kind of get attached to them and then they transfer them and you don’t know what happens after that,” she noted. “That’s probably the hardest part of the job. One of the most rewarding parts of the job is seeing a NICU baby all the way through. You see this really sick baby and then they get to go home and that’s really rewarding. It’s pretty awesome — the best feeling ever, to see your kid progress and get to go home.”

Bates added that she loves her co-workers, adding the nurses use teamwork to help each other.

Deborah Blackstone, a nursery nurse, has two sons of own at home, 8-year-old Mason and 11-year-old Colton. She noted that taking care of older children compared to newborns is much different.

“Babies are great because you can always comfort them and calm them down,” she said. “Sometimes that’s all they want.”

Blackstone said she enjoys comforting the babies during her shifts. She said her favorite part of the job is “snuggling the babies.”

“The reason I say this is because I know I’m not having any more children but I can come to work and love on other people’s children. … I can cuddle you and give you to your mom,” Blackstone said. “You kind of get your baby fix at work.”

Blackstone said new moms often seek out advice regarding baby care including information about vaccinations on how to correctly swaddle a newborn.

“They come in and it’s their first baby and they know nothing. You can impart little things to them or big things. I think that’s pretty neat. Some of these moms and dads are hungry for knowledge,” Blackstone said. “Some of these moms come in and they’re all by themselves and they don’t have support. We’re their support while they’re here.”

Kayla Marvin, labor and delivery nurse, has a 7-year-old son Jackson. She said being a mother herself has helped her take care of new moms.

“Especially younger moms, since they can’t always have their family in here or their moms here. They ask questions. I tell them it becomes natural and gets easier,” Marvin said. “You might be worried now, but you’ll get home and get right into the swing of things. … And I tell them to choose their battles.”

Marvin noted she is happy that she gets to spend time with and help mothers.

“I’m just glad I get the opportunity to be with these moms and families during the most exciting times of their lives,” Marvin said. “I’m glad I can be a part of their day and help them in whatever way I can.”

Michelle Fitzsimmons, labor and delivery nurse, is pregnant with her first child and is due in about five months. She said being pregnant has changed her outlook on her job as a labor and delivery nurse.

“I think it does seem different. … I don’t always feel what they’re feeling, but I can connect on a better level,” Fitzsimmons said. “I just love my job and helping them through that. Me being pregnant I get to see the other side of it, so I get to see how the nurse will support me, and how I can better improve myself.”

A total of five labor and delivery nurses at Wheeling Hospital are pregnant and expecting to have their babies at about the same time.

Today and the past few days, women giving birth at the hospital all received a gift of a flower in celebration of Mother’s Day. Among those who received a flower was Powhatan resident Layne Hendershot. She gave birth to her new daughter, Leighton Grant, at 2:23 p.m. May 5. She weighed 7 pounds and 12.5 ounces. Leighton’s father is Tyler Grant, and her older sister is Chace, who is 2 years old.

Hendershot said having her new baby so close to Mother’s Day makes the experience even more special.

“I actually forgot it was Mother’s Day this week. … I could do this all the time,” she said of having and holding her new baby.

Grant said Hendershot is a wonderful mother and takes great care of his daughter and now newborn Leighton.

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