I couldn’t have predicted how this conversation would have turned out when I first sat down with her. I asked Jen Hoar, a labour and delivery nurse at the Ottawa General Hospital, to tell me more about what her job was like and how it was to work alongside birth photographers. We met one evening at a really cozy Starbucks in Ottawa as I listened in awe as she was sharing her stories with me.
As we sipped on our coffee, she’s glowing with love for what she does everyday. She loves everything about her job. There are no favorite parts. She loves seeing moms and dads becoming parents for the first time. ‘’There is something about that moment that is so magical’’ she says. Adding, "its so rewarding to be able to be there with parents and guide them through the biggest moments of their lives".
The Ottawa General Hospital has an average of 300 births a month. This is the only hospital in the region that delivers babies as young as 22 weeks old. On average, there are 10 babies born a day. Some fun stats have shown that more babies are born at night. Are there more babies born on a full moon? Is this for real? I forgot to ask.
When I went to visit her at work, I noticed immediately how everyone worked so well as a team. Everyone helped each other. All the staff for the labour and delivery unit share this one little common work space. It was amazing to see the level of collaboration and solidarity amongst them.
Her own birth experience was an awful one. If she knew then what she knows now, her birth experience would of been completely different. When her first child was born, she was working as a nurse at the Ottawa Cancer Centre. Its at that moment that she decided to become a labour and delivery nurse. She wanted to create space for change in the labor and delivery world. She creates change by developing a relationship of total trust and honesty the moment she meets her patients.
She wears two different colored shoes on every shift: one pink and one blue. And when she discovers the gender of the babies she’s delivering, she adjusts the shoes accordingly. I remember thinking this was genius when I was her patient.
Jen has been a labour and delivery nurse for the past 17 years. She’s help deliver thousands of babies. She’s been part of so many birth stories. She’s always worked the nights shift. Her typical work shift sometimes includes resuscitating a 25 week old baby, then help bring two others to the world right after. And you thought you had a busy day?
She’s more then just a nurse. She helps parents through the most intense times of their lives and yet only spends a brief moment with them. As most moments are incredibly joyful, there are some moments where the parents are going through the biggest grief imaginable. She takes this part of her job very seriously because she finds it extremely rewarding. Sometimes she keeps in touch with the families, and sometimes she never hears from them again.
In addition, Jen is the chair of the bereavement committee where she is leading the way in offering better care to parents who have or will be losing a child. She embraces this part of her job with so much love as every loss is different. With grace, she helps navigate the parents through the most painful time of their lives. As a volunteer for the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep organization, I can personally attest to how HUGE this support is, even though it's not an widely talked about part of the job.
So, I finally got around to asking her...
What is it like working with birth photographers? Working with birth photographers is like working with a team member. "Its absolutely wonderful", she says. Birth photography is capturing in photos the most important moments of your life. Sometimes it gets so intense that the details are forgotten about that special day. She’s surprised this option didn’t pick up earlier.
She’s received emails from ladies who met on a train, who quickly realized that they had had the same labor and delivery nurse! People stop her in grocery stores and say ""Oh Jen !! This is the baby you helped deliver 8 years ago !''. Personally, I might be guilty of having ran into her arms giving her a big hug at the Agriculture museum once. She said she remembered me. I swear.
There is no doubt that the job of a labour and delivery nurse is one of a kind. Working along side amazing people such as Jen, makes my work, as a birth photographer, so much more inspiring.