I heard a story lately from a woman who was not long after giving birth to her baby girl. On hearing it I was engrossed by the details, both in listening to the story as it unfolded and imagining how it was all going to end. But I was also hit with an increasing awareness as it continued that there was something akin to restorative practice at play. Here it is:
It was the evening of the day of the birth, which had been by c-section. All had gone well with the delivery, baby was asleep and the mother in question was resting in her bed, when she discovered she was in need of assistance. Unable to fully help herself yet following the operation, she called for help with the aid of a buzzer beside the bed. Having allowed a reasonable time for a response, and still not getting one, she buzzed a second time. This time the response was swift and somewhat less than sympathetic. The nurse who appeared was impatient with the mother, harsh and inquisitive in tone and informed the mother she would have to wait, as she “was busy”. Having left the room, the young mother broke down in tears, the shock of the response coupled with the range of emotions and tiredness too much to take. Not long after though a second nurse appeared and, quickly appraising the situation, tended to the mother’s needs. She further informed the mother that the original nurse had gone to the wards and she would not have to see her again that night, a result of sorts you might say. There I feared the story was to end. Actually sadness would be closer to the feeling I felt, sadness that such an event could occur and that there would be no resolution. But there was more to come.
Later that evening the original nurse appeared in the mother’s room. She started by saying she heard how the mother had felt and she then apologised for her behaviour. She explained how she was working in the hospital to help, not hurt, patients and as she said the words she broke down in tears before the mother. The mother immediately forgave her. The second nurse (by now somewhere else) had obviously taken the time earlier to do what was needed and informed her colleague of what happened. Now the result was remorse and repair instead of frustration and anger and both women were the better for it. The young mother understood how overworked the nurse had been and, on hearing the expression of shame (shame in the RP sense), was able to access forgiveness. In doing so, she was then able to let go the hurt that had been caused earlier. All was right again and I was able to picture the scene almost, two strangers connecting and understanding each other’s worlds fully at that moment. I found myself thanking the second nurse in my mind for enabling this to happen. Hopefully she herself was informed at a later point of the happy ending.
And yet, another less pleasant thought started to stir in me. I found myself thinking of another ending, perhaps the ending we would be more normally accustomed to….
The start of the story is as already told, and the mother is told she does not have to see the original nurse again….
Later that evening, the mother’s parents came to visit her, and she told them what had happened earlier, about the nurse who had been so “rude” to her. Her parents, understandably, were shocked by the account, her dad particularly incensed that anyone could be so “callous” to someone so vulnerable. The young mother, now embarrased that this could lead to something more, lied and said she was over it by now and tried to change the subject. Her own mother said she should write a letter of complaint, and said that this should not be allowed happen without “consequences”. Again the young mother said it was ok now and asked her own mother not to make a scene. Her father wondered if she remembered the nurse’s name. The conversation went like this for a few more minutes. Eventually, they all resolved to put it behind them knowing however, at the same time, that this was now a part of the story of the baby’s birth, and destined to be retold along with all the positive aspects for all time.
Meanwhile, up in the neo-natal ward, the conscience of a nurse was beginning to nag at her. Had she been abrupt to the lady in room 5? She wasn’t sure. She considered going back down to check her out. Would she even remember? It’s possible she hadn’t even thought about it. Of course, she could also go back down and step into a firing line of abuse. What to do? Best leave well enough alone. It was too much of a risk to take now and anyway, she was too busy.
(with thanks to Mary Joseph Lavin)
My name is Joe Power and I am the restorative practice development officer in Limerick since May 2018. I first came to RP in 2016 when it was introduced to the residential centre where I also work. I thought I would start to write a little about my experiences in developing both my own understanding of RP, as well as my experiences in trying to spread RP across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for other's to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it. Also please e-mail any thoughts/comments/stories you might have to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.