Written by Nancy Brands Ward / Photographed by Carly Baldwin
As she approached the birth of her first child, McKenzie Strong had a plan for how everything would go.
The 33-year-old Manhattan Beach resident chose Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance partly based on her obstetrician’s affiliation there, the experiences of co-workers at the health care organization where she works in communications who had given birth there, and a previous experience in the hospital’s emergency room.
“I was thinking about so many things as we approached the birth,” Strong says. “In hindsight, my husband and I didn’t realize the level of support we’d need before, during, and after the birth.”
As it turned out, things didn’t go according to plan. Strong went to the hospital three times before she was actually in labor—the third time she was in excruciating pain as the baby, who was turned the wrong way, pressed into her spine.
“It was my first baby, and I didn’t know what to expect. The pain was the most intense of my life—all I could do was scream,” she said. “The nurses jumped into action, put me into a bed and made me comfortable.”
Now, five months after the birth of Noah, it’s the nurses’ helpfulness, skill and compassion throughout the experience that has left Strong humbled and grateful.
“I will never forget the nurses for the rest of my life,” she says. “I felt like I was the only patient on the unit, and it turns out that the unit was almost full. That really speaks to the level of care they gave me.”
Strong has special praise for two nurses in labor-and-delivery, Sarah and Sierra. “They managed my every need, coaching me through my labor. At one point, Sarah went on break and Sierra was caring for me. When my monitor fell off, Sarah came bursting into my room to check on me—while she was on her break. I couldn’t believe their dedication to my care.”
Besides the extraordinary pain, which was made bearable with the help of an anesthetist’s spinal injection, the birth wasn’t easy. After four hours of labor, pushing, and hoping the birth could happen without a cesarean section, the on-call obstetrician, Kenneth Holliman, MD, made it happen.
Noah was born the next morning.
“Everything went from being really difficult to really easy,” Strong says.
Paraphrasing Maya Angelou, Strong noted that people will forget what you say and do, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.
“I don’t remember what they said or did, but they made me feel so dignified and human,” she says. “They’re really doing God’s work there.”
Strong also appreciated how patient the maternity nurses were with her and her husband, Russell, as they learned to care for their newborn son.
“I would have been so annoyed with me,” she says with good humor. “But those nurses were so patient and explained everything they were doing to monitor Noah—I knew he was in safe hands.”
Strong was delighted with the free celebration dinner—complete with sparkling cider—for the new parents to share. The birthing suites, which come with a full bathroom and a couch, were so large and comfortable, Strong says, that she felt like she was at the Four Seasons.
Noah’s birth changed Strong’s whole world. Motherhood is everything that everyone said it would be, she says. Tending to a newborn who woke every two hours was tough for the new parents. Now that Noah sleeps through the night, it’s a lot easier, though Strong is still learning to juggle the demands of work and mothering.
As a restaurant and bar manager, Russell works nights. The shifts were once difficult but now give the new father time during the day to bond with his son.
“Noah is five months old today,” Strong told In Good Company in late July. “It’s starting to get really fun. He’s laughing and interacting with the world around him. He’s teaching us what life really means.”
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