Nella Martin

an appointment with a nurse in practice

Category: Babies

All Bodies Great and Small.

In the beginning I was mostly interested in the bodies of small creatures, spiders, frogs, worms, snails, caterpillars, chicks that had fallen from nests. When we are very small, we are much closer to nature and wildlife, or did it just feel that way? I would once sit,  delighted and thoroughly entertained at watching little red spider mites crawling all over hot paving slabs or a stone wall. I now can’t remember the last time that I saw any. Are they still about but I have failed to notice them?
Do children still have funerals for dead butterflies and beautifully ugly, bald, dead blackbirds chicks? I can remember taking one with me to a Girl Guide camp, hopeful that I would be able to raise him after our cat ate his parents. He did of course die and I sadly gave him a grand little funeral with a decorated grave, then I dug him up again a few days later, eager to know how his little body was decomposing.
As I became older, human bodies began to hold a similar fascination, inside and out. Women’s bodies have always been the most interesting because they can grow and feed babies, men’s seem rather boring in comparison, a penis alone a poor consolation prize. A part of me has always felt a little bit sorry for men because of that. I’ve never met a man who laments not having this ability though, yet, somehow in many places all over the world Men even feel that they are better and more powerful than women. I’ve never understood this when they can’t even grow their own babies. I can remember having these thoughts at three to four years of age when my mother was pregnant with my sister and they have persisted over the years.
I’ve been nursing for many years now and have seen the bodies of many men, women and children. I cannot remember a man or a child ever apologising to me for their body, like the frogs and the spiders they mostly just unconsciously are, as they are, but it often saddens me that women almost always apologise for their bodies. They are sorry for their body hair, for stretch marks, for how fat or thin they are, if they might smell a tiny bit of anything other than perfume or deodorant. They are sorry that I have to do something as awful as a cervical cytology/smear test.
Bodies are meant to have hair, a cervix is a cervix, just a part of the body but tucked a way, to me and other doctors and nurses no different from looking into an ear or down a throat for tonsils.  Bodily secretions really don’t bother me, I used to play with frogs and snails and dig up dead birds. I still find it all interesting. Little babies chubby hands or the wrinkled veiny ones of a 90 year old are both as equally delightful, they are alive and working and pretty amazing as every single living creature is, when you look, think, notice and wonder.




Babies and Parents in Practice- part 2- experienced mum

My favourite is the third or fourth time mother, she balances a toddler with the new baby on her lap as she admonishes an errant older pre schooler jumping up and down on my scales. Deftly, she undoes the poppers one handed. Seeking informed consent I begin to tell her what immunisations we are going to give today, she interrupts with “don’t worry about all that nurse, just give ‘im what ‘e’s gotta  r’af, I don’t understand these mums who don’t wan ’em to ‘ave nuffink, ‘jections are important, we don’t want no diseases”. I agree with her as I immunise baby. She has baby dressed in a flash, laughs affectionately at his little red, bawling, angry face and stuffs him back in his pram with a cursory kiss, not bothering with safety straps. As I fill in the red book she gives the older jumping child a small slap for being naughty, then reaches into her bag to find sweets, previously promised for being ‘good’.  She exits the room, appearing to be unaware of the grizzling toddler clinging to her leg.


Babies with Parents in Practice

I had three lots of babies for first immunisations today. I can tell a first time mum as soon as she enters the room, new pram, dad and gran hovering nervously behind her, baby carefully cradled. I explain the immunisation schedule and possible common side effects. Mum exclaims that she cannot possibly hold baby while she has her injections, however as she clutches baby to her it’s obvious that she doesn’t quite trust baby with anybody else either. Time’s ticking by, I assure mum that baby will be fine and urge her to sit down, she hands baby to dad and steps slightly away. I pounce, “lets get those little legs out”. Dad holds baby all awkwardly, I undo the babygro poppers and before baby has finished filling her lungs with air to enable an indignant wail, I’m done. I do up the poppers, as watching a new dad trying to align them, all nervous and flustered is always a sight too painful to witness. Mum snatches baby from dad, she and baby sob together, I hear the usual faint mutterings of “nasty, nurse, needles”. I fill in the red book, hand it back and remind them to book back in for four weeks time.  As the door shuts behind them and I enter batch numbers etc on the computer, I try to recall if I remembered to smile and coo at baby…..