Article Content

I teach first level students in an associate-of-science-in-nursing program. This includes classroom lectures and taking students into the clinical arena. Typically, the program attracts older, non-traditional students. Many have their plates full before they step into the classroom, making learning a challenge as they balance the demands of employment and marriage and family or, all too often, single-parenting. Most are trying to make a positive change in their lives. Cindy was one of those non-traditional students.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.
Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

As the semester progressed, I became more acquainted with Cindy, and she began telling me about her previous life experiences. The students were learning to take vital signs, and she feared I would notice the track marks on her inner arms as we did skills validation. She wanted me to know that she had a past history of drug abuse but had been clean for many years. The scars, though faint, still remained as a daily reminder of her past.


During that first semester, Cindy and I established a close student/ teacher relationship. Watching her in the clinical setting, I readily saw that she had many excellent nursing qualities-common sense, maturity, critical thinking and a non-judgmental, caring attitude. I knew that Cindy would make a good nurse. Cindy successfully completed the first semester.


I entered the second semester excited to again teach obstetrical nursing. During the first lecture, I inform students that they will experience the most challenging ethical and emotional growth spurts they have had, or will have, in their nursing program. In addition to learning about the miracle of birth and the birthing process, we also face issues such as abortion, adoption, fetal demise, rape and domestic violence. I assure them they will not be alone and encourage students to stop by my office to talk about any issue or life circumstance. I stress an important classroom rule-whatever the topic, it is essential that we understand that each person comes with unique viewpoints, and we must all agree to disagree, agreeably.


After the first class, Cindy asked if we could talk. I invited her into my office, where she sat down and reached into her pocket, bringing out two large, gold medallions. She shuffled the medallions as she began to weep. "After your lecture this morning, I don't know if I can make it through this semester. I know this course is going to drag up too many buried memories."


I handed Cindy a tissue and told her that I hoped we could work through keeping her in class, but that to help, I needed to know more about these buried memories. After a while, Cindy composed herself and began her personal story. First, she told me about the medallions.


"This one," she explained, "represents being sober for five years. I am an alcoholic!!" She reached for the smaller medallion and went on, "I carry this one because I am an incest survivor." As Cindy continued, she explained that her stepfather had sexually violated her for years. At age fifteen, she decided that she could no longer endure the abuse, so one day she got the courage to confide in her basketball coach. Her mother had known of the abuse for years but did not intervene. Even after the authorities were notified, her mother failed to acknowledge the problem. Cindy chose the safety of the streets over the corruption in her home. There was more to her story.


Cindy tearfully began again, "Twenty three years ago, when I was seventeen, I was single and pregnant. The father of my baby didn't want anything to do with me, and I couldn't count on my mom. I knew I would not be able to properly care for my baby and that the best thing I could do for her was to put her up for adoption."


I felt overwhelmed by her story, but I encouraged her to continue.


"My husband has supported me in getting my life back together, but I have never been able to conceive again. I had to have a hysterectomy, so I will never have another child."


My heart ached for this woman. I had no words to console such a dejected spirit. After a few minutes of silence and gaining self-composure, I responded, "Cindy, I feel certain that God brings us through many trials in our life for a reason, and that there is a time for all things. What he has planned for you I do not know, but I do know that we will take one day at a time. I will pray and help you through the rough spots as best I can."


We agreed that if class got too emotionally difficult, she could leave the room. If she could not return to class, I would place her books in my office until she could get them. As she left my office, I asked permission to hug her. She readily accepted my outreached arms, and together we cried.


Cindy was assigned to pediatrics for the first few weeks, so it wasn't until mid-March that Cindy was with me in the OB clinical setting. That day, Cindy tenderly cared for a patient who had delivered a baby girl by Caesarean section. Strings tugged at Cindy's heart, but she did a wonderful job with the patient, the new baby and herself. Her maternal instincts were reactivated, and the next day God's amazing plan began unfolding.


Cindy began an Internet search for a support group for birth mothers. The first site she visited had a registry link. She clicked on. The instructions said to supply the birth year. When she typed in 1976, she found one entry, from a woman born at an agency in Texas, supplying a birth date and seeking information on a birth mother/family. The date and year were exactly when Cindy had given birth to her daughter. She knew that only two babies had been born there that day, her daughter and a little boy. Cautiously, in disbelief and excitement, Cindy responded to the inquiry, explaining that she might be her birth mother.


Three days later, Cindy received this e-mail acknowledgment: "I want you to know either way that the baby girl who is writing this letter is doing fine and holds no ill will. I always felt special because I have been loved by the parents I know, and knew that I was loved by the parents that made a hard choice to give me the best life they could. I would love to hear back from you." Cindy had found her daughter!!


Cindy returned to my office the next day, joyfully trying to tell me her news but unable to put it into words. Instead she handed me a copy of the e-mail message. I was thrilled. The phone calls and e-mails began and Cindy and her daughter knew that their prayers had been answered. Four days after the initial contact, Cindy boarded an airplane for the long-awaited reunion with her daughter and to meet her four-year-old grandson.


"'For surely I know the plans that I have for you,' says the LORD, 'plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope'" (Jer 29:11). God, in his graciousness and in his timing, had given Cindy back her daughter during the OB rotation.


Cindy successfully completed our associate degree program, and the night of the pinning ceremony, I was privileged to meet her daughter and grandson. Life is the best it has ever been for Cindy: she has a new family, new career and the hope of a fuller life. Cindy will be a wonderful addition to the nursing profession.