Today I failed.
I sit in bed typing, unable to relax or sleep even though I’m exhausted. My head hurts from dehydration, my back hurts from a day spent mostly on my feet and there’s a red raw patch on my leg from where a big hole in my tights has rubbed.
The word pings around inside my my head like a ball bearing, unable to be ignored, preventing me from closing my eyes.
Today I have failed at being a Nurse even though I tried to look after the babies to the best of my ability. Today a parent complained that I had left his little boy in discomfort, that I wasn’t paying him the attention that I should have been and that I didn’t care, that his son was distressed and I had better things to do.
He says all this to sister in charge who takes me aside for a private word. She tells me that she understands that I’ve been working hard and that the parent is just very stressed and worried but this just makes me feel worse. Throughout the day I have failed to reassure him, to meet his emotional needs to show him that I am committed to caring for his son.
The night staff arrive and tell me that I look exhausted but I didn’t feel tired until now. When I explain they tell me not to take it to heart; that I had two other babies to look after and a student to supervise. They say that they know I care.
I appreciate their words but I don’t believe them.
I drive home in the dark and the rain and the fog. I listen to the radio although I don’t really hear it. I think back to the day, wondering what I could have done differently.
My ever-helpful subconscious reminds me on another time I was told that I didn’t care, years ago when I was a student. I had a ring that I didn’t take off, a simple white gold band embedded with a few tiny diamonds that I wore at the hospital in the same way that the other Nurses wore their wedding bands. One shift I was hauled into the Head of Nursing’s office, stood in the middle of the room and told that by wearing my ring I showed that I didn’t care about infection control, patient safety or ever becoming a proper Nurse.
Rarely have I felt so humiliated and not since primary school had I been disciplined in such a way. I was given no chance to explain; that my ring was no more of a risk that wedding bands that I’d seen being worn and that I didn’t wear it out of vanity but as a reminder that there was someone in the world who loved and cared about me.
I could have spoken up but instead I felt dizzy and tried not to cry from shock and embarrassment.
I feel grey, my mind foggy with tiredness and the monotony of driving in the dark. My car is cold; having the air conditioning on is the only way I can stop the windscreen from steaming up.
I think about Squidge tucked up in bed, he looks so calm and peaceful, something I’ve not felt in years. I think about stroking his beautiful soft hair and listening to his sleepy noises.
I get home and drop my uniform on the kitchen floor. I go straight upstairs to his bedroom but my touch disturbs him and he cries. I settle him and get into bed, I feel rejected even though the logical part of my brain knows that’s ridiculous. I feel as though all I have achieved today is making people unhappy.
My husband encourages me to talk but I’m to weary to find the words. I am too tired for his sympathy for his understanding. He will tell me that I did my best, that I always do my best and that no one can accuse me of not caring, that I didn’t fail.
I know in the morning that things will be more in perspective; that if I didn’t care I wouldn’t be upset by negative accusations. I do care, I know I do but somehow I have failed to demonstrate this to that parent today.