An ER Doctor's Kind Words Gave Me the Reassurance I Needed as a New Mom​

Leaving the hospital with my newborn felt equal parts thrilling and terrifying. After days of routine monitoring and a regular stream of nurses ready to answer all our burning questions, my husband and I were suddenly on our own. I put our son in his car seat, glanced up at my husband, and thought, "Yay, here we go!" And then: "Wait, do we actually know what we're doing?"

We did and we didn't. Books, classes, and spending time with other people's babies can only prepare you so much, and as we drove away from the hospital, my confidence wavered.

Our first afternoon at home went smoothly — or as smoothly as can be expected, anyway. But that night, at about 3 a.m., just hours after we'd left the hospital with our son, we watched him choke and stop breathing for about four seconds.

His little eyes grew wide and I screamed as I held him up. My husband yelled his name, panicked, and with another choking sound, our baby started to breathe again. I watched as his eyes softened and the color came back to his cheeks. He seemed to be OK, but my heart still felt like it was lodged in my throat. It had come out of nowhere.

"I'm sure he's fine," my husband said, his face pale and unconvincing.

I hesitated. "Maybe we should call the advice nurse. Just to be sure."

He seemed to be OK, but my heart still felt like it was lodged in my throat.

We debated for a couple minutes, both of us wanting to call but also worried that we were hysterical over nothing. Each of us had slept a total of six hours, maybe seven over the past two days. Maybe we were just tired? After a bit of back and forth, we soon agreed that we'd rather be safe than sorry, and sure enough, the advice nurse urged us to take him to the emergency room.

She suggested we go because our son was so tiny and there had been complications throughout the delivery. "If there's any question that there might be a problem, I have to tell you to bring him in," she said. "But it's up to you as the parents."

Up to us, the parents. Ohmygod, I thought. We're parents.

The drive along an empty highway took about 15 minutes, and by the time we were sitting in a room and waiting for the doctor, both of us wearing mismatched pajamas, our son seemed fine. He had calmed down, and so had we. The insecurity set in that we'd probably overreacted.

"I'm embarrassed," I told my husband. "It hasn't even been one day and we're already freaking out."

"I know. I feel weird too," he said.

The ER doctor seemed a bit stiff when he introduced himself. As he examined our son, he ticked off questions about when the baby had eaten, how he'd behaved, and what we'd experienced in those first days. We gave him all the answers, and after checking our son's vital signs, the doctor said he was fine and that it may have been reflux, but he'd be OK.

Maybe it was the dark circles under our eyes or our mismatched pajamas or the way we shyly thanked the doctor and half-apologized for being there in the first place, but whatever it was, something made him pull out a chair and sit down.

"I'm 45 and I have three kids," he told us. "With the first one, we had no idea what we were doing, and we were nervous about every little thing. I thought it would be different with the others, but it wasn't. I'm still nervous all the time."

I started crying. I blamed the hormones and the sleep deprivation, but really, it was relief.

I started crying. I blamed the hormones and the sleep deprivation, but really, it was relief.

The doctor put his hand on my shoulder. "Don't feel silly for being here," he said. "Trust your instincts. This is your kid, and you did the right thing. You can bring him here in the middle of the night whenever you feel like you need to, OK?"

We nodded and he left, and I glanced at my husband, who gave me a tired, satisfied smile. "I'm glad we came," he said. "Even though I'd rather be sleeping."

"Me too," I agreed, grateful for a doctor who'd known exactly what we needed: reassurance, a little bit of encouragement. Kindness.

It's been nearly six months and I still think about that night all the time. There have been plenty of mini panics since then, and whenever I feel anxious about something, I let myself be afraid. I let my instincts kick in, I listen to my gut, and I remember that it's up to us, the parents, who mostly have no idea what we're doing. Which is totally, 100 percent OK.