May 25, 2006, 2:31 am

I Hope You Dance


The question was not whether or not Taylor Hicks would win “American Idol”.

The question was how was I going to keep from screaming and crying when he won?

Since I happened to be at work and planned to take my break at 2130 so I could watch the results.


I heard the results two hours early from a co-worker who had just talked to a friend on the east coast.

I then, very professionally, did my Steve Martin “Happy Feet” dance for the next two hours.

And then screamed and cried in the back room when he won, composed myself and finished my shift.

What? You’d think I’d scream in front of my co-workers?

Okay, they heard me.

How was I supposed to know the back room wasn’t soundproof?


I’d like to relay a story told to me by a colleague. It made me cry when I heard it and I thought it was both poignant and inspiring. And because credit must be given, interspersed in the story will be the lyrics to “I Hope You Dance”, written by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers, as sung by Lee Ann Womack.


This was her last pregnancy.

She made sure of that.

Too many “mistakes” that had been terminated. A rough life on the streets. No money, no job, no friends or family. Young. Alone. Tiny and street smart, she showed up in a metropolitan emergency room for sutures when she was eight months pregnant. Sliced her foot on a piece of glass. Other than listening for fetal heart tones, her pregnancy was a side issue; small talk about where she would deliver and when.

The next time the nurse saw her it was in the middle of the night and she recognized her suture patient immediately.

Only she was no longer pregnant. In fact, she had released the baby for adoption.

She stood at the desk sobbing.

(“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance”.)

The nurse, having been through it herself, recognized post-partum depression before the patient finished her second sentence.

But there was more to it than that.

There was a hole in that patient’s heart as painful as the heaviness in her breasts that were still producing nourishment for the baby she no longer had.

(“Living might mean taking chances
But they’re worth taking”)

You see, like all women, she had an idea of what her birthing experience would be like. Never one to mince words, she thought she had made it clear to her doctor that she wanted some time with her newborn before relinquishing her baby to the new adoptive parents.

(“Lovin’ might be a mistake
But it’s worth making”)

But complications ensued. The bonding time she expected was a hazy memory of post-anesthesia semi-amnesia and the heavy fog of pain medicine. She remembered seeing the baby and maybe even holding it, but she wasn’t sure. The next thing she knew, her baby was gone.

And she was kept on the floor with the other new mothers, even being roomed with a woman who had happy visitor after happy visitor cooing over the baby in the next bed.

That night in the ER she was grieving. The sobs wracked her entire body. The nurse, on an impulse, reached out to hug her and held onto her for a long while.

She was young, but she was one smart cookie. She had tried to obtain help for days before coming into the ER but hit a wall every time she tried.

For you see, while there are hundreds of support groups for adoptive parents, this particular metropolitan area had absolutely nothing for those mothers (and fathers) who had chosen to relinquish their babies. The nurse said it was hard to even find post-partum depression support groups in general, let alone for birth moms.

Oh, but there are many groups for adoptive mothers with post-partum depression.

I had no idea that even existed.

The nurse said she spent over an hour searching the internet.

Must have been a slow night.

(“Don’t let some hell bent heart
leave you bitter”)

The nurse waylaid the doctor before he got to the room and explained that not only was this patient in post-partum depression, but was also experiencing a deep, deep loss that the patient described as having a part of herself “ripped out”.

She didn’t expect the emotional fall-out. She didn’t expect the feelings of loss, of grief.

Oh, she knew she had made the right decision and had no intention of reversing it. The baby was in a far better place than the patient could ever have provided. In her innermost core she knew she had made the right decision, but the cascade of disappointment in the birthing process combined with the cascade of hormonal changes post-partum made it hard to feel it.

(“When you come close to selling out

The nurse wanted to make sure the doctor understood what the patient was feeling. Not everyone understands, or even believes in post-partum depression. She wanted to make sure the doctor would be supportive and not write the patient off.

He was and he didn’t.

The patient spent a few hours in the ER and was given a prescription for medication to help her sleep, as it had been days. She went to the pharmacy.

In a horrible twist of fate, the state screwed up and stopped the mandated post-partum coverage sooner than required. At 0400, the pharmacy called the ER and said that the patient was not covered and could not tell us of any medication that was.

The nurse told me that “enough was enough”. The patient had been through too much to have to deal with this. The woman didn’t even have two sticks to rub together, let alone the money for the medication she needed so badly.

A Visa number was given to the pharmacist. The patient received her medicine.

(“Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance”)

The nurse thought that was that. She had vacation coming and was gone for a couple of weeks.

When she came back, there was a letter in her mailbox.

In that envelope was a letter of thanks, two five-dollar bills……

…….and a photo of the most beautiful baby girl taken just after birth.

(“And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance”)

The letter wasn’t signed.

Something tells me that that gorgeous baby won’t only dance, she’ll be a Prima Ballerina.

And I hope that someday, somewhere, somehow a beautiful little girl will understand that her mother loved her enough to let her go.


  • Bob

    May 25, 2006 at 5:54 am


  • Shannon

    May 25, 2006 at 6:26 am

    Beautiful post. This is the kind of nurse I want to be. Compassionate. This nurse treated this woman as a human, instead of just a patient. She identified with her situation and didn’t once think of the womans history… she only thought of the womans feelings and THAT is what makes a nurse a NURSE. You not only “nurse” someone back to health, you “nurse” their soul. Stories like these are what inspire me to aim for greatness. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Margaret

    May 25, 2006 at 8:36 am

    OK, I’m at work and this NOT a nursing job :-), so crying would definitely be inappropriate.

    Thank you for that story.

  • heartoftears

    May 25, 2006 at 10:24 am

    I’ve been too close to this situation to think with any objectivity anymore. Adoption can be a wonderful thing, but it can also tear out the hearts of those parents who are willing to do what they believe is right. Thank you for taking a moment to remember that for one family to have a new baby through adoption, another family must be broken.

  • Manuela

    May 25, 2006 at 11:09 am

    As an adult adoptee… this absolutely ripped my heart out. I thought of my own birthmom… nearly 40 years ago… as she suffered through the same sort of grief and agony. And while she told herself she’d made the right decision, it didn’t stop her from suffering from decades of nightmares and depression…

    If there’s no support available for this young woman now… there will be even less as the years go by and she starts to question her decision. Which she will. Birthmoms go from being ‘noble’ and ‘smart’ at the time of relinquishment… for having made the right decision to give their children a better life. To soul-less pariahs as the words they hear turn to, “I could NEVER give up a bay! How could you give away your own flesh and blood.”

    Anyway… I am so incredibly grateful that this young woman had a wonderful nurse with such compassion, looking out for her. It’s likely all the support she will ever receive.

  • Alice

    May 25, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks for the story, Kim. I am crying at the end of it.

  • Erica

    May 25, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    Kudos to the nurse in your story, and to you for passing along the story. It can be all too easy to lose sight of the human side of emergency medicine. Some days all the technology in the world can’t heal like a simple touch or a hug, and blessed are they who remember that once in a while.

  • Carrie

    May 25, 2006 at 9:20 pm

    Beautiful story, Kim… Thanks for posting it. My heart really is breaking just reading it….

  • may

    May 25, 2006 at 11:43 pm


    and congratulations on the new blog:)

  • Dawn

    May 26, 2006 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks for this story Kim, it made me cry too. Touched very close to home.

    and to Heartoftears- Thank you also for your comment. As a birth mother (18 years ago next month) what you said is very true. You are so “smart and loving” to give your child for adoption UNTIL you have actually done it and then everything changes.


  • Dawn

    May 26, 2006 at 8:20 pm

    sorry- I meant to thank manuella for that comment and heartoftears for hers as well. It’s nice to know that some people actually do understand the plight of birth mothers and how hard it REALLY is and that some of us REALLY DO do it out of love for their children and wanting them to have a better life.

    Thanks again Kim.

  • Monika

    May 29, 2006 at 6:34 am

    That was amazing. Thanks.

  • difficult patient

    June 5, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    Ohhhhh, this one was hard to read. I was adopted, and I’ve written a little bit about it, but not much. Although I love my parents, I’ve often felt bitter towards my birth mom. I never really understood, and we never had the chance to meet and talk because she died in a car accident (drinking and driving–no seat belts) when I was three years old (I was adopted at three months). This really puts things into perspective for me . . . Thank you, Kim.

  • RoS

    June 23, 2006 at 2:53 am

    I know I’m a bit late in responding to this post, but I just wanted to agree with everyone else…
    What a beautiful post. I can not imagine the courage it would take to know that you could not give your child the life he/she deserves, and to place them with someone who could.
    And that nurse. Wow. What an amazing woman. There are not too many people who are able to put judgement aside, and really see the person in front of them, and to give them what they need. That is the kind of person I aspire to be, not just as a health care professional, but in my day to day existence.

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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