In a way, every day is Mother’s Day for Ashley Smith, a nurse at Ochsner Medical Center who cares for newborns and their moms.
But this year, the holiday is a particularly special one for Smith. Her second son, Elijah, was born at the hospital a week ago.
“I always wanted to be a mother and wanted to work with babies,” Smith, 28, said. “When my little brother was younger, I told the nurse I wanted to do what she does.”
Now she has two sons — Elijah and 6-year-old Bryson — and is living a dream come true. Quite simply, she said, she loves taking care of babies and helping mothers learn to take care of them.
She’s on maternity leave right now, but Smith said being a mother herself teaches her more about the importance of her job at Ochsner, where Elijah was born with help from a certified midwife.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Smith said. “I got to see everybody’s aspect of the job. … I got to see a different perceptive from when I’m doing my role.”
But Smith knows the significance of what she does, too. Getting moms and babies ready to leave the hospital comes with great responsibility.
Not all mothers can easily breast-feed at first, so Smith is there to coach them on skin-to-skin contact and latch techniques. This past week, she’s been using her own tips to successfully nurse Elijah, who was born prematurely.
“A lot of people … didn’t breast-feed the first time, and they do it with the second baby,” Smith said. “I’ve seen mothers brought to tears with that.”
Smith has seen that emotional experience from both sides — as a nurse and as a mom — and knows how important it is to bond in that way.
“Anyone can grab a bottle, but you’re the only person that can provide breast milk for that child,” she said.
Smith, who has worked at Ochsner for two years, said her favorite part of her job is “being able to be there for the mom and being able to know that I gave that baby and the mother the best care that they could receive.” It is a special but sometimes stressful role.
“If the baby comes out not exactly how we planned and then needs some help breathing, there’s some challenging times to walk through with the mom,” she said.
Still, being there in those first critical moments of their child’s life is a privilege, Smith said. She answers questions and calms nerves as new mothers learn about caring for their baby.
“I appreciate every birth. … I try not to get too busy, to where I treat each person as an individual,” Smith said.