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Birthing is labor she loves

May 11, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Labor is hardly work for Judy Conrad.

The Hagerstown resident said she relishes her job as an obstetrical nurse at Washington County Hospital's Family Birthing Center.

"You either love it or you don't. You either get it or you don't," said Conrad, 50. "I love it."

And she gets it.

In a career spanning 30 years, six states and one foreign country, Conrad has helped deliver "hundreds and hundreds" of babies, including one set of triplets and her own grandchild.

"You get your appendix out, chances are you won't remember your nurse. But you'll remember the nurse who was with you when you gave birth," Conrad said.

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"Good, bad or ugly, they're going to remember you so you'd better do it right."

She's held the hands of countless birthing mothers, helped resuscitate fainting fathers, introduced newborns to their families, and shed tears with scores of new parents.

"We cry. They cry. Everybody cries," Conrad said.

She's taught first-time fathers how to help first-time mothers, and showed fledgling parents how to change diapers and breast-feed their new arrivals.

An active member of the hospital's bereavement program, Conrad also helps ease the pain of losing a child by setting up counseling programs and support networks.

"Some babies die," she said. "We can't prevent that, but we can certainly help the way patients feel when they leave here."

Some deaths are inevitable, and all are heartbreaking, Conrad said. Yet the vast majority of the birthing center's patients bring healthy babies into the world.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time it's such a happy occurrence," Conrad said.

The most challenging aspect of her job is dealing with diverse patient personalities, she added. Some women are overjoyed at the prospect of bearing new life. Others aren't, Conrad said.

"You have to treat these people with respect, whether they're 14 or 33 and married," she said.

That's a philosophy that Conrad said she shared with registered nurse Kimberly Kinna, to whom she served as a mentor after Kinna began work at the birthing center in July.

"I couldn't have done my job without her," Kinna said. "She gently guided me through some pretty difficult situations that we encountered during the first several weeks that I worked here."

Conrad showed Kinna the ropes and helped boost the fledgling nurse's self-confidence.

"She never put me down," Kinna said.

"Our personalities really clicked," Conrad added. "I told her the first day, 'I'm not going to let you hurt anybody.'"

In 1970, Conrad graduated from a three-year hospital school of nursing in Ohio. A U.S. Army scholarship covered her last year of nursing school, in return for which Conrad spent two years caring for Vietnam War veterans at Walter Reed military hospital in Washington, D.C.

She went into obstetrics at the end of her Army stint, traveling to numerous locales with her husband during his active service in the military.

Conrad worked on maternity wards at hospitals in Kentucky, Alabama, Hawaii, New York and Germany. She started her Hagerstown job in 1988.

"I love it here," Conrad said. "I'll never leave."

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