“My hope for the day is that I’ll have a birth with somebody.”
Mary Saur, Meriter Labor and Delivery Nurse
Mary Saur was a bright young college student at UW–Oshkosh with a keen interest in science. But it was the late 1960s, and her career options were limited. “At that time it was nursing or teaching,” she says.
Nursing won out in part because she had a role model in the field: her aunt, an idol and mentor. Saur eventually transferred to UW–Madison (where, coincidentally, her aunt’s classmate became her advisor), earned her RN license, married and moved to Milwaukee. A year and a half later she made her way back to Madison, went to work for UW student health services and settled in to start a family. At the time—1974—the natural childbirth movement was sweeping across the country. Preparing for their first child, Saur and her husband, Ed, decided to enroll in a Lamaze class.
“It was something for us that was truly a bonding, growth experience,” she says.
On the professional side, the class got Saur thinking about a nursing career in labor and delivery.
Over the next few years she’d have two more children and teach Lamaze classes several nights a week. In 1984, she returned to full-time nursing. When Madison General and Methodist hospitals merged in 1987 to become Meriter Hospital, Saur helped develop the childbirth classes and continued to teach until the late 1990s. Over the course of her twenty-five-year career, she figures she’s taught some two thousand couples.
“When I first started teaching, you didn’t say the word ‘pain,’” says Saur, who soon realized that moms needed a more realistic set of expectations. “Ultimately my goal for families is that they get through labor without being too traumatized and that both the mom and baby are healthy and safe.”
To that end, whatever the patient and her doctor decide is the best method—natural or medically assisted—Saur “will support whatever they need.”
Due to her years of experience, Saur, a staff nurse, is frequently assigned to Meriter Birthing Center’s triage unit, where labor patients are screened and evaluated. And while the one thing that’s certain about her job is uncertainty, “My hope for the day is that I’ll have a birth with somebody,” she says.
It’s in this role as support and advocate for mom and her loved ones that Saur thrives.
“Communication is key to meeting one's needs, and being at the bedside with them the nurse can often be that conduit,” she says.
“I remember one time a woman wanting to stand to have her baby. This is no big deal now, but it was out of the norm then and the doctor came in and said, ‘Mary, she needs to lie back.’ Well it was not going to happen—this woman was where she wanted to be so we did end up delivering the baby with her standing above us in the birthing bed.”
Saur feels richly rewarded by her career and is thankful for the “fantastic nurses” she works with as well as the many families who’ve given her the opportunity to share in their most intimate and special moments.