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Nicole Keenan: Babies and bonding

When she’s not delivering babies, she's teaching the next generation of nurses.

It’s not often that the same nurse is present in the delivery room when a mother gives birth to children who are born 11 months apart. But that’s what happened to Abigail Thoele when she arrived at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital to deliver her second daughter and saw Nicole Keenan standing by her side.

“Nicole Keenan is my hero,” Thoele writes in a letter to The Boston Globe, praising the nurse as “an incredibly talented labor and delivery nurse who made me feel extremely well cared for, safe, and heard.”

Years earlier, Keenan would not have expected to be in the delivery room for either birth; she wasn’t planning to become a nurse at all. As a child, Keenan wanted to become a teacher and not follow in the footsteps of her nurse mother. But her parents persuaded her that she could do both if she just put her mind to it. 

Once enrolled in nursing school, Keenan was assigned to the postpartum unit at an area hospital as part of her nursing practicum. It was there she fell in love with caring for mothers and babies. “The most rewarding part was being involved in one of the best days of a patient’s life,” Keenan says of her early nursing duties.

Nicole Keenan, nurse, smiles at the camera
Nicole Keenan, nurse at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Photo by Aisha McAdams.

Keenan spent a few years as a medical surgery nurse before transferring to the Beth Israel Deaconess postpartum and delivery unit, where she would later help deliver Thoele’s two daughters.

Keenan also decided to take up an old passion — teaching. She now teaches a day course in postpartum care to student nurses and new parents, spending 200 to 400 hours each semester in the classroom. Following class, Keenan heads off to her overnight shift at the hospital. It can make for a long day, but Keenan enjoys working with young nurses even as she attends to an evening of new births.

“Being able to provide great support in the labor and delivery process is the way I can make a difference,” Keenan says. She also gets to see the joy on a mother’s face as her child comes into the world. There’s no job better than that.

“Nicole kept coming into the room to make me feel comfortable,” the 33-year-old Newburyport mom said of her first delivery in January 2022. When Thoele was induced in December of the same year, during the birth of her second daughter, Keenan was back to do the same for the next delivery.

Thoele was so touched by Keenan’s care that she’s hoping her daughters, Eleanor, two, and Evelyn, now four months, will sometime in the future be able to meet the nurse who was in the delivery room. “It’s very cool that the stars aligned and our schedules aligned too,” Keenan says. 

“I can’t wait to introduce the girls to her,” Thoele says. “It will be a full-circle moment.” For Keenan, those full-circle moments are what life is all about.


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