One of my favorite parts of being a labor nurse is to help a mom through unmedicated labor. Not all experiences are the same. It can be the best of time and the worst of times. The labor nurse has the supporting role in the drama of birth. She plays her part and then melts into the background so that the stars, mom and baby (dad too) can shine.
The best of times.
A mom was having terrible back labor. My arms shook with each contraction as I gave her counter pressure for two hours. Every time my arms would ease up on the pressure she begged me to please keep going. I usually would have her partner take over this physical intervention, but there was not partner in this delivery. That hurt my heart and made it more important that I help my patient in the way that she needed. When the baby changed positions the back labor subsided. She progressed into transition. Transition is the time that women change their minds about wanting an epidural, being pregnant and that they ever liked the baby’s father. Her eyes locked with mine and she reached for my hand. She asked me to not leave her. So I stayed. I stood by her side and tried to forget that I had not eaten all day, that my bladder was full and my charting was getting farther and farther behind. I was present with her through every contraction. I praised her through every break in the pain. When it was time to push she did amazing. Soon she was rewarded with a quick pushing stage and a healthy baby on her chest. It was easy to forget my aching arms when she asked me to lean in and take a picture with her and her new baby. I was pleased with her satisfaction with her birth. I was thankful that everything went well for her and her baby.
I love when I can play my designated part in the story. I don’t like when I am forced into the villain role.
The times that test.
Another nonmedicated mom was not the grateful variety. She was suspicious of everything I did. This is always difficult for me, as a nurse. I am 100% supportive of my patient’s birth plans. I do everything in my power to ensure the safety of the mother and baby, provide an environment that the mother desires, carry out the doctor’s plan, and fulfill my legal and hospital mandated responsibilities. These are difficult responsibilities to juggle at times. When I am crouching on hands and knees, chasing fetal heart tones while a mom is bouncing around, changing positions and barking orders to her family, I deserve a little respect. When I am plunging my hand into the bath water mixed with vernix and other bodily fluids to make sure your baby is not stressed from the heat of the water, I am not trying to control you. When I am holding your hair while you vomit and it gets on me, when I wipe away your poop so you don’t know it happened, when I breathe in your body odor right next to my face because you need someone to lean on, I’m doing it because I am on your side. When you get to the point where you are asking me for narcotics and its dangerous for the baby I am going to say no. When this mom got to her breaking point she demanded I give her medications and it was too late. She was so angry I stepped back a bit because I was afraid she might hit me. I knew that the baby was coming. I knew that if I gave her what she wanted the baby likely would not breathe when he came out. I let her rage and continue to labor. Her baby was born within 30 minutes and was perfect and beautiful and breathing. She never will never know that I was scared of her or that her words hurt me or that I gave up time with my family to stay late to help her.
Not every birth is fun or rewarding. Sometimes my thighs hurt from squatting by my patients side. Sometimes I’m exhausted from trying to help. Sometimes I stay after my shift for an hour to finish the charting that I couldn’t do while I was helping my patient accomplish her goals. When my patient is happy with her delivery it makes me happy.
Mamas thank your labor nurses. We are on your side. It is our job and we love it, but it is not easy.