I am extremely sore today! I am not in pain from working out at the gym, playing soccer with my kids or golfing. I am sore because I labored two unmedicated births yesterday. Tired feet and sore backs are standard fare for a hospital nurse. Swollen legs are also common, due to long hours standing in an operating room or by a critical patient’s bedside. It may be surprising that laboring a mom, that wants a natural delivery, is a full body work out. My shoulders are stiff, my arms are aching and my thighs are sore.
Birth is magical regardless of the mode of delivery or the use of pain medications. That being said, I love unmedicated births. I love helping a mother work through the process of labor and accomplish her goals. I love the moment that the baby is born and is placed on mom’s chest as she sighs with relief. I love all of it, but it can be intense for the nurse.
Confession time, patients with epidurals are generally less work for nurses. Plain and simple, an epidural and a urinary catheter make my job a lot easier. Monitoring the baby is easier, since mom is generally resting and immobile. There are no hasty trips to the bathroom between contractions, because the catheter is draining to gravity on the bed frame. I can relax at the nursing station, charting comfortably while watching my electronic fetal monitoring strips. I am reassured that my patient resting comfortably, with the her call light within reach. Transition consists of some rectal pressure or napping, occasionally vomiting and shaking.
Moms that go natural need their labor nurses more. Transition is different without an epidural. Mom’s have looked me in the face and begged me to cut their babies out during contractions. Then, in between contractions, insist that they don’t need pain medication. I have learned to go with what my patients tell me when they are not contracting. I know my patient, with an epidural, is complete by watching the early decelerations on the monitor or because she suddenly says she needs to poop. I can tell when my natural mom is completely dilated by the involuntary pushing she starts to do at the peak of her contraction and the change in her demeanor from desperation to intense focus.
I have been in that patient keeping her nurse busy. During my first unmedicated birth, I begged my nurse to help me during transition. She thought I meant medication, but I wanted her presence. I knew I could have the baby without drugs, but I did not want to do it alone. I needed her there, to silently bear witness of my labor and remind me that it would not last forever. She ended up catching my baby during change of shift. The doctor was trying to gown up for the delivery. He had one glove on when the baby shot out. It made me secretly happy that my attentive nurse had been the one to catch my baby.
Now its my turn to catch precipitous deliveries and bear witness to women as they labor. When I am lucky enough to care for two moms in one day that are skipping pain medication I am elated. I am also worn out!