The Labor and Delivery Experience from the Nurse’s Perspective

Let’s face it: the actual physical process of birthing babies is not a very beautiful or breathtaking scene! This incredibly hard act of “labor” could definitely make Mike Rowe’s top 10 list of “World’s Dirtiest Jobs!” Yet, as a parent, it also represents one of the most memorable, exciting, happiest, move-you-to-tears moments that you may ever experience in your life. For all of those out there whom are about to be a first time mommy (or even those seasoned vets), keep on reading for some light-hearted, random thoughts on childbirth from an experienced labor and delivery nurse and first time preggo!

What to Expect OR Not to Expect


photo-14So, your “hospital bag” has been packed since your 2nd trimester! You have loaded it with all of the essential items, and are ready to bring home your beautiful, bouncing, bundle of joy. WARNING: While you are packing, PLEASE keep in mind that you are going to have a baby! I am often deeply stupefied by the thought process that went into selecting certain items that you think you will require to deliver your baby. Now, I understand bringing an ipod, and even possibly a magazine or two in order to help pass the time of early labor. But, please leave the lamps, incense, candles, coloring books, end tables, pool noodles, board games, lingerie, crockpots, Christmas lights, your mucus plug, & Cornish hens at home. YES, I said Cornish hens! As a very experienced labor and delivery nurse that had extensive schooling and clinical training, I can pretty much guarantee you that you will not require any of the above items! Pack yourself some toiletries, a pair of shower shoes, some socks, and something comfortable to wear home, and you’ll be set. The hospitals will supply you with some sexy mesh underwear (you laugh, but you will learn to love), king-size feminine pads (delivery vets know the “king” size is necessary), and a rather revealing hospital gown (there is no modesty on L&D). Please remember that there is a high probability that you will be a swollen, crampy, bloody, oozing mess postpartum, and that just doesn’t go with the pretty lacey underwear and the matching nighty that you were expecting to put on post-delivery!

The Admit

You arrive on the labor and delivery unit all smiles! You may not realize this, but that smile will soon be replaced with a face of anguish & tears as be your contraction frequency and intensity begin to increase! NO, your doctor will not be immediately meeting you here right now. YES, I will call him/her to let them know your status, but don’t expect him/her to show up at 3:30 in the morning to sit with you for the next 10 hours as you labor. YES, I said 10 hours.

First time moms will more often experience longer labors and just because your water bag broke, does not mean the baby is about to fall out. NO, I have no idea how many centimeters you are until I actually place my hand inside and check your cervix! And, NO I cannot tell you what time you will have this baby. If I could peer into my crystal ball and predict these things, I would be rich and would not be working the night shift on Christmas Eve! YES, you will most likely need an IV! YES, you will most likely need to keep the fetal heart tone and contraction monitors on! And, NO, you cannot eat that cheeseburger that you just rolled up with! I am not trying to take you hostage, torture you, or starve you; I am trying to take the very best care of you so that you can have a safe delivery for both you and your baby!

The Expectations

Are you planning on IV pain medications? An Epidural? Or, are you planning on going au natural? Prefer intermittent monitoring so that you can walk during labor? Do you have a birth plan? Are you planning on a water birth? Perhaps hypnotherapy is more your speed? Will your doula be making an appearance? Are you cordblood banking?  Taking the placenta home? Do you require a birthing ball, birthing chair, or birthing bar? These are all important things to discuss with your labor and delivery nurse upon admittance so that we are able to understand what you are wanting out of your labor and delivery experience. We are there to make sure we can provide you with the very experience you are hoping for, and most nurses I have worked with really do want to make this a special time.

With that said, we want all future moms-to-be to know that anything can change and anything can happen at any second! Go into this with an OPEN MIND! We promise to stick to your realistic requests, but sometimes the minute-to-minute circumstances may prevent you from welcoming your new baby into a quiet, sunlight room,  you on all fours, with your doula playing the violin in the background. Often times, the baby will experience some fetal distress as it progresses through labor and the nurse may need to change your position, put an oxygen mask on, or even perhaps rub the baby’s head in order to “fix” the heart tones. Other times, a C-Section may be warranted if the doctor feels it is the safest way to deliver your baby. I have worked at many hospitals in the New Orleans area with most of the OB/GYNS. Most are not the scalpel happy, episiotomy cutting, c-section Nazis that are sometimes stereotyped in people’s minds.

Last Minute Tips for the Laboring Mom

  • If you are planning on an epidural, remember that it may take 20-45 minutes from the time you ask until the time you receive.  Don’t wait until you are barreled over in pain, unable to sit still (if you can help it).
  • Yes, you will need a urinary catheter if you are getting an epidural BUT the nurse won’t place it until after you are numb, so you won’t even feel it! It will be pulled right before delivery!
  • You are usually not allowed to eat or drink anything while in labor. This is for your own safety in case an emergency c-section is necessary. And, once you become completely dilated, you will often feel nauseous and you need to vomit. So, if this is a “planned” delivery, eat a big meal ahead of time!
  • Try to get your rest (as much as you can) during the laboring process. Sometimes it’s difficult when everyone you have ever met has shown up for your 2 day induction. Don’t be afraid to ask family members to hang out in the waiting room for a little while so you can rest-labor is hard and pushing is even harder! Don’t want to offend? Ask the nurse to have them step out so you can rest!
  • The most important: be NICE to your nurse! The two of you will become very close and she is the one that is always rooting for you and will be your very best advocate for what YOU want out of the birth process!

Alyssa Gele’ RN, MSN

photo-13Alyssa Gele’ RN, MSN received her Associate’s Degree in Nursing from Charity School of Nursing, and later received her Master’s in Nursing from Loyola University. She has practiced labor and delivery at Touro Infirmary, East Jefferson General Hospital, Ochsner Kenner Campus, & Spohn South in Corpus Christie. She has also worked for a home health company that specializes in high risk prenatal patients. Alyssa recently took a small break from patient care to practice legal nurse consulting for a major law firm in Downtown New Orleans.  She also owns Essie’s Sparkling Confections, a custom cookie business that has been featured on the New Orleans Mom’s Blog! Alyssa and her husband, Keith, are expecting their first child at the end of September.



    • I’m sure she appreciated that! We LOVE hearing feedback from our patients!! I still have all the cards, pictures, and letters that I have received from patients throughout the years!!

  1. So after having your own child, do you still feel the same way? Or have you become more sympathetic to mothers in labor? Also, were you able to deliver natural or did you take meds/schedule a c section? Your article pretty much let me know you never experienced childbirth after the first few sentences….

    • I hi! Actually, I still feel the same way. I was a high risk pregnancy that was facing the possibility of increased blood loss with worst case scenario, a hysterectomy. I knew this going into delivery. Luckily, my delivery went well, but post partum was the most difficult for me- pain could not be controlled and I could barely move. I admit, I was nervous and scared. I’ve never not been sympathetic to mothers in labor. I’ve laughed, cried, held hands, and prayed with many of my patients. I would go above and beyond for any patient and have never been viewed as condescending or “snarky” as some are calling me. I’m sorry that this came off ugly to anyone. It was just a post that was meant to be lighthearted and to remind us to not take ourselves to seriously sometimes. I’m sure I’ll get backlash from some who be offended that I say that about such an important time. But it’s not meant to be ugly. So many moms cone in with a narrow set of wishes. So many things can change at any moment. Many moms feel like failures or get really worked up if something doesn’t go according to plan. I appreciate your comments and hope that some can understand that I was not trying to be ugly.

  2. I LOVED this post. I am a a person who is VERY in-tune with my body and delivered my first naturally (call me lucky as he came less than an hour after my water broke). I am on my third child and even I had no idea when I was 8.5cm dilated and very ready to deliver with my second. Again, kudos to my Dr. and Nurses for not listening to me saying I was fine, because I wasn’t.

    I’m thankful for the blunt nurse who find a way to not only keep me calm, but do what is necessary to bring my baby into the world healthy. No matter how well you know your body or how many times you’ve given birth, each experience is different. With my second son, I was calm, cool and collected without even knowing that my baby was in distress. The line of nurses by by bed taking turns applying serious fundal pressure should have been a good indication to me, but they were all so chill and nonchalant that I was clueless. They all just kept saying, “it’s ok, we just need to get him out.”

    So to all you EJ nurses, THANK YOU! He’s a healthy happy little boy now and things could have been very different! I’ll see y’all again in November for baby 3!

    • Thanks so much! I’m glad you were not offended and I just feel terrible so many people were offended. It was supposed to remind us to take humor in some of the crazy times! And labor can be crazy!!!

  3. Alyssa- it WAS a funny read and very informative. Don’t let the “cornish hens” get you down! The majority of first time moms the I have worked with are going into the experience with very little understanfing of what their next 48 hours will be like! If you are a more educated mom, GREAT! Why feel defensive about this? Alyssa did not call anyone names or attack anyone. Unfortunatley there are people in this life that are very defensive about everything and anything that anyone says as if it was personal! ! I read many baby and mommy blogs and so often the arguments come down to folks feeling defensive about the choices that they have made whether or not they were “attacked”! I feel so sad that so many women need to break down into camps: Breastfeed vs. Bottlefeed, Working mom vs Work at home mom, natural birth vs. C-section. For many mom’s these aren’t choices, stuff happens and we have to adapt! Why can’t we support each other and acknowledge that what is good for one is not necessarily good or possible for everyone?! As moms, let’s SUPPORT one another without tearing others down!

    • Omg- your reply is great! Yes, I just can’t believe how many people have gotten angry. I was just trying to find humor in what is sometimes an emotionally draining situation. Things change in a second. I think so many people get wrapped up in the details and lose sight that we are all wanting the same outcome. I’m all for natural births, water births, doulas, etc. it’s just meant to show you that things change and that we just have to be open minded to possible changes! Never in all my nursing career have I been called condescending or snarky! My patients usually love me. It saddens me how mean people have been. I didn’t attack anyone. I appreciate your response very much

  4. Love this post!! You were not condescending at all – just real & witty 🙂 Nurses & doctors are there to do their jobs to ensure a healthy mom & healthy baby. That is THE most important thing. Anything that might get in the way of that should be left at home. I am so thankful to professionals like you who are there to take care of us mommas & our babies!! I’ve only had one baby myself so far, but going in to labor & delivery as a new mom I was happy & so thankful to put my trust in the sweet nursing staff & doctors at the hospital. I know I couldn’t have done it on my own without them! Thank you for choosing such a selfless profession & for writing this post as a reminder to us all that going into L&D with an open mind & a little less baggage will make the overall experience much happier & less stressful for everyone involved! 🙂

    • I really appreciate your response. I think some people lose sight that we are there for the same reason that they are- to deliver a healthy baby and to keep mom safe. We have two lives in our hands and sometimes it can be difficult when some are so caught up in the details of how they want their labor and delivery to go. I do everything I can to accommodate all of the patients wishes, but it’s sometimes difficult. I’ve had many situations where the patient is dead set on wanting something a certain way and refuses medical advice only to lead to an even more stressful situation and possibly a poorer outcome had they listened to their doctors and nurses to begin with.

      • Don’t let the few outspoken negative commenters get you down! If anything, they’re kind of helping to prove your point that none of us should take ourselves so seriously 😉 Half the problem is that the internet usually tends to paint an overly-romanticized image of he birthing experience which makes women feel entitled to whatever fantasy scenario they’ve read about online. You sound like a fantastic nurse to me that truly cares about her patients because your end-goal is to have a healthy patient & a healthy baby. Any of us would be lucky to have you at our bedside & don’t you let anyone convince you otherwise! 🙂

  5. Haha, this just made me glad I didn’t have my babies at the hospital. Sounds like a nightmare. I can’t eat and I “need” an IV, wha…?

  6. Hey fellow Pink Panther! Great article! That was funny about the Cornish hens! Were they cooked or clucking? My son’s birth was pretty textbook and my only wish was to get the epidural at any time, which my Dr said 1 or 10 cm makes no difference, get it when you want. My L&D nurse was great and the recovery nurse was so sweet.
    I think the L&D nurses should absolutely be a voice of reason. You do crazy things at that time. My water broke when I was revising a paper for grad school. I called my Dr, finished my paper, told my husband when he got home from work, served him dinner, took a shower and headed to the hospital. Little guy was born 18 hrs early. Some people need to lighten up a bit.
    I’ve been trying to get funny or bizarre stories out of my medical friends who work OB. Keeping the patient anonymous of course. My heart breaks for the sad stories that come out of L&D. We all need to keep safety first. Please write again with some stories of what you’ve seen.

  7. Nothing but respect for L&D nurses,how you guys keep your ongoing calm even when your patient (me) comes walking out of the hot tub thing disorienred,naked &fully diallated thinking I can push right in the hallway,lovely nurses just walked over quietly covered &escorted me to safety.bless each &every one of you.

  8. Wow. What a condescending article. I certainly hope as a first time mom that my nurses are capable of slightly more empathy than the author. Perhaps nursing is the wrong field for her.


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