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
So, 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!
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!
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
Alyssa 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.