Before You Walk Away From Labor and Delivery

Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about walking away from OB. When people hear that you’re a labor and delivery nurse, they automatically think it’s all about balloons and birth announcements. And usually, it is—you get to work with women and families who are experiencing a life-changing event—the birth of their baby. But when it’s bad, it’s bad. When it’s sad, it’s so sad. And each shift, sometimes each passing hour, takes its toll. When it’s the nurse that needs to be nursed, there isn’t anywhere for us to turn. We can’t come home and talk about our day with our families. It’s not really allowed, and they just wouldn’t get it anyway. We can complain to our coworkers, and we do–but the truth is, when the next shift clocks in, when we clock in for our next shift, we’re supposed to just be over it.  It feels harder and harder to go to bed with a clear mind, my clear conscience is my only condolence. Lately, after each shift, I find myself staring at my discarded scrubs on the bathroom floor from the safety of my bathtub. My scrubs lie there crumpled and filthy from sweat and God knows what else. And when I think about having to put on a new set the next day, my only thought is that the next pair fits a little snug.

I wish I could give you an example of something horrible that happened recently, but I can’t pluck a single memory from my mind.  It’s just been hard. Seriously, who takes care of the nurse when they’re the ones that need to be taken care of? Who will take care of me when it’s my body that fails, or my heart that is heavy? I walk into my house after each shift, and I’m greeted with more and more requests.

What’s for dinner? (I have no clue)

Did I pay that bill? (is our water still on?)

Can I sign this school folder (why can you find it every night, but not every morning?)

Will I be able to go to that class party that we just got the notice for (my schedule comes out 3 months in advance, and the majority of people work at 11am!)

I listen to everyone and everything, keep my patient-satisfaction voice on, and relish the 8 minutes I have alone in the bathtub, where I stare at the dirty scrubs on my bathroom floor and think about my last shift and the next one to come.

The next time you’re at work, take a good look at your coworkers. Some will be there in year, others will be long gone. But it’s these coworkers that will run to your rescue when a baby crashes, or worse, when a mother does. It’s these coworkers that will comfort you when you look defeated, turn off your call-light when you just sit down to chart, and keep the margaritas coming until the defeat turns into defiance—you can keep doing this and you will keep doing this (at least, that’s what Jose Cuervo convinces you of). We only have each other. We don’t know who will be by our side tomorrow, but only our coworkers know the struggles we face and the demands that are placed on us. And even though some days everything in me wants to walk away from labor and delivery, I know I would miss this. I know I would miss these patients and these people. The next shift may not be so different, it may not be better, it may not be easier—but our coworkers will always be there. Who will nurse the nurses when our bodies fail and our hearts our heavy? Yup, you guessed it. Nurses.

Until my next delivery ❤

13 thoughts on “Before You Walk Away From Labor and Delivery

  • February 26, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    Labor & Delivery was my life for 22 years.
    It’s who I was. It was part of my identity.
    My knees are done. My feet always ache.
    Patients are sicker. And bigger.
    We follow ACOG guidelines-if its cost effective (ssshhhhhh, don’t tell anyone.)
    Staffing was never good enough.
    The environment was becoming more & more punitive.
    So I made one of the most difficult decisions in my life:
    I left my co-workers & friends, & the job that I loved.
    It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
    And I don’t regret it.
    Yes, I miss my absolutely amazing co-workers & OB team.
    But I have such wonderful memories.
    And the perfect new position.
    But I’ll always be a labor & delivery nurse.
    That’s who I am, in my heart.

    • February 27, 2017 at 10:35 am

      After 37 years I feel the same way. The toll on my body is what made me leave at age 68. That business about keeping on running like the enigiser bunny is an urban legend!! I do miss my coworkers and most of the patients. Medicine and patient attitudes have really changed over the past years. Expectations have become intense. Everyone expects perfect outcomes. A lot of that is because we have become very good at what we do. I miss the teamwork and comradery .

    • February 27, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Hey Kathy. After 17 years, I too left L&D. As this article points out, your coworkers are the ones who understand. I work in Peds ER now and can honestly say I don’t miss what L&D has become. I will always be an L&D nurse and miss my second family more than words can express but I don’t regret my decision.

  • February 27, 2017 at 3:09 am

    I’ve been in OB for almost 20 years. If it’s related to L&D, I’ve done it or I’m doing it now. My body hurts and I’m almost certain I’m headed for a hip replacement (I’m not even 45, yet!). I’ve returned to L&D after two joint related surgeries, because I love it. I get absolutely wonderful patients just often enough to keep from throwing in the towel and trying to get into a dermatology clinic. (Well, MAYBE not dermatology….)

    I come to work feeling sick/ run over, but still there because I don’t have a fever. I come to work when I feel like I can’t stand up straight, because I know it’s busy. I come to work and am honestly envious of the energy and enthusiasm my co-workers have. I come to work because…..I’m a OB nurse and it’s what we do.

    • February 27, 2017 at 5:37 am

      I actually have a coworker who already had to have a hip replacement and she’s under 38!! I am right there with you…

  • February 27, 2017 at 3:34 am

    Maybe every job is like the one you describe because I have the same feelings when I stop and think about my day. As a school teacher in a low socio-economic area my school children carry so many burdens that it’s unbelievable/unimaginable when they share them with me. Many of them live with grandparents who are unable to or don’t know how to help these children. I also felt the same way when I worked for Adult Protective Services. And there’s no one to turn too because the only people who understand are your co-workers. Ultimately, I know this is where God placed me, I am that quote, “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the world”. You are living your purpose in life and undoubtedly have been the world to a multitude.

    • February 27, 2017 at 5:38 am

      I think teachers and nurses are so much alike. My best friends are teachers, and our jobs are so alike. Thank you for your kind words!!! <3

  • February 28, 2017 at 2:03 am

    I left L&D during an emotional storm in our family. Teenager in crisis, two parents circling the drain in opposite parts of the city and a son in the Marines in FAST Company. My stress level was so high that when my sweet little patients wanted to know if I had children I could barely keep my face straight. Crying was my only emotion much of the time.
    I’m older now, the adolescent grew up and survived (there were real concerns), parents both passed years later, son out of the Marines safely, and I still miss L&D.
    Last year our daughter and her husband were told @ 20 weeks that their baby had anencephaly. They chose to carry the baby girl for as long as she was allowed to be with them. My L&D hospice care kicked in and my friends I had worked with years ago were there to care for her. I was such a hard and at the same time wonderful thing to
    be a part of with the sisterhood that nursing is. I’m blessed beyond measure and would go back to it IF the climate
    was more conducive to patient care and as someone earlier stated, less punitive. My age and the physical toll
    full time L&D takes on us is a huge concern as well.
    I’ll have to settle for the memories and pray for those at the bedside still carrying the lamp for the patients coming

  • March 1, 2017 at 1:45 am

    Yes, Patients are awesome. Families are too. Co-workers have hugged me in my time of need and laughed with me until it we cried. But at the end of the day, I am most grateful to have a loving God in my life who will always be there for me after the patients, families, coworkers and days of Labor and Delivery are long gone. He gives me strength to get through those bad, sad or stressful days on L & D. He is with be to recognize the miracle of every birth.

  • March 1, 2017 at 2:05 am

    Can relate to all the comments above. I have 2 yrs before retirement & I already know it’s my coworkers that I will miss the most. They’re like a second family & proably know more about me & support me more than my family does. The hospital based practice has changed over the many years, some good, most bad. Most nurses will agree that we nurse the computer charting & don’t have the time we wish the patients. Everything is about patient satisfaction. It has gotten more punitive, I agree. Patients also have changed. It’s about their “birthing experience” instead of the safe delivery of their child. Some of these “birth plans” are insane. Will be glad to retire, my feet & knees are done. Only thing I will miss other than holding those sweet babies are my wonderful coworkers, my friends.

  • March 12, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    Being a Labor and Delivery Nurse was a honor a privilege and one of the best times of my Nursing career. I loved every aspect- the highlights, the challenges , the professional and personal growth. The life long friendships made. My time on Labor and Delivery help mold me into the Nurse I am today. However, the time came with much prayer and thought- I left that role. There are times I still miss it. However, I love my current role as the Maternal Fetal Medicine Nurse coordinator and helping high risk moms on the outpatient side make it to Labor and Delivery and I still have the same satisfaction of a job well done.

    • March 14, 2017 at 2:10 am

      I have been in Lands for 32 years still on the floor. All way seek out self care .a good crafting class or massage to decrease stress.and over the years a good cry sitting in my car at the end of the shift. ♡♡♡


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