I Want to be a Labor Nurse

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I frequently hear people say “I want to be a labor nurse.”  Sometimes when I sit in on interviews, I hear fresh-faced new grads say this, and when I ask them what makes them want to be a labor nurse I usually get an explanation of their own great birthing experience or a proclamation of their love for babies. That’s not what makes me want to be a labor nurse.  When people from the outside look at labor and delivery, they see birth and babies and happiness. And that’s true…it’s like the icing on the cake after a lot of really hard work. But sometimes the birth isn’t what we thought it would be, sometimes the baby doesn’t present the way we want it to, sometimes there’s heartache and sometimes it’s just gross.

One of my first memories as an L&D nurse was of a patient coming into triage around 21 weeks 8cm with a bulging bag of water.  The physician broke her bag of water right there in triage, with what seemed like no notice or warning.  I watched as her family (and some of her nurses) became hysterical.  All around me there was so much commotion.  And the patient just sat there in bed, staring at the ceiling and silently crying.  I had been thrown into triage by my preceptor, who wanted me to get exposure to preterm labor, artificial rupture of membranes, and ultimately, a fetal demise.  This preterm labor looked just like regular labor and the AROM happened so fast not a single nurse knew it was coming. But I did get an experience.  The experience I got was of the patient. As a flurry of people hustled and bustled around her, the patient just sat there, alone in a sea of people. We made eye contact for a moment and for a second it felt as if time stood still.  We just stood there staring at each other as people screamed and cried all around us.  I walked out of triage and saw a nurse sitting on the floor, her head in her hands, sobbing that this was it. Crying that she could no longer do this this way. I’ll never forget that.  She did not quit (not that day, anyway) but it taught me a very valuable lesson about how people—patients, families, and nurses alike—handle death and the unexpected.

We frequently get splashed with amniotic fluid, with blood, with urine and with poop.  If we wrote everything up as an incident we would never get any work done. And do you know what they would tell you if you did (I know, because as a new nurse I tried to do it the right way)…they would tell you to wear protective gear.  (Seriously!? I’m supposed to wear a mask and goggles and a suit to every single delivery?!?)  And we all have back problems from lifting legs and rolling patients and bending over to pick up babies from open cribs and from helping moms breastfeed.  Sometimes we massage a fundus and the patient bleeds and bleeds and bleeds while a thousand family members are in the room, oblivious to the fact that their daughter/wife/sister is asking for a bucket to vomit in and hemorrhaging to death.  And sometimes the doctor’s don’t make it and we deliver the baby. Although, I can’t really complain about that one because most precipitous deliveries the baby comes out red and screaming, or there may be facial bruising from hitting the cervix so hard, but I don’t care, I’ll take it (as long as it’s screaming!).  What’s worse is when the baby comes out limp like a doll and looking like a Smurf.  Then you have to pray that everyone around you knows what they’re doing….because God knows, I’m only so-so with the babies.

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And then, lets face it—we stare at vaginas all day long.  We see hairy ones and bare ones and stinky ones and normal ones.  The only constant is that you never remember what they looked like when you step out of the room.  I remember my first day as a labor nurse, I told one of the nurses (who helped deliver my daughter), “I’m so sorry…I thought only bad girls did that!” (shave)  lol  I was wrong.

So every time I hear someone say that they want to be a labor nurse, that’s what flashes through my mind, like segments from a movie…bad behaviored physicians, a fetal demise, nurses at the end of their rope, amniotic fluid splashing into my mouth, limping for a year thanks to plantar fasciitis, straining my back to ensure the patient doesn’t roll off the bed, catching a baby from a precipitious delivery with my bare hands, bagging a Smurf baby, holding a patient as she sobs that her baby is dead, or worse, telling a mom her baby has died after delivery, watching a mom’s eyes roll into the back of her head and she hemorrhages, getting to work before the sun has come up and getting home after the sun has gone down.  And that’s just the start of it.  So I leave you with this: the next time you hear someone say they want to be a labor nurse, smile and think of every crazy/bad thing that has ever happened to you, or that you’ve ever seen.  And even thinking of the laundry list of weirdly wacky things that you’ve been witness to, I bet you’d still answer the same way…yes, you want to be a labor nurse. Could you seriously imagine working anywhere else?!?  But I bet it’s not your own magical delivery or your love of a baby that keeps you coming back for more.  😉

 

 

Until my next delivery ❤


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Diane
Guest

Lovely! One of my reasons for wanting to become a L&D nurse was because of the bad experience I had birthing my boy. I can’t explain it though, I knew thats what I wanted to do and I loved my OB clinical, everything else just couldn’t compare.

Anonymous
Guest

I hate it when people ask me where I work and I reply in” Labor & Delivery” and they reply “Oh the happy fun, floor where you play with babies all day! GRRR… it is rarely happy and or fun!! Oh, by the way, I usually answer “Labor and Birth” floor, but most people look at me puzzled, and say “Oh, so you do home deliveries? Geez…

Anonymous
Guest

Uh, in comparison to having 4-5 300 lbers that you have to wipe and clean, it’s the happy and fun floor.

Anonymous
Guest

@anonymous unfortunately we have women who are 300lbs that get pregnant as well who do u think takes care of them

martha8it2
Guest

The part where you state you “look at vaginas” all day, reminds me why my husband, a retired Ob-Gyn, can’t recognize or remember any faces. What did he look at all day? ‘Nuff said.

Diane
Guest

Wow…you couldn’t have described it better ! Just got done with pp hemorrage from a lacerated cervix…ya fun.

Kathryn
Guest

I agree, you stated it perfectly! I always wanted to be an L & D nurse because I don’t know why. It is magical at times, exasperating at times, and just plain boring at times. Things change very quickly on L & D, us adrenaline junkies love that. I love helping the mama feel safe.:)

Anonymous
Guest

I WAS A LABOR/DELIVERY NURSE 75 YEARS AGO, AND STILL “LOVE IT” TOO MANY “GREAT EXPERIENCES” NOT TO. andra

martha8it2
Guest

Do watch “Call the Midwife?” on PBS. Jennifer Worth was a mid-wife in the 1950s. The standard practices for deliveries remained in place til the late 1980s. Why did it take so long?

cbh443
Guest

Reblogged this on My Love for Food Expressed.

Anonymous
Guest

Right on sista!

Heather
Guest

I miss it SO much.

Anonymous
Guest

Retired after 45 years realizing that all of those experiences took their toll. I am glad people think it “must be wonderful”. Exciting and a privilege but not always happy and always very hard work.

Juanita Smith
Guest

“You work in Labor and Delivery? What a happy place to work! Don’t you just love rocking all those babies?”

Anonymous
Guest

What every family member thinks we do, right?!

Anonymous
Guest

I was an L&D nurse for the first 25 years of my 32 years as a nurse. I left for two reasons:1) it stopped being about coaching and caring for the mom, but about computer charting and all the bedside machines, and 2) the years had taken a toll on me – the final nail was being exposed to TB by another criminal alien and having to take INH for a year!

Anonymous
Guest
I took exposed by TB,after living in NY riding on crowded subways all my adult life,working as and L&D never was exposed,moved to S Florida was exposed to TB,from illegals. I have been in nursing x44 yrs in L&D,soon to retired. Back injuries from the patients,heavier equipment,computers. I have had rotor cuff surgeries on both shoulder from laboring patients pulling on me. We now dealing with visitors in room with laboring PTSD who are in our way,never helping but having us take care of their needs also ( customer service). Labor and delivery is not what it use to be.… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

Anyone mention Post traumatic shock issues????

Anonymous
Guest

Why were nurses “screaming and crying” as a demise was happening? That is way beyond unprofessional. That poor patient must be scarred for life, for numerous reasons.

Anonymous
Guest

I have yet to not cry at a demise, and they are the women who almost always send thank you cards for their compassionate care.

Linna Hoppe
Guest

Professional? I would trade professionalism any day for humanism! Many times I have cried with women over their lost children. I’d rather show my humanity to patients than my professionalism anytime!

Anonymous
Guest

Crying is one thing. “Screaming” is quite another. And yes I work in Labor and Delivery.

Anonymous
Guest

I am a labor nurse and yes there was a time I did cry with my patient when she lost her term baby or times where I cry alone. A fellow L&D nurse told me that “it’s okay to cry because the moment I stop crying is the moment that I stop caring.”

Anonymous
Guest

Sometimes it’s more than a nurse can handle. We are only human.

Eva
Guest
Obviously you’ve never been there when the MD just wants to get it over with, doesn’t have the compassion to sit down and explain that their baby cannot survive no matter what at that point. Then they do it, (break the waters) and leave a hysterical family and shell shocked woman to deal with the aftermath.Have you ever sat with a woman who held her dying baby, and then talk to her about funeral arrangements and then took the baby to footprint it, dress it, bless it, cloth it and take momento pictures for her, obviously not. Sometimes it’s being… Read more »
Mary
Guest

So true, I have been a L&D nurse for 35 years and I cry with my paiients who deliver dead or dying babies. I feel that it shows the pt that someone else cares you.

pammyrn92
Guest

I would agree with that the calmer the situation remains the more calm and safe the patient feels,

Jean Bearden
Guest

I wanted to be a Peds nurse until my first day on L&D rotation. I saw a C-section and the baby was OP. When they opened the uterus he was staring right up at us. Hooked me then and there. 38 years later and I’m still here loving it!

Anonymous
Guest

God Bless all the GOOD People in the Medical Field. THANKYOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Teresa Lawler
Guest
Even with all the stories I hear from my L & D daughter. The nights or mornings she comes home crying and calls ” Mom please pray for me and my co workers and a family that went through a horrific experience tonight or Day that I can not even talk about because it’s so wakeful or sad”. There is so many more trouble deliveries because of lifestyles of people in that area. My daughter and a few other L.& D nurses I know in the same hospital are compassionate loving and prayerful nurses that ROCK that L& D floor.… Read more »
Maida
Guest

Hey… You took the words right out of my mouth! Sounds like you are writing about my daughter Julia. So blessed to call these couragous women our daughters!

Anonymous
Guest

Absolutely!

Sheila Gruber
Guest

You summed it up so well! I am not sure I can verbalize exactly why I love L&D, but I never want up work anywhere else. Landed here sort of by accident almost 20 years ago (I went to nursing school to be a NICU nurse), and I can honestly say it was meant to be. I now have the honor of working with my daughter – a NICU nurse – and she is right where she belongs also!

Anonymous
Guest

Haha well I work with my mom and in our tiny L&D unit we are all cross trained for L&D, NBN and PP. She’s been a L&D nurse for over 20 years and I’ll have been there for 3 years this August. I absolutely love my job and lots of the time I don’t know why but love it none the less.

Lori
Guest

This is so true but. … it’s not just the nurses that feel all of the above, OB Surgical Techs go thru the same ups and downs of the job and are on their feet more.

Anonymous
Guest

I don’t know about on your feet more . I think everyone in the field is on their feet plenty. I know I hardly ever sit or pee lol

Anonymous
Guest

Glad to hear someone acknowledge the OB Techs! We go to every delivery, get all the patients up & clean their beds afterwards, and make sure the OR is ready to go for the sections. I watch strips right along with the nurses. When babys down i need to know so i can open the OR or get a table ready. Ive also cried during the demises and helped moms with breastfeeding in the middle of the night. :)

Callie Allen
Guest

This is the job I was BORN to do. I knew it from the first delivery I witnessed. You summed it up so well, it’s not always some beautiful, unmedicated, perfect birth story but I feel like the hard days, the babies that don’t make it- those patients are the ones that sometimes touch my heart the most. I have ALWAYS said, I would rather work the hardest, saddest, worst shift in L&D any day than work an easy shift on any other unit. Moms and babies are my passion. Thank you for the beautiful post.

Anonymous
Guest

It is an awesome oh so scary time in a womans’ life when she gives birth. Thank GOD for the dedicated caring women who stand by your side, doing all they know to do to help you!! Mother of eight

Gloria Noel
Guest
Worked in L&D for 22 + years ….there were times I loved it and times I hated it. But it was never, ever boring! Most of the time it was exciting and rewarding, but there are a few times that I would have nightmares for weeks because of what had happened….like the near total decapitation of an 11 lb demise that mother just could not push out because she was so exhausted! That one had me wondering if this was what I really still wanted to do….but I hung in there for 10 more years. It was physically demanding which… Read more »
Nerys
Guest

I always thought I wanted to be an L&D nurse, too. That is, until I experienced pPROM at 14 weeks and lived in antepartum for a month before delivering at 30 weeks. After that experience, I knew I wasn’t cut out to be one of the few who could stomach the job with grace. Blessings to those of you who do this job well, you’re appreciated more than you might realize.

Anonymous
Guest
8 years as an OB nurse and despite the 12hr full time shifts and the havoc it reeks on family life, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I can easily get choked up when I see a dad cry when he sees his baby for the first time. I’m not afraid to show emotions, I’m only human. I must admit in this area of nursing I feel spoiled, its a happy place most times. But when you are the primary nurse for a still birth or fetal demise, I try to cry in private but sometimes I can feel overwhelmed.… Read more »
Sharon
Guest
L & nurse for 17 years. I hate when people think our job is so happy or when the nurses from the floor/ICU/ED thing we aren’t “real” nurses! I am passionate about women babies and families and love the birth process but you are right on! Don’t forget the seizing patient the ED was treating for a headache because they didn’t get it until it was too late or when “the bus unloads” and there is no end in sight! Or the mom having her 7th baby being take by CPS is next door to the woman who is loosing… Read more »
Barb Chase RNC
Guest

This is a great article and very well written. But I do have to say some in the situation did act unprofessionally. What happened to support the patient; educate pt. & family and be prepared for whatever is going to happen. Then offer support or a shoulder to cry on for those who needed it from the staff. Thanks

Kathy P
Guest

This is the most perfect description of what we really do. I’ve been doing it for 20 years and I plan on doing it until I physically no longer can. We have the greatest job in the world, happy or sad and I am so proud to call myself a labor nurse. Thanks for the wonderful post.

Cindy W
Guest

I was an L&D nurse for almost 23 years ,and yes I can say I experienced almost every scenario you could imagine, but would not change a thing.It was a wonderful experience I hope for most of my Moms, and me.

Tammy
Guest

I was a L&D nurse for almost 7 years. I work on M&b now , but i still have ldr in my blood . Instead of o pos I am ldr. It never leaves you.

Anonymous
Guest

30 years and counting, other than calling blue babies a Smurf-(I prefer ragdoll), this about sums it up..

Anonymous
Guest

I actually had a grandson who was stillborn. The worst day of my life. Blake Michael, he would be 14 years old now. But remember, “God don’t take no trash”

Anonymous
Guest

One of the saddest days of my life, is when my Son and Daughter-in-Law lost their twin sons. She was 7 months pregnant and they were still born. So sad,

Judith Turner
Guest
I worked in a hospital with a NICU that was a regional referral center for SW Washington State (hi Tina). I worked there for 32 years, retired last year. People would always say, “Oh what fun”. I would reply, most of the time, yes. A coworker whose background was ICU/ER came to the birth center, to “have a break” told me one day that we did critical care nursing in labor and delivery. I liked hearing her put into words what I had always felt. I loved my years there, taking care of families in good times and in heartbreaking… Read more »
RN, RN
Guest
One of the best births I’ve ever experienced in my 7 years in L&D was a 34 week demise. The patient was so uncomfortable and needing to push that we didn’t wait for the doc. Her perfect baby girl was born and thank God there were other nurses in the room to do the “work” because at that moment, after working with this family for two nights in a row, I was heartbroken for them and with them. I helped them bathe their daughter and helped them pose her for pictures. And when I came back the next night to… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

I worked L&D for 22 years of my 28 so far. I finally had to get out when the 14 and 15 year olds were having babies and their 38 and 39 year old mothers were thrilled that they were going to be grandmothers. And this was on top of management that didn’t support their nurses at all. I tried OR but the cliques are worse than high school. I’m too old to work with divas. Now I’m a Med/Surg nurse. Never thought I’d enjoy Med/Surg nursing, but most of the time I do.

Anonymous
Guest

I love crazy pregnant women! Thats why I did it… all you said is true and correct for L&D and I wouldn’t change a thing now… I STILL love those crazy pregnant women!

shelly perry
Guest
Confused…..Why to L&D nurses feel the need to prove themselves to others, especially other nurses? Who cares? I’ve been an L&D nurse for 15 years, and never concerned myself with how that looks to other nurses. My coworkers are like my family, we help each other on the floor, and that’s all that matters. And, ICU and OR nurses don’t actually know what we do, and for that matter, neither do new grads who are interviewing, so maybe cut them some slack if they have an altered sense of what it’s like to work in L&D. And finally, while I… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

A dime a dozen? I don’t hardly think so. Not the good ones anyway…

Anonymous
Guest

The comments “rag doll” and “smurf” refer to newborns needing some resuscitation…I didn’t take that as offensive at all.

Krystal Lindquist
Guest
Sorry Ms Perry, but I read this story and can totally see myself and my coworkers in it. Those little ones that come out blue and need a little inspiration are smurfs to us as well. And smurfs and rag dolls seem to run together. We have to have a lighter side to things because if I have to choose between calling a baby a little smurf or a blue cyanotic infant that requires a lot of help to live, I choose smurf and laugh instead of resuscitation and cry. I have sat with way more mothers than my share… Read more »
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[…] I Want to be a Labor Nurse. […]

Lori Morrow
Guest
I love your blog!! It is so true all the time, even though I am not L&D. I knew from the time I was 13 that I wanted, or so I thought, to be an L&D nurse because of my love for babies. I decided shortly after I got hired that the SCN was the place for me. So go ahead and give me your “Smurfs” those are my speciality. Even though the pts and families are in such a state of shock, they barely remember the nurse that made their child breathe and stay alive. But it is all… Read more »
ruthschickensruthschickens
Guest

It is the BEST job in the world! I am Mom/Baby now but loved my L and D years. Great blog!

tess.IBCLC
Guest
I’m about to graduate from nursing school (in 3 weeks!! yay) and I’m one of those who said from even before I started that I wanted to work L+D. I’ve been a lactation consultant for years, and went back to school to get the RN specifically so I could better serve this amazing patient population. I am passionate about providing excellent, holistic, and compassionate care to families, and I absolutely adore being able to come alongside in whatever circumstances a child makes their entrance (and sometimes, exit). Please don’t think that all of us new nurses who express desire to… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

Having been both a labor and delivery nurse for eight years and now an Ob/Gyn physician, it makes my heart ache that the only way doctors are portrayed here is negative.

anonymous
Guest
I agree, but then I have to remember that before I applied to medical school, I have to remember all my negative role models who made me think “Even I could do better than THAT!!” I just hope that now I am actually doing better than that. And much as I love and respect many of my physician colleagues, I still sometimes make my family laugh when I am occasionally moved to say “Doctors are a__holes!” So some of my own heartache about doctors being portrayed negatively is that I hope that image is not always deserved, and some of… Read more »
Janice Renn
Guest

I was an L&D nurse for35 years. I tried antenatal testing but I realized that I am a labor room nurse and that’s what I am!

Rev. David L. Hatton, RN
Guest
Besides watching my wife deliver 9 children naturally, I’d caught a few myself in the ER. Our 10th was born just as I left ER for L&D 23 years ago (we ended up with 12). Why did I switch? I believed it would be challenging and that I’d be good at it. Both proved true. The privilege of helping moms birth their babies, and getting them to latch successfully, give L&D (at least for me) a unique power to keep you there. But another big factor is the comraderie I’ve experienced with my coworkers—RNs, MDs, OB Techs—who are some of… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

Married to an l&d nurse for 30 years, have seen and heard it all from my lovely wife, I truly believe she has made a huge difference in many peoples life and was and still is a blessing to her patients and co workers
Love you honey
Luke

Krystal Lindquist
Guest
I knew I wanted to be a labor nurse after I had my daughter. The nurse held my hands, told me there was not much time to explain, but things are getting ready to go seriously fast and my daughter was in trouble. She could tell me what was going on, or help get my daughter out. One emergency C/S later, I had a beautiful girl and a nurse that was so tired but still stayed with me until she could finally explain what happened. Triple nuchal cord, and a true knot. I was scared but saw in her eyes… Read more »
prgrsvamama26
Guest

I still want to be a labor nurse (and eventually midwife). But after 14 years as a doula and a birth assistant attending in home, birth center and hospital births I am still as passionate about that desire as I have always been. 22 days to graduation….

Kristen
Guest

I love your blog, keep it up. My mom was a labor and delivery nurse for 20 years and although I knew I couldn’t stomach the actual job of being a L&D nurse, I am now a birth photographer and love getting to be an observer to you salt of the earth workers. xo

Jane
Guest
Working in lAbor and Delivery can be one of the most exciting jobs ever ,also one of the most difficult, I love the different day different scenario, something new all of the time, however there are the moments that you never forget, like pushing for two hours with a Mom, who is delivering an ancephalic baby with each push the eyes bulgeing, I still see this in my dreams, never goes away. Nobody could ever understand some of the horrers that we see on a daily basis some that are out of the control of who they are encountered by,… Read more »
Tam22
Guest

Been a new grad L&D RN for about a year now. I cannot tell you how many times I leave work crying/frustrated. Just wondering if I made the right choice–feel so stupid sometimes and the “old timers” can be mean–just a few but still the mean ones stick out. Love what I do but when am I going to drive to work without the pit in my stomach?????

AnjumSinghania
Guest

Great post. Loved reading it.
I would be obliged if you could also check out my blog DoubleThink. I’ll drop its link below!

DoubleThink is an up and coming blog that is extremely satisfying for every kind of a person, be it the thinker, the optimist, the pessimist, the poet, the musician, the couch-potato, the bookworm or the photographer.We are a bunch of people with different backgrounds, contradictory opinions but one voice. And this blog is our voice.
Come hear us at :
http://doublethinkhub.wordpress.com/

Melissa B.
Guest

I’m really enjoying your blog! I have a question for everyone: so how DO you know if you are cut out to be a L&D nurse? What separates the men from the boys? What separates people who “just love babies and had a great birth experience” from people who have the capabilities to make a really great nurse for their patients?

Melissa B.
Guest

(Maybe I should add that I currently work as a doula so that I can learn everything I can about L&D nurses before making a decision to apply to nursing school or not)

Rev. David L. Hatton, RN
Guest

Or, what separates the men from the girls? I’ve been a male RN for 33 years, 23 of them in L&D. It has been an awesome experience. The hardest part is seeing fresh new humans born to dysfunctional people who may end up warping their future. At the same time, my Christian faith sees the possibility of God’s grace helping any individual through such a challenging environment. I have a webpage of L&D Tips gleaned from over the years. Feel welcome to check it out on pastordavidrn.com.

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