What a Labor Nurse Can Handle that You Can’t

Women in unexpected pain – It’s labor, so everyone knows it’s going to hurt, right?!? Wrong. Whatever our patients think it’s going to be like, it’s different.  And every time they think it can’t get worse than this, they’re surprised, because it does get worse than this. They think their pain is a scale of 8?  Wait ’til their baby’s head is trying to find it’s way under their pelvic bone. Then the baby’s head has to come out of their vagina. And then they have to deliver the shoulders…  Get the drift? No matter how much they think they know what the pain will be like, there is unexpected pain. And labor nurses have to deal with that and help a woman cope. Some have a pain goal expectation of zero 😞  Well, we’ll keep striving for that, because we want them to be comfortable, but there’s no pain scale of zero in labor and delivery :/ Sometimes they want medication, sometimes they want an epidural, sometimes they just want to move around and do whatever it is their body tells them to do. Often they just want to just grab us and stare at us with crazy-eyes, but we are use to this as well.  We just coach them on their breathing and reassure them they aren’t really going to die.

One word: blood – When you think about blood, you may think that this is something an emergency room nurse can handle. But let’s be honest, most people are using the ER like a clinic and although they do see their fair share of blood, in labor and delivery we are guaranteed to see blood at every.single.delivery.  And it’s just different when it’s coming out of a vagina. I’ve never met an ER nurse who could handle vagina blood… Oh, and sometimes, after delivery, we massage a woman’s stomach and clots come out. We’ve all seen some the size of basketballs (seriously!).

Hormones – Surging hormones. Raging hormones. Fluctuating hormones. Think PMS hormones and menopause hormones on crack.  But we deal with those, and we expect those, and to us, these hormones are normal. But a lot of other nurses would have trouble dealing with a woman who is screaming at us one second and crying with gratitude the next.

nurse-jackie-pictureVaginas – And these aren’t perfect “I-just-took-a-bath-because-I-knew-you’d-be-looking” vaginas.  These are “holy-shit-I-can’t-control-what’s-coming-out-of-here” vaginas. But don’t worry, we won’t remember what yours looked like once we walk out of your room.  Again, most other nurses can not deal with vagina-blood.  But for us, this is totally normal. We look at the color, we look at the consistency, we measure the amount, and we even monitor the smell! And vaginas in general are just vaginas to us. We see big ones and small ones and hairy ones and bare ones. Those are seriously a dime a dozen.

Every other “private” part – Besides vaginas, carefully inspecting nipples, breasts, and bottoms is part of our “normal” routine. And we have to chart what we see…You would think vaginas would be kind of original, but nipples come in every size, shape, and color. There are flat ones and big ones, innies and outies, and ones that point this way and that way.  These things may make other nurses squirm, but it doesn’t make us the least bit uncomfortable 😃 Sometimes our patients have these…um, sensitive areas pierced and it’s impossible to get the jewelry off. Imagine what we look like with our faces 5 inches away from their breasts or vagina-region trying to pry off a piece of jewelry.

Charting – Every nurse has a billion things to chart, but it’s standard for labor nurses to have to chart at least every 15 minutes. That’s right, every 15 minutes for our entire shift (if they are on Pitocin or if they are any kind of high risk).  And if they’re not, it’s every 30 minutes :/ After an epidural, when a woman is pushing for delivery, and when we first get to PACU we have to chart every FIVE minutes.  Sigh.

Hair – hair here,  hair there, hair everywhere.  Except sometimes there.  It’s hard for most women at 9 months to shave their legs. Some just give up shaving anywhere.  But this doesn’t phase us in the least 😃

Dirty feet – And I’m not talking about normal dirty feet. Some women look like they walked barefoot to the hospital…for miles, in a trench, through mud.  It’s not ever something we remember, but it would gross some other type of nurses out.

Crazy family members – If you’re a nurse and you think you deal with crazy family members, imagine adding a brand new baby to the mix (everyone loves a baby).  They can turn nutso.  Think about how much you like your in-laws :/ And then imagine them in the room, trying to take pictures of your vagina as their grandbaby/niece/nephew makes their grand entrance into this world.  Some times daddies don’t like mommas. Sometimes mommas don’t like daddies. Sometimes mommas don’t like anyone.  You get the idea.

nurse-curse-6
Making “different” look like the new normal – You have to maintain a complete poker face when your patient requests or says something totally out of the ordinary…Some women say they’re going to name their baby “Da’dance” or “Candi” (when their last name is Shoppe).  Sometimes they just make unusual requests.  Once we had a patient who had a cesarean delivery ask us to wipe vagina secretions on her baby’s face :/ Yes, that’s a thing. And we do it without blinking an eye, because that’s just what we do.

…and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I ❤ our patients, I ❤ their family, I even ❤ all those crazy hormones.

Until my next delivery ❤


81 thoughts on “What a Labor Nurse Can Handle that You Can’t

      • March 11, 2015 at 7:29 pm
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        Don’t forget tattooed and pierced ones! ?

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      • March 12, 2015 at 3:44 pm
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        not to be picky…. but I believe the term is vulva. The vagina is the internal canal, not the exterior. Sorry… just a pet peeve of mine!!

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        • March 12, 2015 at 7:26 pm
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          Is okay, I do know this, but a lot of non nurses read my blog and they may not know what a vulva or perineum is xxxx

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      • March 13, 2015 at 4:37 am
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        I think it’s actually the Mons Pubis. Lol

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    • March 13, 2015 at 10:18 pm
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      Our job is stressful enough its not just about cute pink & blue a baby story doesn’t even come close to what we go through that’s just sugar coating it. But in all the adrenaline rush of saving two lives & helping with the most beautiful moments in a couples lives is just breath taking every time. I wouldn’t give up my job for the world. I’ve worked as an L&D nurse for 17yrs now & it never gets old..

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    • March 15, 2015 at 4:01 am
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      Sorry but I don’t understand why so many want to wax down there!!! It is the ugliest thing to be seen! Think God put hair for a reason….I understand shaving some and keeping it from getting long but completely shaved or waxed! You could always tell a older woman by the hair becoming less and less and thin around the vaginal area…..none…its just ridiculous. A lot of it is because so many just run around half naked now….no modesty at all. And I am not talking about during labor….all modesty is gone then! LOL

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  • March 11, 2015 at 5:21 pm
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    I’ll never forget after delivering my first child…the nurse without speaking, rolled me over on my side and spread my cheeks! I was like AHH! She just very calmly told me she was checking for hemorrhoids. hahah!

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  • March 11, 2015 at 5:28 pm
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    Ugh thank GOD you posted this. I’ve been worried sick about not getting waxed in time or being too “swollen down there” if I have a vaginal birth. I seriously have been contemplating apologizing to the staff if things feel like they’re out of hand in my nether regions….

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    • March 12, 2015 at 6:22 am
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      Andi, I promise that will be the further thing from your mind. I worried to, about everything! After I got in there and got started, I was in to much pain to care if I ever shaved again! The only thing you want is the pain to stop and the baby to vacate your body!!!! Good luck to you!!!!

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    • March 13, 2015 at 1:51 am
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      I’m an Andi, too, and a retired nurse with 20 years in OB. Believe me, do not worry about what your “lady” parts look like. It is the pathway to new life.

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  • March 11, 2015 at 6:33 pm
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    We are looking at a bag that is taped to the lower perinium to collect the stool of laboring mom’s.
    Really???

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  • March 11, 2015 at 8:53 pm
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    That’s one to tell your kid at their 21st “When you were born I wiped my vagina secretions on your face”. LMAO

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  • March 11, 2015 at 9:50 pm
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    Speaking of pierced ones… I never thought I’d be taking someones clit and nipple rings out but I have done it more than a few times now! LOL!!!

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  • March 11, 2015 at 10:42 pm
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    Haha… nice. These are hilarious, but so true. It’s funny to me how crazy people get, but especially how weirded out they get by silly things. I’ll be surprised if I ever again talk to a first-time pregnant mom who is “scared” (or whatever word) about possibly pooping during L&D. Seriously you guys? I SWEAR you won’t care. You probably won’t even know it happened. Get over it. It’s poop. It’s really not a big deal. haha… But really – every. stinking. time. In in classes, too… almost every class someone asks the question “is it true…” Goodness, girl. If that’s your biggest concern trough the entire process, you’ve so got it easy. haha

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  • March 11, 2015 at 10:55 pm
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    I thought I had about heard and that I saw just about everything when I worked in L&D as a tech, but the wiping vaginal secretions on the baby’s face is a new one to me! I can say I”m glad I didn’t run into that one. I wouldn’t be able to resist asking, “why?”! LOL

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    • March 12, 2015 at 4:02 am
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      Vaginal secretions incubate baby with mom’s bacteria baby didn’t get because of the c/section. It’s to help improve baby’s immune system. More and more research all the time but not in the OB journals necessarily.

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    • March 12, 2015 at 5:16 am
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      Watch the documentary “Microbirth”!

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  • March 11, 2015 at 11:44 pm
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    As a postpartum nurse, the strangest request we had was from a dad who wanted to lick his baby clean in place of a bath!

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  • March 12, 2015 at 12:29 am
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    You are so right about the dirty feet! What is that??

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    • March 12, 2015 at 2:23 am
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      LoL it’s gross…I don’t care how long your a Nurse

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  • March 12, 2015 at 1:08 am
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    Placing sterile gauze in the begins and using it to wipe on baby is a good idea in a c-section. The guy can be seeded 3 ways at birth: vagina, skin of the breast, and colostrum. Hooray for healthy Microbiome

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  • March 12, 2015 at 1:17 am
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    How about red flaming tattoos coming out from the vagina all the way up to the umbilicus? Someone spent a lot of time down there! LOL!

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    • March 12, 2015 at 4:14 am
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      I had one with a cat face tattoo down there very blonde girl so the cat was clearly visible. it was a little frightening! As she was delivering the face stretched all out and looked scary! Then it looked like it was puking up a bowling ball.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 2:14 am
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    As a seasoned labor and delivery nurse on a fast paced high-risk OB unit, your blog is a breath of fresh air!!! It encompasses all of the reasons that we love our job and why labor and delivery nurses rock!!!!! I’m new to blogging, but in the past I wrote some pretty amazing/funny enteries that were upbeat and what I thought to be hilarious! I’d love to share this entry on your blog! We could join forces and make the most amazing blog ever!! Let me know if you ever want a guest blogger, I’m happy to join you! Keep up the amazing work!!!!!
    Xoxo
    Danielle

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  • March 12, 2015 at 2:22 am
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    Let’s add a few fun stories!!! Speaking of family members…I had a grandma call her precious grandson ” a little mother f’er” once…all while she smelled like a colt 45…on another labor experience…the patient was pushing…with an audience of course…as she was pushing…a man (not baby daddy) yells…damn girl yo Pus$&y hugeeeee…these are the times I just SMH…?

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  • March 12, 2015 at 3:09 am
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    I once had a patient that did NOT want a C/S. She labored forever. Finally the husband caught me in the hall outside her room. In a whispered voice, he said, “Listen, if she has to have a C/S, just don’t tell her. You can just take her to the delivery room and do a C/S and just don’t tell her.” And he was serious. My reply, “You know we can’t sneak up on her and do a C/S. Besides not being right, I think it is illegal.”

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  • March 12, 2015 at 4:32 am
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    Once we had a freshly delivered mom request to have the placenta placed on her face. The nurse complied and a legend was born. Another time a dad took a bite out of the placenta, right out of the placenta bucket. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 6:36 am
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    I loved this post and all the comments! It’s good to know you don’t care when we feel like we are losing every last bit of our ladylike dignity :)

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  • March 12, 2015 at 12:35 pm
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    My nurses during my first delivery were, not to my liking…they pushed drugs and epidurals on me, when what I really wanted was support, guidance and reassurance. They even bathed my baby before I got to hold her!? Against my wishes…but she went right to Breast and turned out fine…my experience continues to be regretful regarding my first delivery, as an educated Nurse, I was flabbergasted at how betrayed I felt from my body! I was a marathoner and competitive long distance runner, what the heck? But you are right, it’s like no pain you have ever know before!
    My second baby, 22 months later, perfect delivery, except I did not get to do so at home. I hired a Doula, and completely natural, intervention free, and empowering experience! Every birth is different, the scared moms and dads neeeeeeed support, not belittling, or indifference, or “well what did you expect?,!” Expressions from their caregivers.or offering drugs to moms who explicitely express their wish for a drug free delivery, this sends the message–yeah, sorry honey you can’t handle this and. So you sure as heck won’t handle what’s about to come!”
    If I could have it my way, every laboring woman would have a doula present bc nurses are too busy to fill this role. My time as an RN on Moyer-baby unit in postpartum, sick nursery, and as the ‘baby catcher’ on L&D taught me, if I want to be most helpful, I had to be AT the bedside, present with the patient, not merely at a computer there charting…hence I am now an LC (IBCLC) and completing my training for Certified Birth and Postpartum Doula (DONA)… But that’s just me…

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    • March 12, 2015 at 1:35 pm
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      As a student nurse aspiring to someday work in L & D, this is the big complaint I hear: charting! The time required to do all the EMR charting really takes nurses away from the patient. There’s something wrong with that picture! I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it, other than be super quick and competent and hopefully figure out a way to get it all done while caring for my patients.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 1:47 pm
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    I am a new L&D nurse… 6 months on the job. A lot of times I let the new mom’s know upfront that we are going to get down close and personal. I tell them we are weird in the labor unit…. pain is a good thing and so are farts. On the pain issue, I had the teenage mom come in for hydration and didn’t want the IV because it “might hurt.” I looked at her, smiled, and told her “Honey, this pain is nothing like what is going to come.”

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  • March 12, 2015 at 4:29 pm
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    I’ve worked in many areas of nursing, and seeing vaginas and dealing with their secretions, among other things comes with the territory of simplying being a Nurse. I do not think L&D nurses necessarily handle it better or worse than any other nurse. Its what we do, see, and deal with everyday, when you work in a hospital. I was quite surprised to see so many comparisons of an L&D nurse to “other nurses”, because I feel like I saw all that stuff, well before working in Ob, in OB you just see it more perhaps, but it all looks the same after a while no matter what specialty you are in, and we are tuned in to recognized the abnormal, no matter where it is on or in the body…and we aren’t phased by it, regardless of what unit we work.

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    • March 12, 2015 at 6:09 pm
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      Do not forget about vomit! I have seen alot of that in labor and delivery as well as bowel movements!! Fluid/excretions from every orifice!!

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    • March 12, 2015 at 6:59 pm
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      Agreed!! I am an Emergency and L&B nurse. It is ludicrous to assert that ER nurses can’t handle vaginal blood.

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    • March 12, 2015 at 7:23 pm
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      Well I’ve only ever been an OB nurse, but I have A LOT of other nurse friends who scrunch their nose at this stuff. .. which is what I do when they talk about their stuff! ! ?

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      • March 18, 2015 at 9:54 pm
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        This ER nurse loves everything OB :) *raises hand* but I am the “weird” one among my colleagues. And am considering making a career switch to L and D anyways. I have to say, though, that I dont think any of my coworkers are any more grossed out by vaginal blood than any other blood.
        Still, every specialty in nursing has its unique quirks, its strong points and its weak points. I have nothing but respect for the OB nurses (and hope to become one eventually).
        Love your blog, keep writing!

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      • March 18, 2015 at 9:57 pm
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        Also, as I am about to have my first baby in the next couple weeks, I am relieved to hear you say that the hair doesnt phase the OB staff…because it aint so easy to reach these days haha

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    • March 13, 2015 at 5:02 am
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      Yeah, but L&d/OB nurses get to see ALL possible secretions all the time: Saliva, mucous, semen (yup…), vomit, pee, poop, blood, AMNIOTIC fluid, even spinal fluid…and got bragging rights on seeing copious amounts of one or the other gushing out and usually getting covered in it, because you can’t just wear a plastic gown the entire shift.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 8:42 pm
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    As a l&D nurse for 25 or so years, I hated touching someone’s dirty, smelly feet, especially while the patient was pushing. So every one of my patients received “hospital issue” non-skid sock/slippers (unless they had their own socks). Problem solved for me!

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    • March 25, 2015 at 1:42 pm
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      Heh. I wondered why I was having socks sold to me like they were a miracle of modern childbirth. :D By the time my son was making his appearance my feet were so swollen the only thing they’d fit in were ratty old flip flops, which don’t really keep one’s feet all that clean. Sorry to my L&D nurses, where ever you are now! XOX.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 10:09 pm
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    I love your blog, never stop!

    Crazy family member story…. I was a supervisor on a L&D floor. I was sitting in my office one day, fighting the inbox monster when one of my RNs slowly crept around the corner with a look on her face. She asked “Could you come help in room __, we have a situation.” “Sure” I say and immediately jump up to follow her. “What’s going on? ” I asked innocently (with everything that could possibly be going on running through my head – shoulder dystocia, previa, crash section…). “Weeeeeeellllll….. momma is doing good, daddy is by the the bedside and….. husband just showed up.” Um yeah, that went well.

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  • March 13, 2015 at 12:46 am
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    Well, being an L&D nurse for 9 years I am disappointed “Poop” wasn’t mentioned…hmmmm interesting!!

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  • March 13, 2015 at 4:53 am
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    My favorite is TOTALLY inappropriate/clueless comments like:

    FOB (during a vaginal exam): do you like that, honey. Does that feel good?
    Or
    FOB (as pt is screaming in pain sitting up for her epidural): can you bring her some water and some more pillows right now?
    Or
    Pts mother (during admission for preterm labor about to start mag): she hasn’t eaten in like 2 hours, can you bring her a lunch tray
    Or
    20 family members in a room with a preeclamptic 28wk gest, throwing a party because “maybe the baby will come today!”
    Or
    Pts father (after nurse breaks the news that his 35yr old daughter doesn’t feel comfortable with him in the room during pushing): that’s rediculous! I’ve seen it before. I changed her diaper!

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  • March 13, 2015 at 4:57 am
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    “Phase” and “faze” are completely different. Don’t people read books any more? That’s just my pet peeve. Love L&D!

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  • March 13, 2015 at 11:14 pm
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    I can handle all of it except stinky husband/baby daddy feet. Ha!!! Oh and the craziest tatoo I have seen was located where the pubic hair would have been and was a road sign, a car with a couple of swirls like an s……wait for it……..yes, slippery when wet. ?

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  • March 14, 2015 at 1:39 am
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    What about the pooping?? You didn’t mention the pooping! That was the worst for me having a baby. Knowing I was pooping and there was nothing I could do about it! Gah!!! ?

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    • April 2, 2015 at 10:41 pm
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      I used to teach labor classes to unwed girls. I told them they didn’t have to have enemas if they didn’t want to, but if they chose not to they’d likely poop when they delivered and ,while the nurses don’t mind it, their family will likely be there and it may be embarrassing for them.

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  • March 14, 2015 at 7:26 am
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    Pooping, blood, smells don’t mean a thing to me….my job is to deliver your child healthy…and have a fun time doing it!!

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  • March 14, 2015 at 4:24 pm
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    To Rugmo–I once had a postpartum patient whose boyfriend stayed with her for the delivery and 2 post partum days 24/7 and God bless him–her HUSBAND and their 2 small children visited them every day. It gets better–the FOB was in prison!

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  • March 14, 2015 at 10:05 pm
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    Just wanted to share that I adore your frank approach and writing style! I have had 2 deliveries, cannot say enough about the wonderful nurses! 1st delivery was pit induced singleton and my nurses were super accomodating and understanding! Things went MUCH faster then anyone expected and everyone was so awesome! 2nd delivery was my choice of c/s with twins.. Baby B was breech and A’s water broke(37w1d). Of course not until after I had eaten more food in one sitting than I had in entire days.. Waited almost 4 hours and went into OR.. Spinal went smoothly and I was lying on the table when the nausea hit… I turned my head and managed to say ” I feel like I cannot breathe.. and like I want to puke”.. my nurses managed to roll me in time that I only hit their shoes….I was trying to apologize in between fits of laughter.. They were cracking up trying to wipe my face/neck/hair down before Dr got in there for the surgery!

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  • April 9, 2015 at 2:11 am
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    And,that’s the way it is and always gonna be!

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  • October 13, 2015 at 5:06 am
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    I reuse to wipe vaginal secretions on the babies face. I think it’s unnecessary and just gross to be honest. You wanna do it, do it yourself. I can handle people eating placentas and using nipple stimulation to induce labour. Not vag flora tho. There are boundaries not to be crossed. And yes I know vaginally delivered babies get it automatically, but that’s technically your vagina doing the job not me.

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  • October 21, 2016 at 2:19 pm
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    Poop is the worst part of the delivery when the young mother took unnecessary advice from her friends to take caster oil to get her labor started. All I can say is have lots of chux and wash clothes. The poor little baby will probably need a bath right away. This is a good teaching moment for all her friends. Ugg☹️

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  • January 3, 2017 at 4:46 pm
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    Thank goodness someone had the since to find out why instead of being judgemental!

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  • March 23, 2017 at 11:39 pm
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    I just gave birth to my 8th baby. Currently finishing up my nursing degree. Hoping to one day land a job in labor and delivery because the nurses I’ve had there have inspired me. Hard workers who work miracles when needed! :)

    Reply
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