I have a very clear and vivid memory of the labor and delivery nurse that helped me deliver my first daughter.
It had been a long labor, one that I was definitely not prepared for, and I had reached that point of no return after three hours of pushing when I was 100 percent convinced that I simply could not go on. I’m pretty sure I actually lost my mind for a while, because according to my husband (I don’t remember it) I, at one point, announced that I was “done” and tried to climb out of the hospital bed mid-contraction. (Clearly handled labor like a champ.)
But it was then — when I was at my lowest point physically, mentally, and spiritually — that my nurse saved me.
Although I couldn’t tell you what anyone else in that room said, whether or not my husband was even there, or what else happened in those moments before I met my baby, I can tell you that my nurse took my face in her hands and told me to look her in the eyes.
“Look at me, Chaunie,” she demanded. “Look into my eyes. You are going to do this. You can do this.” That moment was the turning point for me. Her words sunk into my consciousness and I found the strength to keep going.
I’ve been thankful for my labor and delivery nurse ever since that day and after having the privilege of working as an OB nurse myself later, I know even more than ever that these women are the real deal. As a part-time nurse, I considered myself constantly learning under the gurus of my magical teachers and although I never joined their ranks as a full-time BA, I still learned enough to know that no mother ever forgets her labor and delivery nurse.
There are a lot of reasons us mothers know that labor and delivery nurses rock, such as:
1. They will literally stick their hands up into your body, then go eat lunch like it’s no big deal.
This is because it’s actually not a big deal to them at all. The number of cervixes an OB nurse will touch before lunch won’t phase her a bit, because it’s literally all in a day’s work. Compare that to a morning of office work and meetings and it’s no wonder these women are so cool.
2. They are baby whisperers.
One of the first things that struck me about the OB unit was how calm all the babies were in the presence of a nurse. There are very few babies that are immune to the touch of the Ultimate Baby Whisperer. I’m almost jealous, actually, at how good babies are for OB nurses. It’s like they know they they are in the presence of a lady who will not mess around, so they are always on their best behavior.
3. They never stop getting excited about birth.
You know what’s amazing about labor and delivery nurses? You would never guess that they do this all the time, because the level of excitement they have about your baby is always the same as it was for the first birth they ever witnessed. Birth and babies just never stop being amazing.
4. Their swaddling skills are strong.
You haven’t lived until you’ve watched a labor and delivery nurse whip out the world’s tightest (but never too tight) swaddle in 0.2 seconds that automatically lulls a wailing newborn into instant repose. It’s like magic.
5. They will fight for the birth YOU want.
You want to give birth hanging upside down naked? Cool, they’ll do their best to make it happen. You might secretly wonder if a labor and delivery nurse is judging your birth plan, but I assure you they do not care. I mean, they care, but only in the sense that they will do anything they can for you. They might exchange secret glances if a woman drops a laminated, 100-page “birth plan” binder down because they know that never goes well in the unpredictable game of labor, but as far as advocating for the birth experience you want and making sure everyone stays healthy in the process? Your nurse has got your back.
6. They give you strength.
Just like I experienced, a good labor and delivery nurse sends you strength when you need it the most. It was the most bizarre experience to be on the other side of a birth, in the room with a woman while she’s pushing and I always left dead-tired because I realized that your nurse is honest-to-goodness giving you energy. It’s amazing.
7. They handle bodily fluids like a pro.
What kind of human being can deal with wading through amniotic fluid, blood, puke, poop, pee, and a varying assortment of vaginal discharge without so much as batting an eye? Yup, these ladies have mad skills and strong stomachs.
8. They are the perfect mix of strength and gentleness.
Much like mothers, labor and delivery nurses exude both gentleness and strength. With hands that can weave an IV into the tiniest newborn vein to hands that can withhold the roaring power of a woman in labor, there is no limit to what these women are capable of.
9. They gave you the best gift ever.
And I’m not talking about that picture they snapped of you and your baby at birth, although that is pretty priceless as well. I’m talking about the gift they gave you when they helped you realize a strength you never knew you had, a strength that you tapped into deep inside yourself. A strength that took you underneath the veil of your life before motherhood and changed how you would see the world forever.
Thank you to Angie, Alisha, Jodie, Debbie, and Shannon, who helped me bring four babies into the world, and to all the labor and delivery nurses out there who have helped us enter the threshold to stand at the holy altar of motherhood.