Working in labor and delivery is everything you think it would be. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and miraculous. But OB is not all about babies and banners and bubblegum shaped like cigars. Labor and delivery can be heartbreaking. It can be so gut-wrenching that we sometimes leave work with our stomach in knots and our blood pressure pounding in our ears. Sometimes we leave work so angry our hands will shake the entire way home. Sometimes we leave work so unbelievably sad our whole body feels heavy and weighed with an emotional toll that can drag even the best obstetrical nurse down. But every day we come back and we do our very best to take care of our patients.
The first time I ever saw someone high on methamphetamines, it was a pregnant person. I was a new graduate nurse at the time, and although I knew that people did drugs, it had never occurred to me that pregnant people did them. That day, I walked out of the break room after eating breakfast and could hear someone screaming all the way down the hall. I ran towards the room, not knowing what I would find. Was someone about to precip? Would I walk into some form of domestic violence? Or was someone just in unmedicated active labor? When I walked in, the room was full of nurses trying to calm a woman down, a heavily pregnant woman running around the room completely naked, screaming and thrashing her arms about. She was throwing anything she could get her hands on and spitting at anyone who came close, hissing like a wild cat. All the nurses were so calm, trying to bargain with her to let them hear her baby’s heart tones for just one minute, trying to prepare themselves for what kind of baby this woman would present them with. The woman made eye-contact with me, and I was so frightened, I felt paralyzed and frozen. I only ducked my head when she chucked a thermometer at me. It hit the wall behind me, fast and furious, and then fell to the floor by my feet. She then squatted and narrowly had her baby right there on the floor. A nurse grabbed the baby with her bare hands just before it hit the ground while another nurse clamped the umbilical cord and cut it. It all happened so fast. Before I realized it, the mother was running around the room again, her placenta undelivered and the umbilical cord with the hemostat still clamped to it flapping around behind her. I’ll never forget that day. It was my first experience seeing everyone working together to safely take care of an addicted, high and uncontrollable patient as best they could.
As the nurse placed the baby in the warmer, I watched nurses redirect their attention to this little bitty baby, a baby who barely made a sound. Every time he opened his mouth to cry he sounded like a kitten calling for help. He tried so hard to breathe, his chest collapsing with any effort. As his mother continued to ping-pong around the room, hollering and spewing profanities at us all, I watched as my coworkers continued to try to coax her into submission, while others tried to coax her baby to cry. All of us had the same purpose: to ensure that baby had the very best start in this world and to make sure his mother didn’t bleed to death after delivery.
These struggles aren’t specific to obstetrical nurses. If you are a nurse—if you are any type of nurse—know that you are not alone. You aren’t pulling and pushing and lifting patients for the money. You aren’t holding someone’s head as they vomit or cleaning them up when they don’t make it to the bathroom because you wanted four days off in one week. We aren’t taking care of people who spit at us, throw things at us, and try to kick us when we get too close because we need the abuse. We do this because we have a need to help people. We do this for the love of our patients, and for the love our babies. We do this because someone has to provide care to all sorts of people, and we hope that the care we provide changes something for someone. I’m not rolling in money. I don’t get four days off in one week. Sometimes I’m surrounded by beauty and sometimes I leave work so sad that there are so many ugly things our patients or our babies are faced with. But I still come back to work and I’m so proud to say I’m a nurse, because I know that something I have done for someone along the way has maybe made a difference.
So to any patient out there, know that your nurse gives each and every one of you everything they have. We don’t care where you’re from or how educated you are. We don’t care how much money you have or if we speak the same language. Our only goal is to take care of you and your baby to the best of our abilities.
And to any nurse out there, obstetrical or not, know that you aren’t alone. The next time you look at a coworker, remember that we all deal with the same difficulties. Some of us leave work shaking with all of the injustice, some of us cry in our cars, and some of us our just glad the day is over. But we have to remember that when we return to work, we are surrounded by people who all share the same struggles. All of us are focused on the same thing: our patients. Spread positivity. We deal with too many other issues to drag the ones in our own boat down. Sometimes our boats sail, and sometimes our boats are barely afloat, but we’re all doing the same things for the same reasons. Be grateful for the people you’re surrounded with—whether it’s the nurse that can pink up a baby, the patient who isn’t trying to hit you with a themometer, the scrub tech who can open up an OR in three minutes flat, or the unit secretary that knows when to call for backup 😉 We must be kind to each other, we must be kind to the people that we serve, and we cannot ever forget that despite all of our struggles, labor and delivery is still breathtakingly beautiful.
Until my next delivery ❤