Reflections of a labor and delivery nurse

Bridget - Washington, District of Columbia
Entered on May 3, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: birth

I believe that birth is a metaphor for life: difficult, but glorious. It starts with pregnancy 9 months prior. The changes are so impercievible that it almost feels as though life is actually stagnant. But soon enough, those subtle changes grow to notable ones: big belly, swollen feet, and aching back. All of this leads to labor, which is aptly named. Unlike pregnancy’s subtle changes, labor contractions are much more noticable, to say the least. They come sweeping in like winds of change, picking up speed, and growing into an uncontrolable storm. The woman gathers together her team, partner, mother, best friend, and other support persons. They pile into the vehicle and make the ritualistic trip to meet their doctor or midwife.

My job, as a labor and delivery nurse, is to serve as an anchor: to keep everybody safe and not let them lose their grounding. Very often, a laboring mother gets so caught up in the process that she forgets what it is all for. “I promise you,” I say, “you will deliver a baby after all of this.” Sooner or later, women hit a point I call the moment of need: when she does not think she can go on. “I can’t do this!” I can’t help but laugh under my breath. “Do you know how many women have told me that? You can do this. You must do this. And we are all here to help.” After months of waiting, hours–or sometimes day–of struggle, the culminating moment is as simple and strange as life itself: a breath.

A child breathes. New life begins.

Here are 3 truths about childbirth:

1. It hurts. Whether it is a natural childbirth, with an epidural, or via Cesearean section: it is going to be uncomfortable. However, I beleive pain, when managed appropriately, is a good thing. It tells us where we need to ease off, move on, or push through. It directs us to where we need to be. This is what makes birth difficult.

2. It requires support. The number 1 predictor for a healthy childbirth outcome is consistent support. We need each other.

3. It’s worth it. I believe it is the things that we work the hardest for that are the most rewarding. This is what makes birth glorious.

Have you ever observed a child in the first hour of life? Their promise seems to melt all of life’s questions.