labor nurse has been reborn and shares her experiences as a new nurse-midwife, woman, and blogger

Friday, November 9, 2007

Deep Cover

While teaching my first childbirth education class, I had a dad make the comment that nurses who have not been through labor and birth themselves should not teach the class, nor care for women who are in labor or postpartum. At the time it didn't bother me at all. I knew that my years of experience in obstetrical and maternity nursing more than qualified me to care for such women and their families. The nurse I was training with in the class was quite perturbed; she had several pregnancy losses and finally had her first child not too long before. This nurse had a planned c-section so she didn't experience labor and felt this dad's comments were insensitive.

Nine times out of 10, I get asked if I have children by the woman I am caring for. And most are visibly disappointed when I say, "No, I don't." I have added the comment, "But I do have several animal children" to keep them from probing any further. (You'd be surprised how many will ask why I don't have kids, when did I plan to have them, and do I even want them at all). In the past I didn't mind being asked if I had children or that some were disappointed that I don't. I know that these women who are asking that are looking for a way of connecting with me, to trust what I have to say and how I will care for them.

But you know what? I'm starting to see my fellow nurse's point of view. Does it really matter if I have children or not to properly care for women? Does my 10 years of nursing experience not count for anything? What if I was an oncology nurse? Could I not care for a woman with breast cancer because I have not experienced it personally myself? Of course not, and those thinking that I am not fully qualified to care for mothers and their babies would never pose the same expectation in any other setting.


BrooklynGirl said...

I would never say that someone who hasn't had children was not qualified to care for me, but all other things being equal, if I was given a choice between someone who had given birth and someone who hadn't, I'd go with the former.

In fact, when I was choosing OBs, I did make this choice (I didn't actually ask the question, but one doctor talked about her own birth experience during the consultation and the other seemed too young to have kids and didn't mention them).

sara said...

I think I asked this, just out of curiosity.. Not so much to gauge experience. I was quite surprised when my labor nurse-- who had been pushing me every step of the way to lay down, etc.-- had something like three homebirths with her own children. :p

First-hand experience does not necessarily make one more sympathetic to the experience of others.

razorbackmama said...

I'm kind of on the fence on this one. For example, one of my sister's friends is an OB, and while highly qualified, she doesn't really have any experience on what it's REALLY like. Take morning sickness. The standard "cure" for that is Sprite and saltines or some such nonsense. I'm sure that is what she doles out to her patients. But most women who have "been there" know full well that protein and Coke Classic help way more.

I can also guarantee that the dr. who was JAMMING her hand up my you-know-where when I was having my 3rd child (no complications either except for the ones SHE caused) had never given birth.

Now that I think about it though...I guess those are dr.'s, not nurses......

Lydia Bertrand, RN said...

When I began nursing school (with the intention of going on to become a nurse-midwife) I was self-consious about not having children of my own. I didn't think that I would have children before finishing my education. (ha! surprise!)

Now that I have had a baby, I realize that I didn't need to feel strange about caring for childbearing women before I had had a child myself because every experience is different for every woman anyway.

For example: I had a natural birth, but I did not feel the "ring of fire." It hurt like a mofo when the baby was crowning, but I would not describe it as a burning feeling at all. Yet this is how many women experience crowning - and as a nurse you need to know about this.

I did not have PIH, or a cesarian, or an induction, or an epidural . . . why should I not be able to care for women who have radically different labor & birth experiences than I had? The most important factors in being a good L&D nurse are knowledge and empathy with what each particular woman is experiencing-even if you have not gone through that exact thing.

Anonymous said...

I am a L&D nurse as well and I do have children of my own. Do I think this makes me a better nurse in this arena? Absolutely not. A fine example, there is a CNM in this area who has been delivering babies for about 20 years and was a L&D nurse prior to that. She has never had children of her own but you will NOT find a woman who connects more with her clients, provides hours and hours of compassionate, understanding labor support and has some of the most peaceful, trusting, beautiful births I have ever seen and I feel privileged to attend a birth with her every time I get the chance!

Ivory said...

Do yourself a favor and let this one go. Expecting a laboring woman to be rational in the way that she bonds with her caregivers dooms you to disappointment. You were better off going with your first impulse, especially since giving birth and assisting with a birth are not the same and require different skills.

Other people's labels are not your concern - you need to feel comfortable doing the best job you can. By the time a woman is actually in labor and delivering a baby, she doesn't care about who's there as long as they're helping and not causing her more pain.