Educate and Empower Yourself (for Labor)

     I went into Labor & Delivery Nursing with the plan to someday become a midwife. I wanted to gain experience in the hospital and ultimately have my own practice delivering babies in the most 'natural' way. I am a closet hippie, former vegan, seven years vegetarian, worm composting, recycling, placenta-encapsulating, babywearing mama. I preface this post with this because I don't want to come across judgmental in any way with what I am about to say. At my heart, I am holistic in my care and not a "tainted hospital nurse".

      I vividly remember one of my first days as a nurse on the L&D floor at the big city hospital discussing my hopes for my own hypothetical future birth. "I've always pictured myself giving birth at home," I naively said. Immediately, I was nearly torn apart with statistics of home births gone bad by my fellow coworkers. In the subsequent months and years from that conversation, I would care for several patients transferred from home or birthing centers with complications. I also would come to care for patients whose babies probably would not have survived if they had not been in the hospital. As my love of my career grew with each delivery, my former aspiration of having a home birth quickly dissolved.

     I have attended conferences, seen documentaries, and read stories of women who were "victimized" by their hospital experience. They use terms like "out of my control" and the nurse or doctor "did this to me." We have patients who refuse certain interventions for no reason except that they may have read something on some Facebook post with no credible source. The Business of Being Born, a documentary produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, is a prime example of one source that has really created a distrust of the hospital birthing system.

     I am not going to sit here and tell you there aren't some aspects of hospital birthing that are business-like. You will have certain doctors that follow the old stereotype of wanting to get to their 5:00 golf game. However, it is YOUR job to educate yourself on which doctor to choose. You have nine months of pregnancy (hopefully) to determine how you envision your birth and what doctor is in line with that view. Anything that is "done to you" in the hospital is your decision, so I don't buy the victim mentality. If you think Pitocin is the devil (it's not), then you have the right to tell your doctor you don't want it. If you don't want them to break your water, then speak up and tell them. My doctor will attest that I pretty much laid out how I wanted my labor to go, best case scenario, and she was all on board. And not just because I am an L&D nurse, but because my requests were justified, safe and reasonable. I just implore you to educate yourself on these decisions and not just request them because your mother-in-law's cousin or best acquaintance on Facebook told you so. Most doctors are receptive to educated, reasonable requests. If you are unsure if your doctor is receptive, that is why you have nine months of prenatal visits to decide who to see. I work with wonderful doctors who accommodate just about anything for their patients within reason. They genuinely want to see their patients have the birth they want.

     Sadly, the healthcare system is becoming more and more about patient satisfaction and less about patient care, so it is in the hospital's BEST INTEREST to ensure you are happy with your birthing experience. My ultimate point is to educate and empower yourself in all aspects of motherhood, but especially about labor. Be an advocate not only for yourself but for your baby. The hospital is not this horrible place that upon entering, you will end up with an emergency c-section and your baby will be whisked away to the nursery and given formula against your wishes. On the contrary, doctors and hospitals have better ratings the fewer primary (first time) c-sections they do so it is objectively their goal to have you deliver vaginally when safe and possible. Where I work, we strive keep moms and babies together at least 23 hours a day unless absolutely necessary to separate them. We want to support you in your breastfeeding as we are aware of the incredible benefits both to you and baby so it actually pisses me off when I see Pinterest posts of onesies like this...

We are in this field because we LOVE what we do and are passionate about it, not to secretly conspire ways to make your labor fail and sneak your baby formula.

     You will notice I don't mention any hospital specifically here. I am not trying to advertise or gain publicity for my work. I truly want to inform you, from the L&D nurse's perspective, that your birthing experience is in your control. Whether you choose to get an epidural, opt for a VBAC, whatever it may be, it IS in your control. Things don't always go according to plan, and you also need to count on that, but you are and should be a part of every decision that is made. Do your research with credible sources, and happy pushing.