What you can learn from a longtime labor nurse
The job description: Registered nurse specializing in inpatient obstetrics. Provides expert care of mother and baby through labor, birth and recovery; monitors fetal heart and contractions; cleans up mess. Adjusts for quirks, temperaments and family drama. Coaches dad, pampers siblings. Translates medical-speak. Serves as cheerleader, drill sergeant and best friend du jour. Your labor nurse might spend more time with you in one shift than your obstetrician does in nine months. Here's what she wants you to know.
You can't shock or gross us out. We've seen it all. You aren't the first woman to go into labor with unshaved legs, unwashed hair and a bikini zone that hasn't seen wax in ages, if ever. We don't care. If there's time, start labor freshly showered. Bonus points for shaved legs and pedicures (who can reach?). Bikini area? Whatever. We don't care how much (or little) hair there is or what color it is. Jewelry gets in the way. (Rings can stay.) Body piercings--remove first. Tiaras--optional, though you are the queen. And don't worry about pooping, yelling, getting out of control. That said, pain's no excuse for meanness.
We aim to please--but please be flexible. Birth is unpredictable, and flexibility makes for a smoother delivery (not to mention parenting). Tell us and your doctor what you want well beforehand--we'll try to deliver. However, we can't guarantee every item on your birth plan wish list. (For more on this, see "3 Insider Secrets--Revealed!" left.) It's tough being born, and some babies need a little help getting out. It's no picnic for mom, either, and sometimes plans fly out the window once labor gets serious. So we won't hold you to every pre-labor promise you made, like "I won't, won't, won't get an epidural--just deep breathing for me!"
We really do need to perform all those cervical exams. We can tell lots by how a cervix feels, its position and how fast it's changing. But we know that no one likes these exams, so we try to only do them to determine whether you're ready for your next step, such as getting an epidural or starting to push.