When Jessica Bair Flannery went in for her 37-week checkup, she
was expecting it to be routine. But her doctor found her blood
pressure to be dangerously high and Flannery found herself checking
into Prentice Women's Hospital that same day. Still, she wasn't
nervous-until they asked her husband to leave the room so they
could administer her epidural.
"No one told me Sean had to leave the room. I didn't like that.
But the nurse was great and she held my hand. She stepped into that
role of Sean," she recalls. "I felt like my nurse was my best
friend. They were all very friendly, very talkative and very
In the hubbub, joy and business of giving birth, labor and
delivery nurses are often overlooked. While the person delivering
your child comes in to visit only intermittently, labor and
delivery nurses see you through the pain, exhaustion and euphoria
of bringing your little miracle into this world. What happens
between a labor and delivery nurse and soon-to-be mother is an
intimate bond that must form fast-after all, these nurses will see
a lot of you.
In fact, says Jennifer Vanover, a registered nurse at Swedish
Covenant Hospital, there is nothing new you can show a labor
"When you are here and going through the pain of it, that's when
you might do something you regret later. I usually encourage the
women to do the best that they can. We know this is not the best
side of you that we are ever going to see," she says. "Whatever you
have to show me, I've seen worse."
So what's the best way to quickly cultivate the relationship
between you and your nurse?
Baskets of coffee and sweets might be a nice gesture, but the
best thing you can do is be prepared. Your nurse will thank you for
it, Vanover says. Take a class, read a book, research on the
Internet, whatever you need to do so that you know all of your
options, she says.
Arrive at the hospital with a birth plan, she suggests, and
communicate it clearly to the nurse. This gets everyone on the same
"I really enjoy working with patients who have done a little
research before they get here," Vanover says. "Don't be afraid to
communicate what you hope or want or expect. It can foster a
Also schedule a tour of the hospital, says Kristi White,
registered nurse and assistant nurse manager for postpartum and
nursery and coordinator for prenatal education at Gottlieb Memorial
Hospital. Even if you don't meet the nurse who will provide your
care, you'll at least see how friendly the faces are.
"I think it's very important for the relationship to be a good
one so that the experience can be a positive one for the patient
and her support team," White says. "It all boils down to
While rare, sometimes women just don't hit it off with the nurse
they are assigned. If this poses a problem for you, don't be shy
about saying something. After all, it is your birthing
experience-and this may be one of the most important and fleeting
relationships you'll ever form.
"I would say on a scale of one to 10, it's a 10," Flannery says
about the relationship's importance. "You have no idea what's going
on. You don't know which pains are normal and which pains are cause
for concern. It's important to have someone there who is comforting
Christy Bonstell spends most of her time making people laugh. The best laughs are the ones she gets from her son, Keagan.
See more of Christy's stories here.
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