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 personable.”
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 nurse.
“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 page automatically.
“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 stronger relationship.”
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 communication.”
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 and reassuring.”