A Guy Explains Birth to a Pregnant Woman
Yesterday I explained birth to a pregnant woman. Well, at least part of the process. Me, a guy with no kids and no chance of becoming pregnant. How, I ask myself, could I possibly be qualified to teach a pregnant woman anything about having a baby? In the past three weeks I've seen one vaginal birth and one Cesarean, and have done assessments on a few newborns and new moms. I doubt if I could even get a small part on Gray's Anatomy with that resume.
Halfway through my program, nursing school has thus far, for various reasons, ranged from being disappointing to discouraging to despairing. I've been disappointed in the quality of the school and of the clinical experience. I've been discouraged about not being inspired by my experiences in the hospital (although I've really enjoyed the occasions when I was able to get to know my patients). And I've felt despair at the prospect of my experience never changing, that I would never become passionate about nursing.
And then I saw my first birth.
For those who have witnessed this miracle, you know that words cannot do it justice. I've tried to describe it to friends, but it's been like trying to describe God or Goddess or maybe even chocolate. One is appropriately humbled by the attempt to get one's mind around birth, the human manifestation of creation. Sure, we can come up with all sorts of polysyllabic words to help us think we understand what's going on here, but I think we're only fooling ourselves.
It is not the understanding which inspires such awe in us, it is the feeling that comes with witnessing the phenomena of birth. It is this feeling that allows us to know that something amazing and incredible and beautiful has just happened. Beyond words. Beyond art. Perhaps it is our connection to the experience of birth, our most shared experience, that has kept us from really messing things up. Perhaps, conscious or unconscious, this connection is the real source of our hope.
The power of birth isn't just about the new life of a child coming into the world. It's about the unbelievable strength and courage of the mother, bearing such pain as she has never known, and knowing the deepest of love. It's about a man learning what really matters. And it's about the love of friends and family, coming together to support this mother and welcome this baby. All of this is part of what has made my one weekend working in labor and delivery the only time I have been truly excited about becoming a nurse.
The very first patient I was with in L&D needed a cesarean section. They were clearly disappointed at this dramatic change in their birth plans, but also grateful for the technology that would be safely bringing them their baby. I worked with the Advanced Life Support (ALS) nurse, a women passionate about her job and eager to teach me. The baby was immediately brought over to us, quickly cleaned and evaluated. The father of a child born via c-section gets to see the baby before the mother, and this dad was right there with us, speaking to his child. I was amazed that dad's voice immediately caused the child to stop crying and turn in the direction of his father. Newborns cannot see, yet this child seemed to be looking right at his father, his familiar deep voice a beacon of comfort amidst the noise and lights of the OR.
Prior to starting this rotation, I had wondered if women would be comfortable having a male nursing student take part in their delivery. I remember thinking that at least I would be able to connect with the fathers. I couldn't have been more wrong. During both of the vaginal births I attended, the mothers and her family were completely welcoming and appreciative of my presence. When I left, they gave me lots of appreciation and compliments, telling me I was going to be a great nurse. But not the dads. They barely spoke to me, but I don't think it had much to do with me. They seemed to be in shock. But once that baby was in their arms, they lit up and even smiled at me.
This past Sunday a few of us sat in on a class for expecting couples. All five of the couples were having their first child, full of excitement and questions. The nurse educator led the class in exercises to try out some of the possible positions for labor and we, the nursing students, were encouraged to work with the couples during the activity. I worked with two couples, and much to my surprise and delight, was able to answer all of their questions. I felt completely comfortable and confident talking with them about the birth experience, and left knowing that I had done my little part in supporting them.
What makes all of these positive experiences even more meaningful is the fact that in one weekend I had more excitement, enthusiasm. and inspiration than in the entirety of the program up until then. I am no longer discouraged about having chosen to pursue a career in nursing, and am really looking forward to my upcoming weekends working in labor & delivery.
I used to think that the only significant way to really "make a difference" was to save a rainforest or stop a war or reverse global warming.
Who coulda known?Last edit by Joe V on Jun 17, '18
Joined: Jan '08; Posts: 26; Likes: 176
Pediatric ER Nurse; from US
Specialty: 2 year(s) of experience in Pediatric ER nursingDec 12, '08I'm glad you had such a great experience! I also had an amazing experience in L&D. I only had one day there (community college- enough said) but in that shift I saw 2 cesarians and one vaginal birth. The vaginal brought me to tears. It was honestly one of the best days of my life, right after the birth of my own daughter and my wedding day.Dec 13, '08With passion like this I hope you consider perinatal nursing after you graduate. We need nurses like you who feel so deeply about the privilege of attending a family during these life changing moments. People who remember that it is not about us but it is ALL about them. There is an amazing guy on the Perinatal Nurse Listserve (PNATALRN) who started as an L&D nurse, is now a midwife and a lactation consultant and has about 6 or 7 (I forget the exact number) children of his own. Just reading his posts I know that he has made a difference in the lives of the families he has touched. You sound like you could do that too. Don't let anyone discourage you or cause you to lose that passion!!Dec 16, '08You have a true gift for expression! You captured very well the reason that some of us who work OB would never consider working any other area, despite all the aggravations, frustrations and backaches!
Keep what you have written here and on those days when you feel that you can't handle beating your head against the brick wall any longer, go back and read it over. We need people like you in nursing!Dec 18, '08I too was captivated by the birth process! In 1974 in NY ( right after Roe Vs Wade) I graduated and was working an OB floor that started to do AB's. I had no idea what was going on since I was never taught AB's in Nursing School. I quickly saw that it was done for convienence and what trauma it brought emotionally. I quit. I have supported LIFE from then on.
Since then, I have been blessed to go with a midwife on home births.
She was amazing at the way she positioned the mother to assist nature to deliver the 10 lb baby that didn't want to be born. He is about 12 now and very normal. She viewed birth are natural and not medical. It was even better than in the D.R.
The Dad's are uncomfortable because their territory is invaded for a time. They are caught between emotions and NEED of a Nurse. Reassure them and go on. KarmilDec 19, '08I am very glad that you had such a wonderful experience. I did not like my OB rotation in nursing school and never worked in L and D. I did work in a very busy county hospital and we had women coming in all the time in labor. Very often we could not get them to L and D before they gave birth. It was not the optimal situation for us.Dec 20, '08I was so moved by your story. You very eloquently put into words how I felt when I witnessed several births as a volunteer doula. I think you will be an excellent nurse.Dec 21, '08Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful experience. I am happy that you are excited about your career again. You give me something to look forward to as a pre-nursing student.Dec 21, '08Creative writing skills to boot! When you leave work, it's my suggestion, you sit down to pen and paper and reflect, what a positive coping skill/outlet to alleviate workplace stress and burnout. Who knows, one day you may also have your own column, publication or educational seminar business too!Last edit by thegreenmile on Dec 21, '08 : Reason: misspelled wordDec 21, '08I hated every minute of OB, except for the moment those two babies I witnessed coming to the world. Words could not describe it. Nurses were in the thick of it.
Best wishes in your nursing career. Great post!Dec 21, '08What a beautiful, and eloquent post! Thank you so much for sharing that experience with us. You are so right, there is nothing more miraculous and extraordinary than witnessing a birth. I am awed by the courage of all mothers.Dec 23, '08Awesome! You just made me twice as excited to get going and graduate to do L&D! I have 2 babies of my own- it really is a miracle!
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