Let me share my thoughts what nursing students should know that they may not be able to always read in a textbook:
1. Please know that this day is one of the most enduring in a woman's memory. She will remember smells, sounds, comments, facial expressions, and touch. EVERYTHING. Women in their 80's have told accounts of their childbirth experiences that were replete with detail. Women go through major changes in terms of self concept, depending on their birth experience. It can be a chance for major empowerment or an oppurtunity for trauma.
The gentle touch you give (instead of simply watching the machines that go ping), the kind and compassionate words of encouragment you give, will remain with her forever. Sensitivity is everything. A woman must know that she is respected in your eyes, and that you will help to preserve her memory of that day. In other words, BIRTH MATTERS.
2. Brush up on basic labor support techniques. There are some wonderful books out there. Women remember not the machines so much as the cool washcloth that is used to cool their forehead.
3. If you can, see birth in a variety of settings. Hospitals are not the only place to have a baby, and you can learn a lot by watching a midwife or doctor outside the hospital setting.
4. Please also remember that if Dad is there, that it is a tremendous time for him, too. He is becoming a father, and should not be expected to play super coach. He may be frightened and confused, and I find that it's necessary to watch over him, too. Make sure he's had a little something to eat and drink. If he's not sure what to do, give him a task and praise him. He'll be so grateful!
5. Treat the baby with tenderness and a bit of awe. A new human being, just arrived on planet Earth, is worthy of such awe!
So there you have it .... thoughts from a doula and birth fanatic.
Good luck during your clinicals. Birth is the most extraordinary of miracles ....
PS. And one last thing: PIZZAS ARE DELIVERED, BABIES ARE BORN. (Just a little nudging about medical terminology
. I'm a little sick of seeing certain caregivers act like they're the stars of the show instead of the brave mother who births her baby. )