RN: Judge and Jury - Ch 6

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by Julie Reyes Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health. Has 6 years experience.

Labor and delivery clinicals have verified my thoughts about never wanting to be a L&D nurse. My hat is off to the nurses who do work in L&D and postpartum, you guys are amazing. I have four kids, and I am still queasy about the entire birthing process. If it were up to me, I would still buy into the “cabbage patch” fable…

What does a labor and delivery nurse do?

RN:  Judge and Jury - Ch 6

As I sit in the stands at my daughter's soccer game, I am furiously trying to catch up on my chapters I should have already read in my Maternal Newborn textbook. I feel the darkness of an unwanted presence hovering over my shoulder and look up to see my ex-husband. "Studying?" "Yeah, what's up?" "How is school?" he asks as he settles in for a conversation I have no time for. "Fine." "How are your grades?"

It is at this point that I can recall the countless number of times he has told me that I am not "smart enough to be anything but a teacher" (his exact words - and he is a teacher). I remember the repetition of his dire warnings that I was stupid and would fail if I went into healthcare. I can feel the heat rising in my chest like bile. "School is fine, my grades are fine." "Really? If your grades are 'so fine', then what is your GPA?" At this point I am wondering if I can use my textbook as a weapon. However, I know the next words out of my mouth are going to be daggers to him and **** him off. "4.0". Silence. And then - "I guess that's cause you are not going to a REAL school".

Yeah - that's it - a major university is not a "real school". But instead I laughed the sort of laugh you give when someone says something moronic. I thought how lucky I was that I do not have to deal with that anymore. I roll my eyes and turn my back on him, I have to study, and by study, I mean ignore him so that I don't do or say anything I can get arrested for.

It's funny how quick tempered I get when I am stressed out. Nursing school will do that. I am on edge constantly. As I walk down the hospital hallway towards my patient's rooms to assess my postpartum mothers, I reflect back on the nurses I had after I gave birth. Nope, I don't remember any of them except one. I wonder if it was because there were so many new and exciting things happening in my life at the time - a new baby - and scared straight!! Would these new parents ever remember their nurses? Maybe.

I assess the new mommies, help one of them learn to breastfeed, and walk back to the nurses station to fill out my reports. I actually have a huge chip on my shoulder at this time - I am tired, frustrated - I do not like this rotation at all because it is NOT my cup of tea. As I sit there at the desk, just barely tolerating existence, this huge, scary looking man walks in the unit and down the hallway. "What is this world coming to?" I ask myself.

I have actually written about this - you can read the story at this link (it will help you to understand the rest of this story): I wish I were blind.

I am glad I am done with my postpartum days and can move on to actually seeing a delivery. Maybe I will like this - or I hope I will. My patient is a 17 year old girl who is 17 weeks pregnant and in labor. Her mother and boyfriend are in the room, and the nurse I am following for the day is the most amazing LVN (yes - at this point in history, we used the term "LVN") - this girl knows her stuff. I cannot imagine what this poor mother is going through. She is scared and in so much pain. I care for her throughout the day, but I feel like a deer in the headlights myself.

After hours of contractions, the baby is delivered. There is not a team to care for the premature infant, the baby has died in utero. My preceptor and I take the infant to another room and put his handprints and footprints in a tiny card. His hands are the size of the tip of my pinky finger. He is a little boy - all of his anatomy appears correct. He is so tiny, the width of my palm is bigger than he is. We want to take him to his mother to let her hold him, but we cannot put him in a blanket - it is too big. Instead, we wrap him in a washcloth.

We head back to the room and as I hold the baby in the hallway, the nurse goes in to talk to the family and ask them if they would like to see the baby. Everyone refuses to see this little boy I hold in my hand, and I am confused. That was not the answer I was expecting. The nurse returns to the hallway and leads me back to the room we were in. We will have the tech care for the remains. Since the baby is not 20 weeks gestation, there will not be a funeral.

I feel like I am in a fog - I don't understand the family decision to not see the baby - or how the young mother could be in the room laughing with her boyfriend as I hold the body of her child in the palm of my hand. I become frustrated about the decisions this family has just made! What is WRONG with them???

Then I remember the incident with the huge, scary man walking down the hallway the week before. I don't know the circumstances, I don't know the lives these people live, I don't know....anything! So how is it that I have put myself up as judge and jury? I take a deep breath and let out a sigh. I am NOT a judge, and I am NOT the jury. I realize this family is coping in the best way that they know how. I look down at the baby one last time and touch his tiny face.

This is not at all a great day. My decision to never work in this area of nursing is sealed, and my admiration for the nurses who do has just been kicked up about a hundred notches.

I have never been so glad to have a rotation end. The lessons I have learned about not judging others has been seared into my heart. You just never know.

My journey begins!

For the rest if the story, see

Go to Nursing School? NEVER!! Ch 1

Culture Shock & Big Girl Panties - Ch 2

Pretzels, Puppies, and Physical Assessment Ch 3

Tales from the Crypt....uh.... I mean Clinicals. Ch 4

Give me a BREAK!! Ch 5

RN: Judge and Jury Ch 6

Virtual Reality Ch 7

Avoid Kids at ALL Costs! Ch 8

The End of the Tunnel...Holy Cow - is that LIGHT?! Ch 9

Julie Reyes

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

44 Articles   260 Posts

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5 Comment(s)


traumaRUs, MSN, APRN, CNS

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 30 years experience. 164 Articles; 21,155 Posts

Great article. How right you are that we as the providers don't REALLY know everything about our patients and its best to reserve judgement. Thanks.

Elvish, BSN, DNP, RN, NP

Specializes in Community, OB, Nursery. 17 Articles; 5,259 Posts

It is fairly common for people to not want to see their babies after a fetal demise. Some people are afraid of what they will see, others are afraid of 'losing it' in front of other people, and for others it is cultural. Sometimes it is pressure from family not to see. I had this once with a fetal demise at a similar gestation, which I also wrote about (here). Baby's mother wanted to see him, grandma did not want her to (she saw him, as did the father when he arrived later).

Good for you for realizing that the young mother was coping the best way she knew how. Grief manifests itself in all kinds of ways, some of which might look inappropriate but are really just defense mechanisms for people who might otherwise collapse under the weight they're carrying.

As an aside: Whether families choose to see/hold or not, we take pictures of baby along with hand and footprints. We especially try to get up-close pics of face, hands, and feet. Even if there are other anomalies, many babies will still have perfect little hands and feet. We put them in an envelope and I always put the envelope upside down at the bottom of a little keepsake box. That way Mom and Dad are not forced to look at anything (and upside down keeps them from being seen accidentally) but the pics will be there if they decide they want to look later on. They almost always do, they just may not be emotionally ready in the short term. I've done this for families more times than I care to remember and it is always hard.

Thanks for writing.



Specializes in cardiac, ICU, education. Has 18 years experience. 560 Posts

Great article. My mother-in-law once told me the same thing about my BSN university education as well. When I finished graduate school and started teaching in a very well respected university, she said "Oh, how nice, your job is like a hobby now." Meaning I wasn't in the hospital on the floor so it wasn't "real nursing." Anyway, I am sure that many people feel your pain.

I had the same professional epiphany as you did when I did my peds rotation. I wanted to become a nurse to work in peds, specifically NICU. But after my semester at a local children's hospital, I vowed never to take care of kids. Not because of the kids, but because of the parents. It was a full semester clinical and I could write a number of terrible stories about apathy, neglect, and downright abuse. I knew that I would never be able to keep my mouth shut and so I needed to work with adults to maintain my own sanity.

Edited by msn10

brown eyed girl

brown eyed girl

Specializes in LTC/Sub Acute Rehab. 407 Posts


anon456, BSN, RN

7 Articles; 1,144 Posts

This is an excellent and well-written article! You are right. One of the roles of nurses is NOT to judge. Treat compassionately and try not to judge. Easier said than done.



169 Posts


I vowed never to take care of kids. Not because of the kids, but because of the parents. It was a full semester clinical and I could write a number of terrible stories about apathy, neglect, and downright abuse. I knew that I would never be able to keep my mouth shut and so I needed to work with adults to maintain my own sanity.

THIS. Exactly how I felt too.