In my experience, your labor and delivery nurse is pretty central to your birth experience. In fact, they can make or break it. A good one can help with pain, answer questions, and put you at ease, but a bad one? Well, they can make things so much worse. L&D nurses are also the keepers of the information about things like what you can and can't do, can and can't eat, and when you can get a damn epidural. So there are a ton of questions every mom wants to ask her labor and delivery nurse, and the majority can feel a tad too inappropriate to ask someone you've just met. I mean, your nurse is already going to see you at your worst and most vulnerable, and when you very well might be naked, exposed, and/or covered in bodily fluids, so why add insult to injury, right?
If you do keep these particular questions to yourself, you'll probably end up wondering (between contractions, and if you're not too exhausted to think) things like if you can have a snack (sometimes), if they can do anything to help you poop before you start pushing (like, please, I'm desperate), or when the damned anesthesiologist will get there so you can get an epidural and some reprieve (soon, I hope). You might worry that your nurse is secretly judging you, too. I mean, they have seen a ton of people give birth. What if you disappoint them? Or do it all wrong? Or can't "handle it" like other women?
If you are anything like me (and have no shame), you eventually decide to go for it and ask whatever the hell is on your mind. I mean, once someone sees you naked and covered in your own vomit, there's probably not much you can say that will catch them off guard. Besides, if you don't ask, you won't know, right?
"Can I Have A Snack?"
The first time I was in labor I was terrified of doing anything wrong. So even though I was starving and hadn't eaten in more than 24 hours, I was sure if I ate anything the nurse would catch me. I am not sure what I thought would happen if they did, but I didn't want to find out. The second time I was in labor, I threw caution to the wind and asked for some damn food. She sent my husband for some breakfast and told me I should eat to have strength for the work that was to come.
"Can You Help Me Use The Bathroom?"
The first time I had a baby I was totally shy about asking for help to the bathroom before and after giving birth. The last time, I am pretty sure the nurses flipped a coin whenever they saw my call light. Seriously, though, when you are in labor and postpartum, there's no shame in asking for help from the nursing staff when you need it. You are a patient, too.
"Will You Think Less Of Me If I Get An Epidural?"
I don't know why I was worried about what my nurses would think of me if I got an epidural. I mean, they were not the ones who had to give birth, and it wasn't as if I would ever see them again once my baby was born and we were able to leave the hospital. I wish laboring women weren't made to feel like they shouldn't get the pain-relief they need, because they will be shamed.
"Did I Poop On The Table?"
After I got an epidural, I was seriously worried about pooping on the table and not feeling it. Hell, I had never even pooped in front of my husband, let alone a room full of strangers and my husband. I wanted to claim as much modesty as possible. I asked, she looked, and there was, thankfully, no poop.
"Can I Do This?"
There have been moments during each of my three labors when I was sure I wouldn't be able to continue or was going to fail in some way. At times, experiences with nurses made me feel strong, but at other times, they totally made me question my strength and abilities.
"Can I Have A Suppository?"
When I gave birth the last time I hadn't pooped in three days, due to medications I had been on in the hospital and pregnancy constipation. I was so uncomfortable, but also so nervous about asking for help. When I finally did, it was NBD. I wish I would have asked sooner.
"Can You Leave Me Alone?"
It seems like you get a visit from your labor and delivery nurse every 30 minutes, day and night, and often when you are trying to get some damn sleep. Eventually, I just wanted to be left alone. I know they were just trying to do their jobs, but seriously. Leave me alone.
"Can You Get Me A Mirror?"
The first time I delivered a baby the nurses offered to bring in a mirror, so I could watch my baby be born and to help me push. I loved it, and thought it was commonplace. So, I was so surprised when the labor and delivery nurse looked at me like I had grown horns when I asked for one during my next labor. The experience threw me so much that this last time around, I didn't ask. I totally wish I had.
"Can You Lay Off About Breastfeeding?"
I was terrified about giving birth at a so-called "baby-friendly" hospital. I had horrible experiences with nurses touching my breasts without my permission and forcing me to sign a release to give my son formula. As a mom with undersupply, I knew I needed to supplement, and I deserved to be able to do so without comments, pressure, or questions about it. My body, my choice. So, my husband wrote, "We will be supplementing with formula and request no lactation support" on the whiteboard, and I asked my nurses to respect my wishes, even though I shouldn't have had to.
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