View From The Maternity Ward Nurses: Catching The Baby
Nurses play an integral part in a hospital delivery. Whether they’re working in labor and delivery, postpartum, or the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the helping hands of these trained nurses help ensure a safe birth. It’s certainly a stressful profession, however, where they must be attentive to each move made, prepared to constantly expect the unexpected. But, past the stress and sometimes sad parts of a maternity nurse's job, is the beauty of getting to watch a mother give birth.
After graduating with her bachelor’s degree last May, Megan is now a Registered Nurse who works in three departments: labor and delivery, postpartum, and the NICU. The number of births she’s present for ranges on a weekly basis but is usually around five. Megan is always happy to see a mother holding her newborn baby, but her primary focus is ensuring that all vitals are in great shape.
"Typically during a 12-hour shift, depending on where I am, I’m always just making sure mom and baby are OK, and that’s my priority.
"I’m usually the person who does the baby nursing over there, so I, when the baby comes out, I make sure the baby’s OK, vital signs are OK, breathing, obviously, as well. You want to have everything ready for both the documentation as well as making sure the baby is OK. You kind of put ABC (airway, breathing, and circulation) as your priority when baby comes out. Usually the baby will go right skin-to-skin with the mom because that helps regulate their temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, glucose levels and then, depending on mom’s feeding choice, we promote that as well.
"In the NICU, it’s a little different than the other departments, because you have the sicker babies and the premature babies, so you’re looking a lot at vital signs, glucose, abnormal blood cultures, putting in IVs, making sure the baby is stable.
"When you’re thrown in there, there are four questions you want to ask: How many weeks is she? How many babies? What kind of fluid does she have (does she have bloody fluid or is it clear)? Are there any other risk factors?
It’s a big transition for baby to come from getting everything they need from inside to having to get everything they need by themselves.
"So, those are the four questions you ask when you’re in delivery as a baby nurse, even if you’re just coming in right at a the delivery because then you know what’s going on with mom and baby. When she’s pushing, you want to look at the fetal monitor, depending on where the baseline heart rate is. You just want to be aware of what’s going on with mom and baby.
"It’s a big transition for baby to come from getting everything they need from inside to having to get everything they need by themselves. You just want to be ready for everything; You want to have all your equipment together, know what’s going on, you want to know if there are any risk factors. You want to know what to expect, but also be aware that you could expect something totally different than what you’re being told.
"It is stressful because you don’t know what you’re going to get. A good part about our unit is that when there are all hands on deck, there are all hands on deck. Everybody’s there; You’re never alone."
Naomi is a Respiratory Therapist based in Albany, New York, who works both in the NICU and labor and delivery. She attends all c-sections and high-risk deliveries, averaging out to about three or four births each day. Despite the stress that sometimes fills the room, she explains that there’s truly nothing as special as getting to see a new mom be introduced to her baby for the first time.
"I usually get there right when she’s crowning when the head is just coming out. [With] c-sections, I’m there when they start. When the baby comes out, I pretty much make sure the baby is breathing OK, and if they need any respiratory help, then I’ll bring them over to the NICU and talk to the doctor. Whatever the doctor decides, we’ll put them on either the ventilator or if they need oxygen. So I’ll set that all up and monitor all of that.
"Usually at c-sections, I’ll always catch the baby. The doctor will hand the baby to me and I’ll bring him over to a warmer where we dry them and arm them up. Sometimes if they come out and they’re not breathing enough or if their color isn’t right, we really make sure to stimulate them. If they have a lot of fluids left over from being in the womb we’ll take some of that out and clear their airway.
Sometimes it can be that something went wrong with the normal delivery so all of a sudden they have to rush her to the operating room, and it can be scary for mom.
"[The stress in the room] depends on if it’s a routine c-section or like a crash emergency c-section. If it’s routine, there’s not more tension. The baby doesn’t go to mom right away and mom is sometimes out of it so it’s usually not quite as emotional as a normal delivery. Emergency c-sections, though, can be scary. Everything happens really quick and sometimes it can be that something went wrong with the normal delivery so all of a sudden they have to rush her to the operating room, and it can be scary for mom. A lot of time they’re crying and that’s a stressful environment because they want to get the baby out as soon as they can.
"You start to feel kind of emotional when you give the baby to mom and see how she’s reacting. It’s very emotional. It’s very heartwarming. No matter how many you see, seeing the mom and dad look at each other when the baby comes out, there’s just nothing like it really. You can just see the bond right away. It’s such a happy moment."
You’ll never forget the birth of your child, but what does everyone else who was there remember? Find out with more from Romper’s look at birth, Stork’s Eye View.