The Coolest Job
Working as a labor and delivery nurse is the coolest job ever. I can’t imagine doing anything else, except for writing. And right now I’m writing about being a labor and delivery nurse – life is good.
Nearly 34 years ago, I was a patient on the labor & delivery unit where I now work. It wasn’t an easy delivery. I developed preeclampsia and had labor induced. I was scared, in pain, and worried about my baby, who had the nerve to be in a posterior position (can you say “back labor?”). No epidurals back then. Throughout it all, my nurse stayed with me, cheering me on, making me comfortable, distracting me from the pain, and providing emotional support. And as she predicted, the moment the baby was in my arms the trauma was wiped from my memory.
The birth of my first child resulted in an epiphany: I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse. I wanted to do all the things I saw my nurse do that day, and more. There was only one problem. I wasn’t a nurse. I was health claim consultant for a large and prominent insurance company. My college courses were in business, not science. I had a long road ahead if I wanted to do this.
It took me six years and two more kids to finish the prerequisite science classes and nursing school, but I did it. I graduated when my third child was 13 days old. A year later, I landed my dream job as a labor and delivery nurse at a level III perinatal center. I’m still there.
Working in a level III perinatal center means we see many complicated cases in addition to normal deliveries, mothers, and babies. Until I worked in labor and delivery, I had no idea how many kinds of maternal and/or fetal complications there could be. No case is the same, and I learn something new every day from my colleagues and patients.
I’ve been asked if I get bored doing the same job year after year. The answer is no – because every day is different, every delivery is different, every patient is different, and every family is different. There are vaginal deliveries, c-section deliveries, and a host of variations and complications including fetal distress, precipitous deliveries, shoulder dystocia, preeclampsia, hemorrhage, maternal comorbidities (diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, etc.), premature deliveries, and stillborn infants, to name a few.
“Your job must be so much fun” I’ve heard many times. Yes, and then no. There’s more to it than that. It isn’t always a happy place. Labor and delivery has highs and lows like everything else in life. Sometimes bad things happen despite best efforts to avoid them. There are no words to describe the pure joy of handing a newborn to mom for the first time, no words to describe the wonder in her eyes when the baby latches on to the breast. There are no words to describe the deep sorrow when you can’t find a fetal heart rate, or when you hand a stillborn infant to mom. I’m constantly reminded of how precious life is, and how easily it can be taken away.
You can’t have, or appreciate, the highs without the lows. But no matter the outcome, I want – need – to be there for the families I serve. Being a labor and delivery nurse and witnessing the creation of new families is an honor and privilege. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s the coolest job ever.