I had an awful, no good, horrible experience with a nurse during a birth over the weekend. I’ve never encountered anything like it. Nurses are usually so wonderful. I don’t know the back story. Maybe this nurse had a bad experience with a doula.
We had been laboring at the hospital through the night for 12 hours when shift change happened. My client didn’t get a great vibe from new nurse (and really didn’t like her perfume) but we had no idea how bad the vibe would get. New nurse came in after a few hours and said “you’re not in real labor, you know. You know such and such (interventions) will be necessary. It isn’t looking good.” What? Who tells a woman who has labored for 12 hours that she isn’t in labor?
Now part of my job as a doula is to maintain a protective bubble around the mom so she can do the work of birth. I don’t normally speak on my client’s behalf or interrupt medical professionals. But these words were, in my opinion, really harmful to the current scene. Normally, nurses do not “diagnose” like this. Especially when they’ve just arrived and haven’t even gotten to know their patient.
So I jumped in with “we really want to hear positive words right now. [Client] has been doing so great! And she had a wonderful labor pattern going when she was able to be out of the bed. Maybe if we could sit by the bed again?” (client’s doctor had asked her to remain in bed for a while).
New nurse: “How long have you been doing this?”
Oh my. Me (with a smile): “I don’t think that is relevant.”
New nurse: “No, how long have you been doing this?”
Me: “3 years.”
New nurse: “Well, I’ve been doing this 15 years. And what is your medical background?”
Me: “I don’t have a medical background. I’m not in a medical profession. Look, I’m not challenging you. I totally respect you. We don’t need to bring this tension into the room.” Keep in mind, we are having this conversation right in front of the laboring mom, her husband, and her mother!
New nurse said a few words I don’t remember and left the room without speaking to the laboring mom. Suddenly everyone is tense. The mom is upset. I’m apologizing to everyone for what just happened–utterly mortified.
Soon after, new nurse came in and abruptly said to the mom, “You need to decide who will stay with you during delivery. This room has one person too many.” First, this is the same nurse who said the mom wasn’t in “real labor.” Why is she worried about delivery, then? Second, the mom chose this particular hospital because they permit 3 people in the room during delivery. Immediately the mom is more upset because the nurse is contradicting the policy mom was told during the hospital tour and by her doctors. New nurse is “really sorry she was told that.”
At that point, the dad stepped in and became even more of a hero (he’d already shown his superhero skills overnight). He went to the charge nurse and told her that their nurse had an odor that was making his wife sick. They needed a new nurse. And guess what? Our new nurse was FABULOUS!
For the record, doulas are not medical caregivers. But we do know a thing or two about childbirth (which many of us do not view as a medical event anyway). We usually have a few tricks for labor progression or comfort. And we are awfully concerned with the emotional climate surrounding our clients. That is our job.
My friend, Laura Clay, would have said, “New nurse, it is obvious you did not graduate from the College of Good Customer Service.”