Nursing Birth

One Labor & Delivery Nurse’s View From the Inside

NursingBirth is BORN! February 6, 2009

But to be born, one must first be concieved.  Let me start from the beginning…


My name is Melissa and I am a registered professional labor and delivery nurse at a hospital based, high-risk labor and delivery unit in the North East.  As a feminist and lover of women’s studies, I have always been interested in women’s health issues and after a year in the microbiology/pre-med program during my undergraduate education, I came to realize that not a career in medicine, but a career in nursing would afford me opportunities to work with and professionally advocate for women and women’s issues.  


Almost immediately, becoming a labor and delivery nurse became my goal and after a year of working in medical surgical nursing post-graduation, I finally was hired for a full time position in labor & delivery.  It was there that I  truly cultivated my passion for perinatal nursing; I feel that supporting a mother and her partner through the labor process and assisting in the birth of a new life is both a privilege and an honor and is very empowering to all involved.  I thought that being a labor and delivery nurse would afford me these opportunities; however, I am coming to realize more and more clearly that the state of maternity care in the United States is in a crisis and I find myself growing more dissatisfied, frustrated, and unhappy with my role in the current system.


Despite basic good intentions, the current system of hospital based maternity care as the “only legitimate and safe” option has not lived up to my expectations of providing me with the opportunity to support families through a natural birth process.  In my opinion, many hospitals’ stellar reputations for managing high risk pregnancies and deliveries almost plague their ability to appropriately manage low risk births without unnecessary interventions, including but not limited to, the inappropriate use of labor induction and augmentation and unnecessary primary and repeat cesarean sections.  There is a pervasive culture among attending obstetricians and their protégé (i.e. residency staffs of budding physicians) that pregnancy is a disease and labor is a complication that must be aggressively managed and remedied within arbitrary time limits.  Even more discouraging is that after almost two years of working in a hospital, I have come to realize that as a labor and delivery nurse, I am at the end of the line when it comes to making an impression on how couples prepare for and view their impending birth experience and in consequence, began to feel almost powerless in my ability to affect a positive change in the current birth culture and practice in this country.


More so than not, the labor & delivery nurses I work with enjoy providing labor support to couples during childbirth, however I have found that hospital culture, including the never-ending paperwork, defensive charting, shift changes, wild fluctuations in how many patients we can be responsible for at one time, and the pressure to get patients “in and out” is crippling to those of us who desire a better way!  Moreover, understanding that natural childbirth is not necessarily something every woman desires, those that do are almost bullied into changing or abandoning their birth plans with the use of fear tactics, unnecessary intervention, and an invasive medical model that pushes women towards analgesia and anesthetics.  What is even more upsetting is that women are not being properly educated about their rights and options from the very OBGYN providers with whom they have placed their trust and safety in the hands of.  In my opinion, the criteria for informed consent are often not met and informed refusal is not given as an option. 


I began to wonder, “Am I alone in this?”  And then I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born and realized I was far from alone.  My goal in starting this blog is to get the word out there that things NEED to change for both the safety and welfare of our mothers and babies!  I also want the birth advocacy community to know that there are nurses out there that are on your side!   The time is NOW!  I hope my blog will include ramblings of my day to day life as a labor and delivery nurse, resources for birth advocacy and tips for becoming involved in the cause, book reviews, commentary on current events, new perspectives on past experiences, and thoughts towards change!


So why “NursingBirth?”  Since I am married to a linguist who enjoys word play, I have decided to play a little bit with words of my own.  Although I do not feel that birth is broken (despite what some obstetricians might tell you), I do feel like the current state of maternity care in America IS broken and hence needs to be nursed back to health.  I am also a nurse and hence, nursing is what I do.  Also, nursing is also used to refer to breastfeeding (another thing I feel needs to be advocated for and supported) and natural birth needs to be nourished and supported, which is exactly what nursing does for a baby!


So after hours of “pushing,” NursingBirth is born!  And I didn’t even need any stitches!


14 Responses to “NursingBirth is BORN!”

  1. MM Says:

    Melissa, I think I love you. Keep up the great writing, keep up the great work, and most of all—keep the faith.

    I told my ICAN sisters that if you had been my nurse for my first baby none of them would know my name. And that is the truth.

    Thank you, from the bottom of this broken and scarred heart.

    • nursingbirth Says:

      MM, by golly I think I am in love too! You really just made my whole day! I wish there were more VBAC moms like you out there! Thanks for being a fan and please keep the comments coming! I’d love to hear your ideas!

  2. atyourcervix Says:

    I am so glad to have found you – another nurse who thinks like I do 🙂 I’ve also been blogging – for about 3 years now – about various things I’ve come across in L&D.

    Welcome to the blogger world!

  3. D Says:

    Wow, so glad I found you! I am on my way to becoming an RN and a CNM (eventually) and have been concerned about being able to work in L&D without losing my mind – your blog might help me to do this! It’s great to find other bloggers/RNs out there that share these thoughts and want to make a difference. Keep up the work!

  4. […] my role in the current maternity care system in America.  The day I wrote my very first post, NursingBirth is BORN!, was only one week after I almost up and quit my job after I had witnessed a very traumatic assault […]

  5. Nicole Says:

    Hey There…this is a GREAT blog and I will be back daily. It is great to know that there are other’s in the hospital who have not given up on women. I started my career in a “high risk” tertiary care center before going to midwifery school. Working as a midwife is often a hard road and so I have mostly found myself continuing to be a labor nurse with growing frustration. I actually QUIT working as a nurse for about a year because I could not stand what was happening and actually thought I no longer enjoyed labor and delivery. Fortunately… I ventured into travel nursing and found a few hospitals across the country that believe birth is normal and know women should be in control of it. It was during these experiences that I realzied its not that I dont/didnt like labor and delivery nursing, I just really HATED how it was being practiced at the hospital where I was working. I am so happy I was able to see things differently. I too started a blog this year with similar goals. ( I am so happy to have nurses out there like you representing US!!!

    In Birth and Love

    • nursingbirth Says:

      Nicole, I feel like you have read my mind!!! It is so nice to know I am not alone as an RN who is frustrated with the system! I can’t wait to check out your blog especially because your career path went in the same direction as I hope to take mine…L&D nurse to midwife. My husband is currently in graduate school and has about two more years left. My goal is to go to midwifery school when he’s finished his program. I am trying to take every experience I have right now, the good, bad, and ugly, and remind myself that it is all vital experience that will one day (hopefully) help me to become the best midwife I can be. Thanks for reading!

  6. Holly Says:

    Wow! What a fantastic blog! I stumbled upon it this evening and now have read almost all of your posts. You present so much important information and in such an engaging way. I’m due with my first in the fall, and you have given me much to consider. I’m looking forward to reading more!

  7. Anna Says:

    I’ve just come across your blog and took some time over the past few days to read every post so far.
    As an RN student who thought I wanted to work L&D for such a long time, I, too, was beginning to be discouraged at the state of maternity care (I’m in Canada but things don’t seem to be so different here). Reading your blog has reminded me about my passion for women’s health and desire to advocate for a better birth experience for our patients. You’ve made me reconsider my decision to stay away from a career with childbearing women simply because the norm is so skewed.
    Rock on. (And I LOVE the Don’t Let this Happen to You series)

  8. Alethea Says:


    Thanks to Rixa’s blog I have now found yours as well. I am also an LD nurse who believes that the current state of maternal and child health is disparaging. I have been an LD nurse for 8 years and have gone through cycles of feeling burned out, motivated to be an agent of change, discouraged, re motivated by a particular birth I was involved in, and on and on. When I think about it is much like a contraction pattern. Periods of rest, contentedness and love for myself and the work that I do, followed by periods where I need to be encouraged, find inner strength and sometime struggle against the pain of feeling helpless. In your first post you stated “…I am at the end of the line when it comes to making an impression on how couples prepare for and view their impending birth experience and in consequence, began to feel almost powerless in my ability to affect a positive change in the current birth culture and practice in this country.” This has also been a huge frustration for me in my career. Especially as someone with the heart of a warrior who strongly believes in advocacy and personal choice in all areas of life. I recently attended the Level I training for Birthing From Within in and felt as though life and energy has been blown back into what was becoming an empty shell of a nurse. I will beginning teaching holistic childbirth preparation classes through the Birthing From Within program this month and am so excited that I might be able to affect that positive change in the birth culture that you refer to. Every person’s path is different, but I strongly encourage you to check out the program. It has been life changing for me in both my professional and personal life. I honor and thank you for the work that you do with women and their families, and I look forward to continuing to read your blog.


  9. Tanya Says:

    I am so happy to have found your blog and story. I mean I literally just breathed a huge breath of equal relief and hope!

    Ever since I minored in Women’s Studies, I have been passionate about health care of women. At the time I was a Nursing major, however somehow ended up graduating with a Philosophy degree, intending to start graduate school and study Public Health or some similar faucet. Then was sidetracked when I ended up traveling the world as a Flight Attendant. I did end up on a layover in Washington DC one time smack during the middle of the March for Womens Lives at the National Mall. It was a experience of a lifetime that only enhanced my desire to work with women.

    Long story short, post September 11th, I ended up working in Pharmaceuticals and I will just say I am unhappy, and as many do feel that our availability of care in the traditional medical setting is lacking, especially toward women. I have seen a lot! So, I have decided to go back to Nursing School and hopefully pursue some more holistic route. I believe, there can only be HUGE benefits if the naturopathic/holistic communities could come together with the modern medicine communities. If nothing else, I want to be the nurse that they come get when someone who wants a natural birth if forced or chooses a hospital delivery.

    I would have never dreamed that in the 8 years since I sat in that “History of Midwifery” class in college, it would still be illegal in my state!

    • NursingBirth Says:

      Tanya, WELCOME!! I am facinated by your academic and career history and am so excited you have found you way back to nursing! You bring a lot to the table with all that experience and education! You will be truly an asset to your colleagues and patients!! Thanks for reading!

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