What Labor and Delivery Nurses Wish You Knew

The real lowdown from the pros.


Published:

Every first-time mom-to-be has similar questions: What do I bring to the hospital? Should I use a doula or midwife? What can I do to prepare for labor? How long will it take?

Advice from mothers, sisters, friends and complete strangers often is plentiful, but the real lowdown from the pros is the most helpful. We asked a labor-and-delivery nurse, a mother-baby nurse and a certified nurse midwife for advice. Here's what you should know before your bundle of joy arrives.
 

Take Classes

Childbirth-preparation classes are best taken at 30-32 weeks, because the weekly meetings give parents the opportunity to ask questions of labor-and-delivery nurses, as well as take questions back to their doctor if necessary.

"They give lots of information to prepare parents and help them make sound decisions," says HoYu Pan, a labor-and-delivery nurse at Duke Birthing Center in Durham. Depending on the location, the classes also may include a tour of the hospital facilities so new parents can see where they'll be admitted and where they'll stay. Some hospitals offer virtual tours so parents can learn about the admission process, making it will be easier for them when they arrive.

"A lot of women don't have a clue as to how (parenthood) might change them, and younger people aren't aware of how a baby is going to totally change their lives," says Deb O'Connell, a certified nurse midwife and owner of Carrboro Midwifery. "A parenting class is worth the money."
 

Make a Packing List

What do you bring with you? Your own pillow(s) might be at the top of your list. According to Dana Morris, a labor-and-delivery nurse at Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, people love their own pillows. Either the hospital pillows aren't fluffy enough, or there aren't enough of them.

Excited parents-to-be consistently remember the camera and/or video camera, but they rarely remember both. If you want the first-day handprints and footprints put in the baby book, remember to pack the book in your suitcase. Most hospitals have a first-day photograph service, so make sure you bring that first-photo outfit, too.

Finally, many moms think they need to bring diapers and formula with them, but hospitals have these supplies readily available.
 

Expect to See Many Faces

Be prepared to meet a number of medical personnel while you're at the hospital — during birth and after — including doctors, nurses and anesthesiologists. "There are people coming in and out of the room," says Erin Birkmeyer, a mother/baby nurse at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte. "Parents don't realize how many people are involved in the care of both mom and baby." After the delivery, and depending on the hospital, there may be one nurse for the mother and one for the baby, to make sure both are recovering and healthy. They'll check on you regularly for the first few hours.

Not sure you want to give birth in a hospital? Consider a midwife, either for a home birth or a delivery at a birthing center. "Midwives are the experts in low-risk deliveries," says O'Connell, advising women to educate themselves about their options. "We've been delivering babies for centuries. Most American first-time parents aren't aware of what is out there — hospitals, birth centers, home births — determine which is the most comfortable for you."
 

Ask Questions

Even if you're not planning a natural birth, O'Connell advises parents to interview their health care provider. "Don't be afraid to ask questions. 'How long have you been practicing? What is your rate of C-sections? Do you support natural childbirth? What's your epidural rate, and how experienced are your anesthesiologists at giving them?'"

If you're going to use a midwife, O'Connell suggests you find out if he or she is board certified. Know, too, there is a difference between a certified nurse midwife and a certified professional midwife. Also find out if doulas are allowed at the hospital.
 

Share Your Birth Plan

"If you come in with specific ideas of what you do or don't want during labor — whether it's specific music, a very quiet environment, or if you don't want to be asked if you want pain medicine — we'll read your plan and try to follow it as best as we can," says Morris.

But having a plan doesn't mean you have to stick to it. Every birth is different, and pain levels — and tolerances — vary. It's OK to decide in the middle of labor that you need to make a change to that labor plan. "Just because a mom's decided something initially doesn't mean she can't change her mind," says Morris. "If you can sit still long enough for anesthesia to do their work, you can get an epidural."

However, Pan cautions about getting an epidural too early because it can lead to a longer labor. "People don't realize an early epidural will affect fetus rotation and can extend labor and pushing time. The ideal time would be in the middle of the active stage of labor, around five or six centimeters (dilated). Walking around will help the baby rotate to the proper position and will shorten the second stage of labor."

Once you have an epidural, adds Pan, you're not able to leave the bed, so you can't help the baby rotate, which can lead to complications that could lead to a caesarean section.

Even in the hospital, you can have a midwife or doula with you if you want a natural birth but feel the need for the security of a hospital setting in case something goes wrong.
 

Be Patient — Birth Takes Time

"There are so many TV shows and reality shows about giving birth right now, and it's generally not as fast as it is on TV," says Morris. "(Moms aren't) prepared for the pushing process to take as long as it does. It can take two hours (of pushing) for a first baby."

Pan agrees and goes one step further. "Parents probably don't know that even an induction can be a two-day process. If the cervix isn't ready, mature, it's going to take two days."
 

Get Your Rest

Realize you're going to be tired. "The thing parents don't know at all is that after delivery they'll be up every two hours, even in the hospital, because of breastfeeding," says Pan. "The maximum you'll be able to sleep is three hours at a time."

Birkmeyer encourages Mom and Dad to rest while they can in the hospital. "New parents will have tons of visitors, but when you have so many, you never have time to rest, and (then) you're exhausted and going home. You're going to need a lot of help when you get home. If you have friends and family who can help out or cook a meal, take it."
 

Take Care of Yourself

Guard your health before and after the baby comes. "It usually takes two weeks for a mom to get back to normal, but it takes six weeks for a complete recovery," says Birkmeyer. So after about two weeks, you'll start feeling pretty good again, but your body is still recovering from labor for another month after that.

"A lot of (moms) are not aware of how important the first trimester, even pre-pregnancy, is," said O'Connell. Entering a pregnancy at a healthy weight can make a difference when it comes to hypertension and gestational diabetes. Prenatal vitamins are a must to help keep mom and baby healthy.
 

Welcome Breastfeeding Help

If you're breastfeeding, a lactation specialist will be available to help you while you're in the hospital. Usually you won't meet the lactation specialist until after delivery, but check with your labor-and-delivery nurse, as well. At Forsyth Medical Center, labor-and-delivery nurses are trained to help new moms with the initial feeding.

"The lactation consultant is available for your entire stay, and visits once a day," says Birkmeyer. "Sometimes at first it's kind of difficult. By the time you go home, we'll make sure you're comfortable with it and confident that you're doing it right."

Remember, you've never done this, and neither has your baby. Relax and enjoy this time, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

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More information

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Consists of fun games, movies, recreation, crafts, and more in a family friendly environment.

Cost: $12.50

Where:
Carolina Courts
240 Chestnut Pkwy.
Indian Trail, NC
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Telephone: 704-882-1115
Website »

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Follow the story of Gastonia-based Tony's Ice Cream, enjoy displays of Ice cream production equipment and memorabilia. Museum hours: Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $6-$9, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
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Telephone: 704-806-6900
Website »

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Explore conditions that make life favorable on our planet and throughout the universe. Discover the diversity of life here even as humans embark on the search for life in the universe....

Cost: $6-$10

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Using animatronics and interactive technology, this traveling exhibit enlarges and brings to life the hidden world of insects through a variety of robotic creatures 40 to 120 times their size....

Cost: $10-$20, includes museum admission

Where:
South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais Street, Loading Zone D
Columbia, SC  29214
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Telephone: 803-348-6010
Website »

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Visit the Catawba Village to discover how local American Indians used plants, animals, and even the earth itself to provide for tools, clothing, food and shelter. 10am and 2:30pm.

Cost: $6-$10

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

A continental perspective on wolves today and those that once roamed the Carolina Piedmont. Includes audio and interactive components. Museum hours: Tues., Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $3-$6

Where:
Museum of York county
4621 Mt. Gallant Road
Rock Hill, SC  29732
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Telephone: 803-329-2121
Website »

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Examines the long-standing impact of colonialism on prevailing societal attitudes that define black culture in America. Museum Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $7-$9, children under 5 free

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center
551 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
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Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

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Features dynamic interpretive kiosks, hands-on components, and objects on loan from NASA and the Smithsonian Institution. Museum hours:  Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $6-$10, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
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Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Learn about the myriad of experiences that the Lebanese-Arab immigrants went through traveling to North Carolina. Museum hours: Mon.-Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., Noon-5pm.

Cost: $5-$8, children 5 and under free

Where:
Levine Museum of the New South
200 E. 7th St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
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Telephone: 704-333-1887
Website »

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Explore a gallery of rare instruments, experiment with the science of sound, and rock out with real keyboards, drums and guitars. Museum hours: Mon.-Fri., 9am-4pm; Sat., 10am-6pm; Sun., noon-5pm.

Cost: $12-$15, includes museum admission

Where:
Discovery Place
301 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
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Telephone: 704-372-6261
Website »

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Participate in literacy-related activities including scavenger hunts, hands-on technology use and more.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Beatties Ford Regional Library
2412 Beatties Ford Road
Charlotte, NC
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Telephone: 704-416-3000
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Search for and keep mineral treasures like garnets, topaz, rubies, emeralds and rose quartz in the running water sluice.

Cost: $10-$13, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

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Features a Panthers’ practice capped off with a  fireworks and laser show. Fans will also receive a 2015 team roster photo card with a 2015 schedule. Stadium gates open at 6:30...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bank of America Stadium
800 S. Mint St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
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Website »

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Spend your Friday evening watching a feature film, participating in activities and taking in a musical performance. August 7: "Big Hero 6" and Mr. Nigel August 14:...

Cost: Free

Where:
SouthPark Symphony Park
4400 Sharon Road
Charlotte, NC  28211
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Telephone: 704-364-4411
Website »

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Music and entertainment before the movies. Movies start at Dusk.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Village Park
700 West C Street
Kannapolis, NC
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Telephone: 704-920-4343
Website »

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Watch Herself Rising as they blend storytelling and theater to combine the defining moments of each performers personal life. Rated PG-13.

Cost: $20-$30

Where:
"Blumenthal Performing Arts, Booth Playhouse"
130 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC
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Website »

More information

Discover how early settlers carved a life from the wilderness in the Piedmont of North Carolina in the 18th Century during this outdoor program at the Backcountry Farm. 10am and 2:30pm.

Cost: $6-$9, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Explore conditions that make life favorable on our planet and throughout the universe. Discover the diversity of life here even as humans embark on the search for life in the universe....

Cost: $6-$10

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Follow the story of Gastonia-based Tony's Ice Cream, enjoy displays of Ice cream production equipment and memorabilia. Museum hours: Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $6-$9, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-806-6900
Website »

More information

Examines the long-standing impact of colonialism on prevailing societal attitudes that define black culture in America. Museum Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $7-$9, children under 5 free

Where:
Harvey B. Gantt Center
551 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
View map »


Telephone: 704-547-3700
Website »

More information

Explore a gallery of rare instruments, experiment with the science of sound, and rock out with real keyboards, drums and guitars. Museum hours: Mon.-Fri., 9am-4pm; Sat., 10am-6pm; Sun., noon-5pm.

Cost: $12-$15, includes museum admission

Where:
Discovery Place
301 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
View map »


Telephone: 704-372-6261
Website »

More information

Participate in Octonauts Training Academy and learn what it takes to become a member of the crew. As cadets, master the specialties of their favorite characters across 6 fun zones, meet Kwazii and...

Cost: Starting at $11.95

Where:
Sea Life Aquarium Charlotte-Concord
8111 Concord Mills Blvd.
Concord, NC  28027
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about the myriad of experiences that the Lebanese-Arab immigrants went through traveling to North Carolina. Museum hours: Mon.-Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., Noon-5pm.

Cost: $5-$8, children 5 and under free

Where:
Levine Museum of the New South
200 E. 7th St.
Charlotte, NC  28202
View map »


Telephone: 704-333-1887
Website »

More information

Features dynamic interpretive kiosks, hands-on components, and objects on loan from NASA and the Smithsonian Institution. Museum hours:  Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $6-$10, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

Using animatronics and interactive technology, this traveling exhibit enlarges and brings to life the hidden world of insects through a variety of robotic creatures 40 to 120 times their size....

Cost: $10-$20, includes museum admission

Where:
South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais Street, Loading Zone D
Columbia, SC  29214
View map »


Telephone: 803-348-6010
Website »

More information

A continental perspective on wolves today and those that once roamed the Carolina Piedmont. Includes audio and interactive components. Museum hours: Tues., Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $3-$6

Where:
Museum of York county
4621 Mt. Gallant Road
Rock Hill, SC  29732
View map »


Telephone: 803-329-2121
Website »

More information

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Ride in a five-seat plane. See how people get Internet in the rainforest. Voice demonstrations into the JESUS film. Get an up-close look at Bible translation, and why it relies on practical support...

Cost: $5-$20 for activities

Where:
JAARS
7405 JAARS Road
Waxhaw, NC
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Telephone: 704-843-6130
Website »

More information

An end of summer celebration packed with fun activities for the whole family including music, food and arts and crafts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Rainbow Child Care Center- Ballantyne
7801 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy.
Charlotte, NC  28277
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Website »

More information

Meet the animals that call the nature center home. Discover snakes, lizards, turtles and a learn a few things about them.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Reedy Creek Nature Center
2900 Rocky River Road
Charlotte, NC
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Telephone: 704-432-6459
Website »

More information

Hide your identity using artistic superpower to create the perfect disguise.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Beatties Ford Road Regional Library
2412 Beatties Ford Road
Charlotte, NC
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Telephone: 704-416-3000
Website »

More information

Bring your 20-hour summer reading prize and give your sound some style. Use available art supplies to decorate your speakers and make them your own.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Beatties Ford Road Regional Library
2412 Beatties Ford Road
Charlotte, NC
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Telephone: 704-416-3000
Website »

More information

Children can enjoy favorite stories, songs, and movement activities that support early literacy skills.

Cost: Free.

Where:
ImaginOn: The Joe and Joan Martin Center
300 E. 7th St.
Charlotte, NC
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Telephone: 704-416-4600
Website »

More information

Join the special guest for a fun celebration of books.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Hickory Grove Library
5935 Hickory Grove Road
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-416-4400
Website »

More information

Join a scavenger hunt and find some surprises along the way. Discover what threatened and extinct really mean and how you can help encourage survival amogst these animals. Create your own coloring...

Cost: $3-$5

Where:
Museum of York County
4621 Mt. Gallant Road
Rock Hill, SC
View map »


Telephone: 803-329-2121
Website »

More information

Learn the different ways to start a fire using modern methods and ancient primitive skills.

Cost: Free.

Where:
Reedy Creek Nature Center
2900 Rocky River Road
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-432-6459
Website »

More information

Part of Discovery Places newest exhibition, Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked The World, guests can enjoy a free concert series featuring local artists. From international inspirations of sitar to...

Cost: Free.

Where:
Tryon Street Patio in front of Discovery Place
301 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-372-6261
Website »

More information

"Grab a photo beside the massive five-ton machines, meet the drivers and enjoy all the pre-race festivities."

Cost: $10-$25

Where:
The Dirt Track at Charlotte
5555 Concord Pkwy. S
Concord, NC
View map »


Telephone: 800-455-FANS
Website »

More information

A continental perspective on wolves today and those that once roamed the Carolina Piedmont. Includes audio and interactive components. Museum hours: Tues., Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $3-$6

Where:
Museum of York county
4621 Mt. Gallant Road
Rock Hill, SC  29732
View map »


Telephone: 803-329-2121
Website »

More information

Follow the story of Gastonia-based Tony's Ice Cream, enjoy displays of Ice cream production equipment and memorabilia. Museum hours: Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., 1-5pm.

Cost: $6-$9, includes museum admission

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054
View map »


Telephone: 704-806-6900
Website »

More information

Using animatronics and interactive technology, this traveling exhibit enlarges and brings to life the hidden world of insects through a variety of robotic creatures 40 to 120 times their size....

Cost: $10-$20, includes museum admission

Where:
South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais Street, Loading Zone D
Columbia, SC  29214
View map »


Telephone: 803-348-6010
Website »

More information

Participate in Octonauts Training Academy and learn what it takes to become a member of the crew. As cadets, master the specialties of their favorite characters across 6 fun zones, meet Kwazii and...

Cost: Starting at $11.95

Where:
Sea Life Aquarium Charlotte-Concord
8111 Concord Mills Blvd.
Concord, NC  28027
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore conditions that make life favorable on our planet and throughout the universe. Discover the diversity of life here even as humans embark on the search for life in the universe....

Cost: $6-$10

Where:
The Schiele Museum
1500 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Telephone: 704-866-6900
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

This comprehensive guide covers preschool, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.

Exceptional Child

Children with special needs face unique challenges. Find resources from A-Z in areas of advocacy, education, camps and therapies to support them as they grow.

GPS [Go. Play. See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2015 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.