When you give birth, you may find that the one person who provides you with the most care is your labor and delivery nurse. You may get to know her quickly and rely on her intensely. She has an intimate and demanding job -- when she's done it well, many moms feel a token of gratitude is in order, and wish they had thought about it in advance.
Ann Silberman

Critical role
You've planned well in advance and are ready. You have decided on baby names, and purchased the layette. The childbirth classes are completed. The carseat is installed and safety-checked, you have a stash of tiny diapers, gentle soaps and soft blankets. There are meals in the freezer, and your hospital bag is packed. Birth announcements have been ordered, awaiting only the date. The empty crib has stuffed animals inside forlornly waiting for their new charge. You are ready to deliver your child, satisfied that nothing is forgotten.

Or is there?

One thing that many new mothers never think of, and later wish they hadn't overlooked, is a small remembrance for their labor and delivery nurse. Even more than the doctor, she is the person will play a critical role at the most important time of your life.

Since many hospitals have one-to-one patient/nurse care, you may find that your nurse will be with you throughout your labor. She will start your IV, check your vital signs, and interpret the monitor strip to ensure your baby's continued health. She performs cervical checks, gives pain medication or calls the anesthesiologist if necessary. She is the conduit between you and your OB, providing status reports and calling him when the time is close.

More importantly, she may also provide comfort measures, such as rubbing an aching back, fluffing pillows or bringing cool cloths for a sweaty head. She will quench thirst by bringing broth, ice or popsicles. She coaches on breathing techniques, or holds quivering legs to help in pushing. She may even reassure a nervous father-to-be and will answer questions for the waiting family. These nurses provide emotional support for all involved, and you get to know them quickly and rely on them intensely. And, after the baby is born, more likely than not, it is she who will take pictures of you, your husband and baby for posterity.

It's an intimate and demanding job, and many moms feel a token of gratitude is in order, and wish they had thought about it in advance.

Small gifts and missed opportunities
One such mother is Ellen Armijo. She describes the birth of her son Aaron as a wonderful experience, due in large part to her nurses. She says regretfully, "I really do wish that I had thought to get them something."

William Homer and his wife Karen also have fond memories and wanted to commemorate them. "We really liked our nurse," he says, "and because we were all dog lovers, we bought her a canine-themed picture frame."Unfortunately, they hadn't planned in advance. "When we brought it to the hospital, she was off-shift and before we saw her we were moved to a regular room and never saw her again." The frame is now in their living room.

Frances Love did a bit better, "The nurses that night were just living dolls." She was so impressed with the care she received when her daughter Emily was born, she said, "I sent (husband) Raymond and my mom to put together a gift bag for each of the two night nurses." Earlier the nurses had complained about the coffee, and Frances noticed. "I had mom pick up some good coffee singles, chocolate and Pepperidge Farm cookies. She also picked up a potted plant and put it on the front desk as a gift for the floor."

What really matters
Just what is an appropriate thank you for those who take good care of you? Most labor and delivery nurses agree -- a fancy gift is unnecessary. Chocolates are nice, home-baked cookies or a small plant are all welcomed. Lauri Santin, a labor and delivery nurse at Immanuel St. Joseph's Mayo Health System Hospital says in her experience, "Gifts are usually sent to the entire floor. They are usually edible too."

But, most nurses will agree that the best gift of all is a simple "thank you" and the opportunity see the baby again. Maggie Richards, an agency nurse with Progressive Nursing Staffers echoes this sentiment. "Granted, most parents will bring stuff like chocolate at Christmas which is nice. But the best thing is when they either bring their babies back in or send pictures of them." She continues, "It would just be nice for the families to say 'thanks' when they leave, that's all we want."

Mary Wehrer, a labor and delivery nurse for the Air Force at Wilford Hall Medical Center concurs. "I have gotten a card, and some lovely shower gel/lotion, but what really works best is to see my name mentioned on the little questionnaires the Air Force hands out to everyone. Or to run into a couple with their baby somewhere -- and have them remember me."

Doctors get the glory and the big paychecks to go along with the pictures to put on their bulletin boards. Nurses usually toil in a demanding job, giving exceptional medical care and calming emotional support. A token of your gratitude can be as simple as a thank you card or a box of candy. Better yet, take down names and write a note to the supervisor complimenting the care your received from your nurse. And, whatever you do, don't forget to include a picture of the baby!PregnancyAndBaby.com

Tags: nurse

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