I’m thrilled to announce that I am soon to become a first time grandma. It’s been 27 years since my youngest child was born and the learning curve, for me, has been steep. Who knew that babies preferred to have their wipes warmed? Luckily, there is now a gadget you can buy for just that very thing. In fact, there are gadgets for nearly everything a baby may, or may not, need. Fortunately, one or two of them cost less than $100, which is good news, since the stroller will now likely set the young parents back anywhere from $500 to $900. The other good news is that new mums no longer need to pay for expensive gym memberships to lose that baby fat because merely lifting that monster of a stroller into and out of the car will have them toned and fit in no time.
As the mother of two, and a nurse who worked for more than a few years in an OB clinic, I expected that my pregnant daughter might occasionally seek my advice. We have had many interesting conversations about the need for a dula, who to have in the delivery room and how to select a hospital for the delivery. However, with her due date a mere four weeks away, I was caught unprepared when she recently asked my advice on what gifts to bring to the hospital for the nurses.
“You’re bringing gifts with you for the nurses?” I asked, not sure that I had heard her correctly. For some odd reason, I envisioned missionaries arriving in a village of thatched huts, handing out trinkets to the natives.
“Yeah, I’ve been reading that I should bring them something, like home baked chocolate chip cookies. Or maybe goodie bags with scented soap… lotion… chap stick.
“Chap stick?” I asked. “Why would a nurse need chap stick?”
“Beats me. That’s why I thought I’d better ask you.
On some level, I suppose this made sense. After all, my daughter is of the generation that never attended a birthday party without being handed a goodie bag to ease the sting of having to sit and watch the birthday girl open all of those great presents. Competition was stiff in my little corner of suburbia to come up with the most coveted goodie bags. Years later, when she and her friends became brides, the pressure was on to assemble the most creative goodie bags to give to out-of-town wedding guests. Yes, my generation had spawned a generation with high goodie bag expectations. But goodie bags for nurses? Was it just nurses or did they also give goodie bags to other professionals, like accountants? Or lawyers? Who thinks up this stuff?
“Actually, I think I would feel insulted if a patient arrived handing out goodie bags,” I said.
“Really? Why? I thought I was supposed to give them something to thank them.”
She sounded surprised and maybe just a bit hurt. Her heart was in the right place. She just wanted to do the right thing.
“If you want to give your nurse a box of chocolates, or cookies, to thank her when you are going home, that’s one thing. But, if you give it when you arrive, it isn’t a thank you, it’s more like a bribe. Like slipping the head waiter a $20 to get a table by the window. If you want to say thank you, you should probably wait until you have something to thank her for.”
Curious to see if this gift giving was indeed the new norm, I did an online search later that evening on Gifts for L&D Nurses. I was amazed to find entire chat rooms devoted to this very topic. The more I read, the more bizarre it became.
One chat room post recommended setting out a large bowl of candy in your labor room to attract the nurses. The theory being the better the candy, the more often the nurses will stop in to check on you. Imagine, if you will, the start of a shift as nurses get their assignments for the day:
“I want the patient in room 204,” says Nurse Jackie. “I heard she has Godiva chocolate.”
“Now Jackie,” says the charge nurse, “you know that Lauren has more seniority than you and she already claimed room 204. You’ve been assigned the patient in room 206.”
“But all she has are LifeSavers and apples,” whines Nurse Jackie. “It’s not fair. I never get the Godiva patients.”
“New grads never get first pick,” says the charge nurse. “We’ve all had to pay our dues. You’ll be the senior nurse someday and then you can have your pick of candy, um, I mean, patients.”
Let me be clear on this. Nurses are, for the most part, highly trained professionals who are there to provide skilled nursing care as needed. L&D nurses are a unique breed who chose that specialty because they love what they do. They take great pride in their work. They do not need to be bribed with M&M’s and Kit Kats.
The next post said that nurses won’t eat home baked cookies because they don’t know how they were prepared. That one really made me laugh. Nurses eat birthday cake out of emesis basins with wooden tongue blades for spoons. When it comes to pizza, we follow the 24 hour rule. Unless the pizza was sitting out on the counter when you went home the previous day, it is still considered safe to eat when you are too busy to get to the cafeteria. Nurses have cast iron stomachs and will eat nearly anything but, once again, make sure it’s a gesture of thanks and not a thinly veiled bribe.
Speaking of chocolate chip cookies… 0ne clever, laboring mum claimed to have arrived at the hospital bearing warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookies. Now, THAT is impressive. How did she coordinate the timing? Did she put the cookies in the oven right when her water broke? Or did she wait until her contractions were less than ten, but more than five, minutes apart?
My advice for expectant parents is not to arrive at the hospital bearing gifts. It is not necessary. Your nurse will give you her best effort because that is what nurses do. Sure, everyone likes to know they are appreciated. If you really want to make your nurse feel appreciated, look her in the eye, maybe give her a hug, and tell her, in all sincerity, how much her care meant to you and what a difference she made. The best days I ever had in my nursing career were the days I dragged my tired body out to my car at the end of a long shift, exhausted, but knowing that I had made a difference.
That said, I might add that chocolate is still the universal sign of love. You can never go wrong with a sincerely expressed thank you, post-delivery, wraped up in a box of chocolates. Nurses do love their sugar rush.