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Brighton Mom Preps for Baby

Labor and delivery can be made a little simpler by thinking ahead.

With a little less than two months until my due date, my pregnant-woman focus has switched from managing pregnancy to preparing for birth.

The first time around, 36 hours passed between the first signs of labor and the actual birth of my son. It wasn't a difficult labor, but I stalled it by hanging on to my fear of becoming a mother and my lack of knowledge about how to birth a baby. My contractions actually slowed and lessened in intensity as the hours went by. As soon I expressed my worries out loud to my husband and midwife, my contractions increased in duration, frequency and intensity and my son was born two hours later.

Now that I'm already a mother and know how to push, I know that I'll be more confident this time around. Still, I want to be sure to have everything I need at my disposal. Besides, it's always best to be prepared. Aside from the obvious items—an infant car seat, clothing for the baby, an overnight bag—here's a list of my top-three labor and delivery necessities.

1. A birth plan. 

That's right, ladies. You have choices. And because you'll likely be preoccupied during labor, it's best to write down your preferences in the months and weeks leading up to delivery and to give a copy of the list to your nurse upon arrival at the hospital or birth center. Your specifications can include everything from which type of pain management you prefer (massage, hydrotherapy, epidural) to who should cut the cord. Don't be afraid to be picky! My birth plan included requests that the lights be kept low, that exams be minimal and that I be allowed to wear my own clothing.

2. A clear, open mind.

During my first pregnancy, I spent a good amount of time preparing my body for birth. I remained as active as ever—hiking, shoveling snow—and I was pretty good about doing yoga at least five times a week. When I went into labor, I felt stronger than ever and I expected my son to be born within hours. Little did I know, my mind was weak. I'm certain that my labor would have followed a more normal progression if I had prepared my mind and resolved my fears before going into labor.

3. A loving, supportive birth partner.

In addition to loving and supporting you unconditionally, be sure that your birth partner is capable of seeing you in pain, handling your shifts in mood and making any decisions that might need to be made during labor and delivery.

Speaking of your birth partner, whether it's your husband, mom or best friend, they should also think ahead. I asked my husband, who is an awesome birth partner, what his top-three birth partner necessities are. Here's his list.

  • Directions: Be specific. Know how to get to the hospital, where to park and where to go from there. Consider alternate routes as well. My husband was so excited when we left for the hospital that he took a couple wrong turns. Because he had looked at a map beforehand, we were back on track in no time.
  • A survival kit: There might not be time to visit the cafeteria or even the snack machine, so bring a supply of snacks, caffeine and pain reliever. A set or two of comfy clothes will come in handy too.
  • Contact information for family and friends: Once you see the new bundle of joy and settle in for a little rest, you'll want to spread the word to family and friends. Make a list beforehand and be sure to include everyone. Great Aunt Margaret might not forgive you if you forget to call.
Stacey Jamison November 05, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Great comments. I think expecting mothers should know that not all hospitals are willing to take birth plans like that. If you have a birth plan in mind that varies from the medical norm, make sure you find out from your doctor before you get pregnant and decide to deliver with that person. I switched doctors (and to a midwife actually) before my pregnancy for that very reason. One of the best things you can do for yourself is make sure your doctor/midwife is on the same page as you.
Diane Dengate November 05, 2011 at 09:18 PM
I have been a labor and delivery nurse for 23 years, and taught childbirth ed. Personally I have given birth twice with no pain meds with a midwife, and breastfed for two and a half years. I wish to give some clarification. A "birth plan" should be simple - I want to go home with a healthy baby and be healthy. That is the plan. If you go to a restaurant you order your meal, you don't tell them how to make it. If you go to a store, you design your outfit, not how the cloth is made or how it is put together. You go to a hospital to get the expertise of the medical people there. If you don't trust them, go elsewhere. If your plan is specific- no pain meds, no internal monitors, my partner will cut the cord etc, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Birth is wonderful, joyous, mind-blowing and totally unpredictable. If you come in with a set criteria, you are destined to have a sense of failure and frustration if your birth doesn't follow your plan. Children leave us very little control, and it starts at birth.
Tina DeBord November 05, 2011 at 11:37 PM
That's interesting, Diane. My birth plan, which was detailed and specific and recommended by my childbirth instructor, allowed for me, my husband, my midwife, and my nurse to be on the same page from the get go. I was able to focus on the task at hand without any interruptions. Everything dind't go according to plan--I gave birth in a bed instead if a tub, I wore a hospital gown, and my husband was not able to cut the cord--and I wasn't disappointed at all. I understand, as I'm sure most women do, we can't predetermine all of the factors associated with giving birth. But I strongly believe women should educate themselves about the choices that are available to them, that they organize their choices before giving birth, and that they share their choices with everyone involved in their birthing experience. A birth plan is the best way to do so. That said, as you pointed out Diane, women should also understand that birth plans are subject to changes that are out of their control.
Guy Fawkes November 06, 2011 at 12:22 AM
We delivered all but our first of four at home. Doctors in birthing centers are idiots. If you can peel them away from the golf course long enough to actually give a crap about the mother ... they're more interested in ripping the baby out with forceps than letting nature be nature.
Diane Dengate November 06, 2011 at 12:50 AM
Tina, you are the perfect person to have a birth plan. You are absolutely correct that a birth plan really helps some women relax and let labor happen knowing that those around them know what they want and ensure it happens whenever possible. But also, not being disappointed or angry when things don't go as planned. Birth is such a wondrous and spontaneous action. It is a gift every time to be a part of it and a part of what people experience. Unfortunately for some women they are not as spontaneous, and are disappointed with themselves if they planned to give birth without meds and instead took them, or if there is a problem with the baby and they end up with interventions that they didn't want. I am glad it worked so well for you. I would wish the same for all women.

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