Having a baby, whether it’s your first or fifth, is an exciting and anxious time. Baby birthing confuses many parents, as the information out there can be very conflicting. Most expectant parents focus on details pertaining to once the baby is here, like what outfit to bring them home from the hospital in, whether or not to co-sleep, and how your daily schedule will change. But there’s a middle step people often don’t put enough thought into, the actual birth of your child. Childbirth is truly a transformative event and, despite the way movies and television often portray it, a natural process is not to be feared. Unfortunately many women enter the labor and delivery room with little knowledge of what to expect from their hospital and their own bodies. That’s why putting a great deal of care into planning your birth is important!
Know your options. Make priorities. Write it down
First and foremost, know that you DO have a say in how your baby’s birth will go. Sure, unexpected circumstances may arise but by making a list of your hopes and expectations you can at least rest easy knowing that when labor starts, you have a clear-cut game plan for which to strive. There are a lot of options out there, not just what one doctor recommends, and while the breadth of information can be daunting at first, learning as much as you can will ensure that you don’t wind up wishing things had gone differently or that you’d known more before going into labor. Some things to think about include:
- Where will your baby be born? Hospital? Birthing Center? Home?
- Who do you want in the delivery room? Husband? Mother?
- Will you have an episiotomy?
- Do you wish to be free to walk, eat, and change positions during labor?
- What kind of monitoring do you want your baby to have?
- Do you wish to be free of time constraints?
- Will you be using pain medication? No medication? Scheduled Cesarean?
Once you’ve explored your options and created your ideal birth scenario, it’s time to write it down in an easy to follow, priority-driven plan that you can give your medical professional upon arrival at the hospital or birth center. While every choice you make pertaining to your birth is important, you’ll want to list the most important wishes first. That way your entire birth team will know your wishes and can guide you, to the best of their ability, to getting the birth you really want.
Find your medical team
If you want your baby born in a hospital (one of those many choices you need to make), it’s important that you find the one that best suits your labor and delivery goal, which may or may not be the hospital that is closest to your home. Hospitals provide regularly scheduled labor and delivery tours so expectant couples can get to know the hospital and the general procedures that surround having a child. These tours cover the basics so it’s up to you to ask as many questions as you can to get all the information you need. What kind of prep is involved once you arrive? Will they require you to be hooked up to an IV or fetal monitor? Will you be under restrictions or do they allow you to walk around, eat, drink, and change positions as needed? How long are you required to stay after the baby is born? When answered fully, these questions will help you find the best fit for your growing family. Simple online searches will turn up hundreds of birth plans to use as guides.
Take childbirth classes
Part of planning your birth revolves around knowing what actually happens to your body during labor. Despite it being what our bodies were made to do, many women have no idea what to expect from each stage of labor. Childbirth classes, provided by hospitals or private instructors, will educate and inform mothers so they can feel more confident when things kick into high gear.
Pack a hospital bag
Packing a hospital bag is like the icing on the birth plan cake. In a way it’s like the final step to being ready for a new baby. Well, as ready as you can be! Instead of trying to list everything you might want or need, something that will vary from person to person, I’ll offer a few categories to pull from.
- For the car (just in case you don’t make it to the hospital)
- For the mom
- For your husband or other family members who plan on being present
- For baby
There are a number of packing lists online that you can scope out for ideas but try not to go overboard. No matter what you do, chances are there will be some things you bring but don’t need and some things you need but forget to bring. Just be sure you don’t put off packing your bag until your labor has already started and you’re racing around the house trying to get it done.
Whether you’re planning on going au-natural in the comfort of your living room or you already have the anesthesiologist on speed dial, be sure you have a plan.
Now to hear from the SmartMoms who have done it before, how did you plan for your child’s birth and what would you recommend to first time mamas?