For a first time mom, there are so many exciting things to do in preparation for your little one.
Finding cute itty bitty baby clothes, decorating the nursery, and having a baby shower are all fun and help to build a bond between you, your family, and baby.
Then, one day you realize something; you physically have to give birth.
While you intellectually understand the concept of childbirth, thinking about being in labor probably isn’t something you’ve dreamed about or discussed in great detail with others.
Unlike putting together the crib or installing a car seat, labor doesn’t come with a set of directions. Every well-meaning person you talk to will have a completely different take on birth that will either encourage you or make you want to run and hide.
However, just like you’ve prepared and worked hard to create a welcoming, safe home for your baby, you also need to spend some time preparing your mind, body, and soul for childbirth.
Learn about labor. Many women feel anxiety or fear about childbirth because they have never experienced it before.
Learning about the actual birthing process, what happens to your body and baby can help to take away or lessen fear. Learn as much as you feel comfortable with knowing. For example, one mom might learn best from reading a book.
Another mom might be more comfortable with seeing a video. Check out the library, used bookstore, or a friend to find a book. Look for childbirth classes through your hospital.
Learn about the type of birth you have planned. If you want a natural childbirth, you will want to learn about pain management techniques.
Don’t think you are just going to roll into the delivery room, grit your teeth, and go for it. If you are getting a c-section, learn about the recovery process.
Learn a bit about the other birthing scenarios out there. Labor doesn’t always take into consideration what type of birth you had planned.
Having some knowledge about all delivery possibilities like c-sections and other possible medical interventions will help if you are asked to make decisions while in labor.
Talk to your doctor about pain management options. An epidural isn’t the only way to control pain. Other drugs, water births, hypnosis, and breathing techniques are all options to help ease labor.
The Mayo Clinic outlines many options and the pros and cons of each. Talk with your doctor to find out what is appropriate for you and what the hospital actually offers.
Ask questions. No question is silly or stupid. Ask your doctor any question you have; it is part of his/her job.
Make a birth plan. The detail in this plan is completely up to you. Mine was one sentence: have a healthy baby. Other moms feel better if they write out what they want to happen while in labor.
Your plan can include things like no drugs or that you want the placenta because you plan to make pills out of it. It can be useful to have your wishes written ou, since you might not feel like talking in the midst of a contraction. But remember plans are just that.
Expect and accept the unexpected. Every labor is different for every person every time. While you may form an idea in your head about how you would like labor to go, understand that the most important thing is to have a healthy child.
I started out with a natural childbirth that ended in an emergency c-section. While I had a moment afterward, I was able to stay calm while in labor by reminding myself that my goal was for a healthy baby.
Exercise during pregnancy. Exercise (with the supervision of your doctor) keeps you and baby healthy. It helps reduce stress too. There are exercises that can help prepare your body for childbirth. Check out BabyCenter or Dr. Sears website for some ideas.
Classes. If you’ve always enjoyed exercising in a group setting, check around for local ones offered to pregnant women.
While you may not envision yourself participating in a Zumba class during your third trimester, lower impact workouts like yoga can help to prepare your body for labor. Plus this gives you an opportunity to socialize with other moms to be.
Have your bag packed. Pack your hospital bag at least two weeks before your due date. No one wants to be running around in between contractions searching for a hair brush.
Keep your bag in an easy-to-find spot in the house or in the trunk of your car. Buy duplicates of items like toothbrushes so you will have everything you need ready to go. If there are a few things you can’t pack until last minute, keep a list of the items on top of the bag.
Preregister at the hospital. Most hospitals offer preregistration. This saves you time when arriving at the hospital and you won’t have quite so many forms to fill out.
Hospital tour. Most hospitals offer tours of the maternity ward. You’ll feel more at ease being familiar with the place where you will deliver your baby. You will also find out details about visiting hours, the nursery, and other hospital policies.
Be comfortable with your healthcare providers. The doctors, midwives, doulas, or nurses are going to be your support during labor. Make sure you feel comfortable with their approaches toward labor. It’s okay to get a second opinion if you want one.
Have a partner in the delivery room. Whether it’s your significant other, mother, sister, or friend, having a person present to support you is important.
Attending child birthing classes with your partner will help him/her know what to expect and teach him/her ways to help you during labor. Your partner is there to comfort you, help you in any way possible, and be your voice if needed.
Remember it’s only the beginning. Whether your labor goes smoothly or has some unexpected twists and turns, at the end of the day, the reward far outweighs the cost. It’s amazing how one tiny babe will quickly melt away the hours of pain you just went through.
The idea of labor can be overwhelming and scary. By taking some time to prepare yourself for it, you will help to lessen the stress and fears you might have on the big day.
This will let you focus on the most important thing: bringing a healthy baby into the world.