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.