1. “Nothing can prepare you for those first contractions” – a quote from a friend shared 3 weeks after her baby was born and 2 weeks before mine was born, and it’s very true.
2. Going into an anxious frenzy right before labor starts is real –If someone thinks you’re being really unreasonable or weird, and you’re close to your due date, suggest they let you be and make sure your bags are packed!
3. Don’t go into labor on a Friday night – you won’t be rested for the most unpredictable marathon of your life and probably won’t get the medical staff you planned for due to weekend hours. And let’s say you’re in labor for 24-hours—that means if you went into labor late on a Friday night, you’ll be up for 36 hours straight! Just saying. (Of course, this one is hard to control :)
4. Go over what is in your labor/hospital bag with your partner – perhaps even write-up a reminder note and stick it in the bag – I had my bag packed and the hubby was so great and brought it with, but I never requested a thing in it until I started getting ready to leave the hospital (out of sight – out of mind while in labor), and I really could have benefited from some of the stuff.
5. Remember, powerful contractions are good – resisting contractions or wanting them to stop or slow down is bad. Your mental state matters, so let the contractions roll baby.
6. Warm water either from a shower or a pool is very soothing during labor – I can attest to this first-hand; one of the most amazing feelings ever was sitting down into a warm, deep pool of water. However, I do have a side-note. Someone told me as a response to wanting to have the baby at a birth center: “you know, birthing pools can be so relaxing during labor that you end up getting too relaxed and unable to push your baby out.” Of course, I didn’t listen to much else that person had to say, but I did find the pool VERY relaxing and couldn't push the baby out.
7. Being able to have free-movement during labor can really help labor progress – I was stuck at 7 centimeters at the birth center for many hours but quickly dilated to 9 within 30 minutes after being transferred to the hospital. That was after a walk outside to the car, a drive 3-blocks, walking in, signing papers, and transferring to the room. I feel strongly that a big part of the progression was moving around.
8. The baby will come out no matter what your birth plan is, so focus on accepting wherever you decide to have the baby (or wherever you end up) and having the best people around you for support to help if any decision making is needed. This is why doula's are great. They will be the one service provider that stays by your side no mater what - their shift doesn't end.
9. Prepare to end up in the delivery room with a doctor you don’t know - it happens more than you think, and if you do, see if you can talk to the midwife or doctor about their specialties. Learn about what delivery methods they recommend but are also best at – see if you can ask them about their history and strengths – it might help you make decisions, if you don’t have a perfect birth. For example, I avoided a C-section, because I had an older Doctor who was apparently Zen master performing an old-school delivery method I requested.
10. A plan to have a baby in the hospital might be more predictable than having one at home or at a birth center – that is, if practicability is what you’re after. If predictability is not your top priority, like if you want to go for no drugs or a more subtle environment than a hospital, go for it, but I highly suggest getting a doula. A doula focuses on supporting you on a personal level through labor, physically and mentally, including major decision making that may be needed, and midwifes and doctors focus on delivering that baby - both important roles.
Let’s turn this list up to 11 – If you take the epidural, just take a little. If it’s not obvious at this point, I tried to have the baby in a birth center, but I transferred to the hospital for a lot of reasons that led up to petering out contractions and exhaustion – I was convulsing at the hospital until I had a little epidural, but they gave me a button to push for more medicine. Don’t use it. I ended up swelling up and not being able to push the baby out. And I was only pushing the button in fear of feeling pain.
And yes, I failed to push the baby out at the birth center and the hospital. But in the end, I won, because like I said, the baby will come out and he is amazing!
Bonus takeaway: In the car on the way to hospital, sit in the back and bend over the back seat through contractions. You’ll really thank me for this one.