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Preparing for the Big Day: What You Need to Know

There are so many things to consider when preparing for the day of giving birth. Epidural or not? Water birth or hospital bed? Who is going to be in the room? Do I have my hospital bag ready? What is my husband going to do? What about my birth checklist? Having experience two births myself, I want to tell you all the important things that no one else is going to tell you. I know you probably have a lot of people and websites telling you what to bring, what to do and what to pack, but these are a few necessities that really make a huge difference.

  • Am I in Labor? Being prepared and recognizing the signs of early labor will help you decide when to go to the hospital and when it is ok to stay home. Until your contractions become strong and easily timed, it is safe to stay home, and probably more comfortable! Signs of early labor include brownish pink discharge, which means you probably lost your mucous plug. Your body starts to “empty”, which means frequent bowel movements and trips to the bathroom.


  • Don’t forget to plan who is going to watch your other children or animals. Making sure your other child or children stay in their own home and have a family member or friend stay with them helps to ease the transition of a new baby brother or sister coming home. Planning for pet-sitting will make leaving for the hospital less stressful.


  • Buy a gift your newborn will “give” to new big brother or sister. Many times older siblings can have feelings of jealousy or nervousness when a new baby comes along. Another way to help that transition is to purchase a gift to bring with you to the hospital, so when your older child comes to visit, there will be a gift waiting for him or her from their new baby sibling.


  • Get a comfortable oversized night gown. Did you know that you don’t have to wear the hospital gown they provide you? Think long oversized long t-shirt. Make sure it is cotton. When you give birth, there will be the opening at the bottom so that you can remain clothes if you want to. It is also more comfortable to labor in soft breathable material rather than the scratchy, awkward hospital gown.


  • Bring Entertainment. I know you may be thinking “But I’m going to be in labor, there will be no time!” Yes, this is true, however there is going to be a long time when you are in the beginning stages of labor and not active labor. There is only so much time you can spend staring at your husband or birth partner. I found celebrity gossip magazines were the perfect entertainment, short easy to read articles and lots of pictures! You can also bring your laptop and watch shows on Netflix (hospitals and birth centers usually have free wifi).


  • Consider a Doula. Consider talking to your hospital about the availability of a Doula. Doula’s provide support for laboring mothers. They are invaluable. When you are laboring, tired and it is 3AM in the morning, the last thing you want to be is alone. But you also probably do not want to wake your husband or birth partner. They have enough sleepless nights coming up; that’s what a Doula is for! They are there to help support you, help you breathe, massage your back, and get you ice chips and crackers. This takes a huge load off your shoulders and your husband, or partner’s, shoulders, and makes the labor and birth a much more enjoyable, calm experience.


  • The Birth Plan. This is never going to go as planned, believe me. Be prepared for this. What you can control, even if your birth plan goes right out the window, is someone in charge of the most important items on your birth plan. Most important things to decide before you go to the hospital: who is going to be in the room, epidural or not, water birth or not, and how you want to labor (in bed, in the shower, on a birthing ball, or on the toilet). Tell your birth partner exactly what you want, make sure they know your choices ahead of time, and make sure they are prepared to step in when you are not able to advocate for yourself.


  • Did you know you have the ability to choose when you go home? Usually you need to be there for 24 hours, but if you want to be home warm and snuggling with your newborn as fast as possible, ask the nurse for “the list”. The list is a checklist of items you need to accomplish before the hospital or birth center will let you leave. Items include baby successfully latching during nursing, being able to walk around, and completing new born photos.


  • Be prepared to also tell family what you want as soon as you get home. Do you want time to yourself? Do you need help the first couple of weeks? Is your partner going to be able to stay home with you? Most families take the first week to be on their own and bond as a family. Do not feel guilty if you need time to yourself during this time. It is easy to get overwhelmed with too many people coming


Remember, this is your birth experience, the most important part of this whole day is making sure you are comfortable. Planning these steps ahead of time and knowing what to expect will help you go into the experience with a calmer outlook.


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