At my baby shower, two dear friends told me stories about how they went into labor, and wham, bam, thank you ma’am, their precious little bundles of joy were born almost immediately.
“This has got to be a sign,” I thought.
No one else shared their birth stories at my shower, except these two women (who didn’t know each other and told me at different times) and they seemed to have the simplest and quickest deliveries that I’ve ever heard of. “Easiest thing I’ve ever done,” one even said. (Yes, someone actually said that! WHO SAYS THAT?)
Did I mention both of these labors came on naturally and the labors were unmedicated?
Let’s just say I didn’t have the same experience.
After a 37-hour labor that ended in an emergency c-section and epidurals that disappeared almost immediately, I like to think I know a little bit about the process of childbirth. Though, as we all know, one person’s personal experience doesn’t make an expert. I’m not a doctor, nurse, or doula. I don’t have thirteen children or even three for that matter. All I know is from my personal experience.
If you’re pregnant – and you’re anything like me – you’re probably pretty nervous. Are you wondering how to make childbirth easier? Unless you consult a fortune teller, there’s no way to plan every detail of your labor and delivery. There are, however, a few tips you may want to consider to prepare for an easier childbirth.
1. Have a plan
Did you write a birth plan? It’s basically a document that helps the birthing team know your wishes for things such as pain management and immediate afterbirth wishes (delayed cord cutting, no epidural, etc). A birth plan is helpful because you may have multiple nurses and doctors monitoring your care while in labor.
Don’t know what to include? Here’s a list of things to consider when writing your birth plan.
2. Throw away your plan
Honestly, no matter how precise or demanding you are about your birth plan, things are going to happen as they happen, and you’ll need to be flexible enough to roll with the punches.
The best thing you can do (after spending all that time planning how you’d like the birth to happen) is forget about it. Bring the document, and give it to your nurses, but don’t hold yourself to it.
3. Prepare yourself
There are so many different types of births (unmedicated, induced, c-sections, birthing pools, home labor, etc.) It’s important to quickly research all options so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Take a tour of the hospital. Take a class if you need to. Watch YouTube clips of a delivery (full disclosure: it’s a little terrifying to watch if you’ve never done it before.) The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be in the moment.
4. Eat if they let you
Eat whatever they give you. Seriously. Do it.
I could detail every bite of food from the time my doctor said, “You need to go to the hospital right away” to the first meal I devoured HOURS after the birth. Those snacks were my saving grace. Don’t worry about pooping on the table. Just eat.
5. Pack well
Oh, man. If I could tell you how many hours I pondered over what to pack in the diaper bag and my hospital bag you’d definitely laugh at me. While I never created an ideal list, there are two things I know that are true.
First, bring chapstick. Sounds silly, but all the articles I read about childbirth mentioned bringing chapstick, so I did, but I honestly did not expect to use it. That chapstick made the world of difference in my labor. (Honestly, chapstick, ice chips, and tiny sips of water I stole when the nurses left the room were the best parts of my labor. I am so grateful for them.)
Second, bring a comfort item. Whether it’s a picture of your other children, your favorite sweatshirt, or a pillow from home, having something familiar will put you at ease.
6. Advocate for yourself
If there’s something you need, ask for it. If you’re not in agreement with the nurse or doctor’s orders, let it be known. Just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean that they are wrong (or you are), it just means there needs to be more communication or a better explanation.
You have a say in your delivery, so don’t feel nervous to speak up.
7. Trust in the people assisting your delivery
From my personal experience, childbirth isn’t the easiest time to make decisions, weigh your options, or think clearly at all. It’s going to be tough, but be open to letting the people around you do their job. This might be your first rodeo, but this is an every day – multiple times a day – occurrence for the hospital staff. While you might be intuitive about your body, they are also intuitive about the childbirth process.
Above all, know this: the only thing that matters, and the only thing you’ll care about, is delivering a healthy baby in the end. After all is said and done, you’ll only remember bits and pieces. You’ll wish some things happened differently and be grateful other things happened the way they did. (Or, you may end up like my two friends with easy peasy lemon squeezy childbirth stories.)
Oh, and one more thing: congratulations!
Have you experienced childbirth? What other tips would you add to this list? If you’re expecting, what questions to have about childbirth? Let us know in the comments!
Erin Ollila graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. She believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She lives in Southeastern Massachusetts, neighboring Providence, Rhode Island, one of her favorite small cities.