As a doula I am often asked questions about how to prepare for delivery day. This list is about as concise as I can make it (I could go on for days). This is also multi purpose: first and foremost, I want you to be as prepared as you can. If I can impart some of this information to you and help you have a wonderful birth experience, I'm fulfilled!
Secondly, I'm ready to start eliminating care providers that don't truly care for their patients. I've seen some really messed up things happen to women at the hands of their doctors or midwives and it's time we stop giving them our money.
Third, education is power, and in labor power=comfort. I hope this list empowers you and helps you have more comfort as you go into labor and motherhood.
The five questions you need to answer before the birth of your baby:
1. Do I really trust my care provider(s)?
Your care provider is going to be holding your life and the life of your baby in their hands. They're going to decide if you need major surgery, if they should make cuts to your person and ultimately will have a huge impact on how your birth will go. Do you trust the person you're seeing? Do they take the necessary time with you that you want/need? Do you feel cared for by them during your appointments? In the event they miss your birth, do you trust their replacement?
I've been amazed how many women just keep seeing the same doctor or midwife they don't like/trust because they don't want to go through the effort to switch or they're worried about offending them. Who cares for you during this sensitive time is really important-you have my permission to fire your Doc if you don't like something they've said, don't feel cared for or have had a bad experience with them. It is 100% worth the effort. (Here's a list of questions to ask your care provider when you're interviewing)
2. Have I role-played through the day?
Many women think they just show up at the hospital and the hospital takes care of everything else-that's a vulnerable position to put yourself in. Map your route to the hospital. Go tour it and see where you'll be delivering. Talk to nurses and hospital personnel while you're there. Ask lots of questions. The more comfortable and familiar it is, the smoother things will go when you're hurting.
Who's taking care of your other kids/dogs/misc animals while you're gone? Do they know they may get a 2 am phone call?
Have you written up a maternal care plan (birth plan)? Often it's a wish list but it's always useful to have as a reference and can help ANYONE know what you're wishes are during your birth.
Visualize how you want to deliver-what position are you in, how involved is your partner? Braxton-Hicks contractions are an excellent opportunity to practice labor positions and see what feels best even during mild discomfort.
If you're planning a homebirth it's a good idea to decide where you want to deliver. Are you planning on using a tub? Does the tub fit-and do you have the necessary hose attachments to fill it up?
Walk through the entire thing like a dress rehearsal.
3. Is my support team prepared?
The phrase "it takes a village" applies in so many areas of life. Labor and delivery is no different. Preparing your partner is so important before the birth of your child. If I can recommend only 1 book to women during their pregnancy it is The Birth Partner. This book is incredibly neutral and prepares not only you but your partner for delivery day. Have you hired a doula? Does your partner have your doulas/photographers/sisters phone number in their phone? Are you planning on having family there? Are they prepared? Have you told your Mother you don't want her there? I'm an advocate for establishing clear-cut roles within your support team and letting everyone know where you would like them to be-this eliminates asking lots of questions during labor and ideally everyone can get over hurt feelings/stress/etc beforehand.
4. Do I know how to find my inner-calm?
If I can encourage women to do 1 thing before they get to labor, it is this. Being able to go within yourself and find peace is something you will need not only in labor, but for the rest of your life as a mother. This means different things to different women-some do hypnobabies, some do yoga/meditation, some pray. Whatever it is, find it!
Not to scare anyone-but labor and delivery is unpredictable no matter how prepared you are. Sometimes labor goes fast, sometimes epidurals don't work and sometimes emergencies just happen. Your ability to find peace to endure all of the unpredictability will completely change how your experience will go. Panic and fear add to pain exponentially and the more calm and relaxed you can be, the less pain you will suffer.
5. Have I prepared for the postpartum period?
This is so often overlooked in our culture. The days and weeks following your baby's birth are just as important as their birth day. Have freezer meals on hand, take advantage of everyone offering to help and plan on being down and resting during this time. Have you studied up on breastfeeding? Do you want to breastfeed? What's the pumping situation like at your place of work? Do you have extra help caring for your existing children? Thinking beyond the day of delivery into the weeks following is critical to helping keep your sanity. (January Harshe writes an excellent post about preparing for your 4th trimester here.)
I hope this list helps get you started in your planning. Bringing children into the world is an incredible experience that we only have a few times in our lives (if that!) I hope answering these questions will get the ball rolling and save you some of the confusion/discomfort/trauma that I've seen women suffer because they were unprepared.
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