So you’re having a baby! What an exciting yet overwhelming time. How will it go? Who will be in the delivery room? Should you use pain medication? New moms have lots of questions as they prepare to deliver their first baby. While you cannot exactly predict how your experience will go, there are a few things you can probably anticipate.
Your Entourage: Years ago, not even the father was allowed in the delivery room. Nowadays, mothers are allowed whomever they wish to be present for a non-complicated vaginal birth. (Only your partner is allowed in the room for a c-section.) Generally, the most important person/people in your life, who are likely to keep you calm and help comfort you, are the ones who should be there. Your first delivery could be quite the long haul, so anyone you invite should wear comfortable shoes and maybe bring a pillow to nap on!
Your Overnight Bag: You’ve probably read all sorts of lists of what to bring to the hospital. Here are the essentials: your toothbrush, your phone charger, a comfortable outfit to wear home, like loose sweats and a baggy shirt (NOT jeans!), and a simple outfit and car seat for Baby. I recommend a long-sleeved, one-piece outfit for him or her. This is not the time to experiment with unnecessary baby items like shoes and dresses. You’ll want baby to be warm and comfortable for his/her first time out and in the car seat. Anything else is up to you. Some people bring their favorite lotion, calming music or fuzzy slippers. Also remember that your partner can run and get whatever you need.
*Leave room in that bag for all the freebies the hospital sends you home with, like diapers, pacifiers and that amazing pain reliever spray.
Your Birth Plan: Most hospitals will ask you to fill out a birth plan so they can prepare for the type of delivery you desire and anticipate. Are you adamantly against medication? Are you hoping for a water birth in the tub? Do you want an epidural the very second you get the green light? This plan helps doctors and nurses prepare for your baby’s safe delivery. However, ask any mother whether her delivery went 100 percent as planned, and most will say no. More often than not, something has to change. Be prepared to effectively communicate your wishes and know your rights. However, know that your doctors and nurses are medical professionals whose sole job is to care for you and your baby. Everyone wants the same things: a safe and healthy baby and a safe and healthy mommy.
Nakedness: You will be very naked for a large portion of your labor and delivery. You will probably change into a hospital gown immediately after admittance. Some mothers choose to bring a more comfortable gown from home, but the hospital one works just fine too. It might sound awkward to anticipate so many people seeing you exposed, but by the time Baby comes, you probably won’t care. Also, you will likely have Baby placed directly on your chest for skin-to-skin contact after delivery. (Some doctors are now allowing for this after c-sections too.) In that moment, when Baby is lying on your chest, the world around you and all the doctors and nurses will disappear, as you have those first few moments of meeting your child. Your nakedness will be irrelevant.
Pain medication: You have several options to help revlieve pain, the most common of which is the epidural. You may hear stories of women who say they couldn’t get one because there wasn’t time. This is likely due to the nurses’ estimating that the baby would arrive before the epidural could be administered or before it could take effect. Bear in mind that once you request the epidural, the anesthesiologist will need to be paged, arrive with your medication, administer it and allow it to take effect. This entire process could take 30-60 minutes. If you have already dilated to 8-10 cm, your nurses may anticipate that Baby will be arriving within that time frame. Most commonly, the epidural is administered around 4-5 cm. This is a good time, as it allows you to rest and conserve energy before having to push.
Gross Stuff: Birth is beautiful and miraculous and gross. There may be a lot of blood, among other fluids. After a vaginal birth, you will need to birth the placenta and you may need stitches. You will definitely need help getting cleaned up. Here come those amazing nurses again! And yes, you’re still naked. They will hold you up, help you walk to the bathroom, clean you up, and help you try to urinate (a feat that may be challenging for the first time in your life). Be patient. Breathe. Don’t worry about the gross stuff. They’ve seen it all and they still came back to work today. They are here for you and your baby.
Rest! You will be taking that new little screaming bundle of joy home in a couple of days and you will be on your own. So for the duration of your hospital stay, rest. Allow your body to recover from the trauma it just endured. Let your nurses help. Sleep. Lie down. Watch television. Read. Eat. Because a few days from now, it’s go time.
You’ve got this, Mommy.
P.S. I know you’ve never used mesh underpants and ice diapers before, but you will now. And you’ll be so grateful for them.
Olathe mom Karen Johnson has three children, ages 6, 4 and 2. She writes at The21stCenturySAHM.com.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.