Labor is one of those great feats in life we just kind of have to experience for ourselves to understand just how great, horrible, beautiful, and emotional it is. It’s one of those experiences that women are blessed to have that puts an entirely different perspective on life. Is there a manual for getting through labor?
Well, that depends on who we ask exactly, and if we do happen upon one, we will probably be too occupied with pregnancy brain to memorize any decent part of it. Aside from being in the hospital at that moment, the majority of our training is most likely going straight out of the window. Yes, we have all heard one or a thousand times too many of the atrocious things that could happen like, losing control of our bowels, getting the shakes and shivers, our OB-GYN not being available to deliver, and those are just to name a few.
But the body has to go through its own process, and from the moment we walk out that door on our way to the birthing center or hospital—when our baby lets us know it’s time for them to make their arrival—there is absolutely no turning back.
20 Do: Pack That Hospital Bag
As you prepare to go into labor, no one will know what makes you fully comfortable in an overnight environment better than you will. That’s why it’s a good idea to have your hospital bag packed in advance. The most common things that you may want to bring along will be a couple of outfits to change into, undergarments, your favorite robe—or at least a comfortable one, some hair accessories, and a few protein-dense snacks. Not to mention, a going home outfit for the baby and one for yourself. According to The Bump, women often forget to pack the most needed essentials that they can’t do without when they prepare for delivery.
19 Don’t: Eat A Large Meal
A few weeks before you go into labor, you may want to enjoy some of your favorite meals as much as you can—as long as there are no restrictions on your diet. Just remember not to consume any fish that contain high levels of mercury. Once you go to the hospital, you are going to starve like nobody's business if you succumb to their "rules". Although you will adapt to your new diet of ice chips and cold water, the doctor recommends that you don’t consume any large meals within 12 hours of going into labor.
According to Birth Takes A Village, this is because of the common occurrence of losing control of your bowels during labor. But it's also a safeguard against aspirating food should you be given anesthesia for a C-section. That said, eating light, protein-dense snacks to keep up your energy is just fine, and you don't "have to" follow the no food "rule".
18 Do: Double Check Maternity Leave Guidelines
Most employers in the United States are required to have some requirements and conditions set aside for expectant mothers in regards to when they can take leave for having a child and how long they can stay out of work, as well as if it will be paid or unpaid. Based on the FMLA passed in 1993, a woman is allowed to take up to 12 unpaid weeks off for the birth and care of a newborn in most cases. However, if a woman hasn’t been working for her employer for the required amount of hours then that time is lessened, according to Pregnancy Info.
17 Don’t: Hop On A Plane
Everyone loves a good vacation, especially if we haven’t had one in a while. But as your due date nears, the one thing you shouldn't do is travel—that doesn’t mean that you can’t go for a nice drive out of state or take a scenic train ride, it just means that you shouldn’t travel by air. According to American Pregnancy not only is air travel by a pregnant woman in her third trimester a liability for the airline, OB-GYNS expressly prohibit it due to risks to the unborn child or mother. Air travel is restricted for women after 36 weeks and for women with complicated pregnancies after 32 weeks.
16 Do: Have The Birthing Plan On Hand
When you are getting yourself ready to bring a precious life into the world, the way that you envision that happening is totally up to you. It’s your plan, your body, and you and your partners baby. Whether you choose a hospital or home birth, epidural or drug-free, water birth or bedridden—it's all you calling the shots. Even who you wish to be present is all in your hands, according to The Bump.
That is barring any unforeseen complications. So, ladies make sure you have this fully planned out ahead of time so that you may communicate all of this to your team. And remember, when it comes to providers, they work for you. You don't have to blindly do what they say, and because you hire them, you can fire them if they aren't making you feel comfortable and respecting your wishes.
15 Don’t: Get Your Hair Done
With the popularity of social media apps such as Instagram and Facebook—and the fact that we love selfiesùeveryone wants to look picture perfect at all times. Afterall, you never know when you may be taking a simple trip to the supermarket or a leisurely stroll down the street and someone has a camera. When it comes to labor, most people will have some type of pictures taken but they don’t have to be perfect.
Even if they are, once the process gets going, all of that hard work styling and money spent will be thrown out the window. According to We Have Kids, women in labor break out in sweats and hot flashes. By all means, do feel free to touch up those roots, though. It might be a bit before you're ready to check into the salon again. But elaborate hairstyles need not apply.
14 Do: Have Babysitters Lined Up
Once the baby comes home, you will no longer be enjoying all of those extra hours of rest that you were so lucky to get in the hospital, all thanks to the nurses and staff that assisted and Dad, who kept the baby while you rested. According to the Huffington Post, many moms report that having some helping hands to take the baby for a couple of hours at a time so they can get a bit of sleep, which can help save them from postpartum depression. Seriously, accept the help. Soon, everyone will forget about how hard #momlife is and you'll be at it on your own.
13 Don’t: Let Negativity Take Over
Before labor, many women can’t stop thinking about how the process will go, whether it's what they heard about all of the success stories from their dearest friends, or about how their neighbors' baby was born in six hours, and back to how their sister was in labor for 24 hours and their mother ended up with a C-section. The truth is many things can happen once the birthing journey begins.
Most of them the mother can control and some are totally within the provider's range of control. So this should be a time of positive vibes, excitement and a can-do attitude that puts the best overachievers to shame. According to FitPregnancy, negativity can stress you out. Remember, stress produces cortisol and that can delay or halt labor. So, relax!
12 Do: Have The Nursery Ready
When it comes to those last few weeks of pregnancy, many times the baby doesn’t exactly come when you expect. Sometimes your doctor may insist on an early induction due to medical conditions or to ensure the safety of the baby, which usually occurs up to a week before a typical due date.
Other times the baby decides that they aren’t ready to make an appearance and wants to stay warm and cozy inside their mother until she is weeks "overdue". Regardless, according to The Bump, the nursery is the most important room in the house for your newborn and has to be move-in ready—even though most of us will be co-sleeping now with the enormous benefits science has lent to it.
11 Don’t: Ignore Those Darned Contractions
When you are in labor, you may not realize—like many women—that there are actually three stages, and you will feel like you are running a triathlon for each of those stages. The one thing many women may think is that when you first start having contractions that it’s no big deal. You may notice that you feel a sharp pain every 30 minutes or so. While it’s nothing to ring the alarm about, your provider should generally be informed. Eventually, those contractions will get closer and closer together until they are until it’s time to go to the maternity ward or set up that birthing tub, according to American Pregnancy.
10 Do: Breathe In And Breathe Out
During the process of labor, there is a certain way that you are supposed to breathe. This is to make it easier on the mother so she can focus on her breaths instead of the mind-numbing pain she will likely endure. According to Lamaze International, you can also help prepare for birth by getting in the zone through conscious breathing, which reduces the heart rate.
You can also get into a groove by riding the wave of contractions or doing yoga, which teaches stability, relaxation, and stamina as well as Lamaze classes. These classes are usually done around the second trimester.
9 Don’t: Forget About A Trusted Neighbor
For most families, from the time you head off to the hospital until the time you bring your little one home is about 3 days on average in the United States. However, sometimes there are things that you cannot foresee, such as delivery complications, surgical intervention or other abnormalities. When this happens, it can make your hospital stay much longer than anticipated.
In this case, you will want to be able to rely on a neighbor that you trust to check on the lights, collect the mail, feed the dog, and ensure that your security alarm is on. According to Nationwide, home burglaries occur every 15 seconds. That's the last thing a new mom wants to come home to.
8 Do: Have Postpartum Meals Prepped
Once the baby arrives at home, the last thing on your mind will be making a homecooked meal—and if you are thinking about it, you most likely won’t have time for it. With all of the demands of keeping the baby happy and trying to include your partner as much as possible, you will be lucky if you can manage to eat one decent meal each day. According to Fitness, women should pay special attention to their diets to regain all of the nutrients lost during pregnancy. This is where those carefully thought out pre-prepared meals will become a lifesaver.
7 Don’t: Forget The Newborn Carseat
After you and your spouse survive the experience of labor, you will want to return to your cozy life at home and will be ready to show your newborn her new haven. However, there is an entire list of things that your baby will need to be able to leave the hospital with you. One of the most important is the safety mechanism that will protect your baby on her rides for the first year of life. According to Healthy Children, mothers cannot leave the hospital without an infant car seat with a base securely attached to the frame of the vehicle.
6 Do: Have A Breastfeeding Back-Up On Hand
Over the past few decades, more and more women have turned to breastfeeding to provide their babies with the nutrients that they need. Breastfeeding is the best way that your body can naturally give your baby with everything they need to get a head start in life, from disease prevention to neurological advancements. Although some state-sponsored programs provide lower-income women with free breastfeeding counselors and breastfeeding education, there is nothing like having your own International Breastfeeding Certified Lactation Consultant to help you along your journey. According to Breastfeeding Support, you can hire a consultant from anywhere in the United States or Canada.
5 Don’t: Forget To Put Your Bills On Automate
Having a baby is a huge responsibility in addition to all of the household bills that you manage. From the mortgage to the auto insurance, contractors, utilities and everything else in between, we moms are swamped! Once you start making those last few preparations to birth your baby, you and your partner's minds may be a little scatterbrained.
So, it would be a great idea to set up all of the bills on automated payments, even if just while you are adjusting to things. According to Nerdwallet, a survey conducted says that 25% of Americans don’t remember to take care of their monthly bill payments on time.
4 Do: Have Baby Supplies Stocked Up
Anybody who has ever had kids or even those who haven’t will tell you that babies are expensive. According to Investopedia, a one year supply of disposable diapers for your wee one costs upwards of $720.00. When you are in labor, the last thing you should be worried about is running out of supplies for your little bundle of joy—hether that be milk storage bags, bottles, diapers, formula, or those cute little onesies.
It is recommended that you stock up a year's worth of supplies, but if that doesn’t fit your budget, it would be in your best interest to have at least six months worth. Hint: cloth diapers are way cheaper, last through the toddler years and can be used for future kiddos.
3 Don’t: Get Upset
When you are preparing to go into labor, you want to be in the best state of mind possible. So, anything, any person, or any circumstance that will get your blood pressure up or rattle your nerves is a situation that you absolutely want to avoid.
If you find yourself having some issues that kind of rub you the wrong way—whether that be a family friend, an in-law, a physician, or nurse—then the best thing to remedy the situation is to speak up. According to Psych Central, dealing with difficult people isn’t always an easy task, especially when you are pregnant. No, it probably won't be easy. Do it anyway.
2 Do: Grab Your Favorite Comfort Items
When you arrive at the hospital, more than likely you are going to end up getting just the basics. A nice room, a birthing team, some basic toiletries, and not much else in the way of comfort. So, if you have a pillow you can’t sleep without, a meditation video that wakes you up each day, a favorite pair of house slippers, or a special hair wrap, then you may want to bring those with you.
The hospital is in the business of helping moms to bring beautiful, healthy, babies into the world. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean making you any more comfortable or settled in that you need, according to Baby Center.
1 Don’t: Tense Up
One of the most important things you can do during the process of labor is to ensure that you are as relaxed as you possibly can be. Some things you may want to avoid are tense muscles, rattled nerves and the jitters. You will definitely be experiencing a roller coaster of emotions and sensations as you navigate the terrain of giving birth. It may be easier if you have a calm and nurturing environment as you prepare to give into that fetal ejection reflex and bring your baby Earthside. According to American Pregnancy, there are many types of alternative therapies and techniques that can assist you in setting the mood such as sight, sound or aromatherapy.
References: The Bump, Pregnancy Info, Huffington Post, Lamaze International, Fitness, Breastfeeding Support, Investopedia, Baby Center, Birth Takes A Village, Fit Pregnancy, We Have Kids, Nationwide, Nerd Wallet, Babble, Trimester Talk, American Pregnancy