The Best Way To Prepare for Labor – Know the Basics
It is 3 am. Something feels different. Not bad, just not normal. Could it be time? This is when reality hits and you think this really could be it! There is anxiety, excitement, worry, and joy. All these emotions cloud your judgment. You forget every piece of advice you obtained from Facebook over the past 9 months.
I’ll tell you a secret, 80% of the advice you received will end up being useless to you. Why? Because no one can predict how your labor will go. Not you, your mother-in-law, your best friend, or your doctor. Labor is full of surprises, some amazing and some frightening. Regardless, each labor is unique, so let’s focus on what truly matters.
It is important to first understand the essentials of what is labor and what to expect during labor. Then you can think about how to prepare, what you will need and the fun things that you may just want. So, let’s get started.
Prepare for Labor by Knowing What Could Happen
As stated above, there is no way to predict your labor. The best-case scenario is your water breaks naturally, you arrive at the hospital, start pain management if you want, and in only a couple of hours, you have your new bundle of joy. However, this is rare unfortunately and if it is your first baby, it is likely impossible.
Working as a labor and delivery nurse, the best thing you could do for your patient is prepare them. Provide them a realistic expectation of what to expect. This way they are not disappointed by their experience or have a misunderstanding that they did anything wrong.
So, let’s talk about what to truly expect.
If it is your first baby there are many unknowns. That is not to scare you but to open your mind up to all possibilities. Maybe your water does break, but you can expect many hours of labor as your body adjusts for the first time birthing a child. You also need to provide yourself time physically and mentally to adjust to these changes.
What Is an Induction?
With first-time moms, it seems as if inductions are growing more and more common. Induction, or to be induced, is when labor is stimulated by the use of medications. Cytotec, Cervidil, and Pitocin are common ways to induce labor. You may have heard great stories about friends being induced or you may have heard horror stories. That is because every labor is unique and unpredictable.
To put it in a few sentences, the majority do not want to be induced. This is often a long process of trial and error and I would tell my expecting moms to expect to spend at least one night in labor. Oftentimes, it was longer.
What Is a C- Section?
Lastly, there is always the possibility of a cesarean section, more commonly known as a c-section. If your baby is in a breech position (with their head upright), a c-section will be your plan. This can be good when considering it takes away a lot of the unknown. You have a specific time to arrive, the procedure lasts 15 minutes and you can plan the whole day.
However, it is important to stress that this is still surgery. Some moms ask for a c-section when there is no medical reason for one. The downfall of a c-section, besides it being major abdominal surgery, is a longer recovery time and hinders kangaroo care. Although, there is some great work started on increasing kangaroo care even in the operating room.
What Is Kangaroo Care?
It is skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible. It is common for nurses and doctors to strongly recommend mom to hold her newborn for the first hour, known as the golden hour. Then dad gets a turn. Kangaroo care has amazing benefits. Watch the quick video below to learn 5 benefits of kangaroo care.
Prepare for Labor by Knowing What Is Going To Happen
Now that you know the basics of what could happen. Let’s talk about what is most definitely going to happen. For the scenario, let’s assume that you are going to have a vaginal birth.
Make Your Nurse Your Friend
You will see your nurse a lot! More than you want to. Your nurse will be in to do required assessments, adjust your position every 30 minutes, adjust the fetal heart rate monitor, because it is always falling out of place, provide updates from the doctor and so much more.
Your nurse wants an easy delivery almost as much as you. It is so important to be open with your nurse. Tell her what you are fearing. Tell her if you don’t like how something is going. You are the patient and ultimately you are in charge of your and your baby’s care. It is always best to treat your nurse as a friend and things will go more smoothly.
Say Goodbye to Modesty
You can forget about having modesty. This is another reason why it is important to view your nurse as a friend. By the end of it all, she will know more about you than some of the closest people in your life. It is important to remember she does this every day. She has seen it all. By the end of your labor journey, being modest won’t even cross your mind.
Prepare for Pain
I am sorry momma, but it is incredibly likely that you will have pain, even with an epidural. We, nurses, like to call this pressure. You may hear your nurse ask, “Is it pain or pressure?” This is because there is nothing to take the pressure away.
This pressure is likely meaning it is time to meet your little one and that is great, although I know the pain is not. However, it is better to go in with an understanding that this pain/pressure will be a part of your journey.
For more reliable and in-depth information about pain management in labor, check out The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
The Phone is a Problem
In every single delivery I was a part of, the phone was always a problem. You have people that care for you and that is great! However, all of these people are texting or calling multiple times and it becomes overwhelming. So, how do you prevent this? Here are some of the best solutions I have seen.
- The phone is someone else’s job. This is a great job for your husband to have, or whoever is with you during labor. They are responsible for responding to text without asking you each time what they should say.
- To give you and your significant other some quiet time, delegate the phone to someone who is not at the hospital. Since only 1 person is allowed with you, maybe your mom is at home. Let your mom send out a text letting everyone know today is the day and she can provide updates as needed.
- Remember not everyone needs to know! It is more than ok to tell those you love after your baby has arrived. This is actually recommended in some situations. Family dynamics are all different, but it is always important to limit stress during labor as much as possible. If that means telling family members after your baby has arrived then that is ok.
Let’s Talk Food
I am so sorry to say this momma, but you are going to be hungry. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to eat during labor. When your labor is hours or days, this becomes incredibly difficult. Now, if you do have an induction that is lasting days there are breaks where you can eat a meal. They are not totally evil. However, overall, it is one of the more difficult parts.
It is important for you to know why food is limited. This is a measure taken to prevent surgical complications if surgery was needed. Like any other planned surgery, you are not allowed to eat the day of.
However, of course, I have some helpful tips. Many people know they can chew on ice chips, but did you know that a slushy was so much better. I had a patient that sent her husband out to keep getting slushies from Thorntons and this kept her much happier. The hospital also provides popsicles, but I would recommend finding a kind you like and bringing them with you. Simply ask to use their freezer.
The next tip is to eat on your way. You will likely have more than enough time to stop and get some food before coming to the hospital. However, get something that will keep you full for some time. I do not recommend a greasy hamburger and fries. Better yet, have an ideal meal ready at home for you that is nutritious, or set another plan in place.
Remember That This Will Be One of the Best Days of Your Life
Once your little one arrives, everything else won’t matter. The amount of emotions you experience take away the pain, the hunger, the stress, the exhaustion. All of a sudden it is only you and your baby. The room may be full of loved ones, nurses, and doctors, but that is nothing compared to the amount of pure joy in the room.
This joy is why mommas keep having babies regardless of the hardships of pregnancy and labor. And if this is your first baby, you will be amazed at how much you can love a single human being.
Putting It All Together
So it is 3 am and you have decided that this is the real deal. Once you get past the initial emotions of anxiety, excitement, worry, and joy, you can now gather yourself and your packed bag and head out confidently to the hospital. You now know the basics of what to expect allowing you to limit some anxiety.
Regardless of what could happen, take time and prepare for labor by searching for reliable information to arm yourself with knowledge. Never be afraid to ask questions. Empower yourself and overall be excited to meet your sweet baby.
Leave a comment! Let’s talk about what you are most excited about, most nervous about, or any questions you may have. Don’t forget to grab your free 5 Amazing Benefits to Kangaroo Care printable above.