How do you prepare for birth? PSP parents share their real life experiences and perspective on getting ready for giving birth.
Get post-birth advice from PSP members here.
“You will never be truly prepared.”
“Birth is a highly unpredictable event that you have little to no control over. Educate yourself on everything you can so you can make decisions in the moment. Finally, as long as you end up with a healthy baby and healthy mom, be at peace with however it happened.”
“Birth is only the beginning.”
Trust your instincts, speak up for yourself, and feel empowered:
“Please trust your instincts! If something feels good, go with it. If you feel uncomfortable, there's probably a reason. Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself and your baby, even if it means making other people feel uncomfortable.”
“Find someone who you trust and go over what you are looking for with them and the beginning and then let them guide you. Things may not go at all according to what you imagined and you will not be able to navigate the process on your own. The best way to feel like you have had a good experience is to know that whoever you chose is doing their best on your behalf. And then no matter what happens you will feel ok about the result.”
“If you don't like your doctor - FIND A NEW ONE. If you have ANY questions or concerns or are freaking out about anything CALL YOUR DOCTOR - it's their job to help you through the process. STAY OFF THE INTERNET. Google is not a doctor and does not have children.”
Find a “vibe”:
“Find someone you are comfortable with and makes you feel at ease. Whether that is someone who is calm and chill or energetic and thinking 5 steps ahead-think through your own style and find someone who matches.”
“Spend some time thinking about what will make you feel safest and most calm, whether that's being at home the whole time or knowing that you are in a state-of-the-art hospital should anything go wrong, and then work around that. Don't go into the deliver making decisions based on what you think you "should" do.”
Do your research! Review C-sections and other OBs and Hospital policies:
“Do your research, read reviews, and then make appointments to meet with your doctor(s) and tour the hospital early on - you will feel so much more confident in your decision!”
“Do your research on the OB-GYN and their approach (induction policy for post-due date babies, Cesarean policy, episiotomy, types of induction medication, glucose testing policy, etc), and make sure you are comfortable with those.I would have prepared myself more for the possibility of a c section.Even if you are preparing for a low-intervention birth, learn about c-section births, just in case!”
Write a birth plans but prepare to go with the flow:
“Write a birth plan--even if you don't use it, its good to have thought about these things before hand.”
“Don't get too hung up on the labor - it is ultimately a small part of the journey to come. Now that I have a 7 week old I keep thinking I wish I had spent more time preparing for the baby then reading/preparing for the labor. I think a lot of women become obsessed with this picture perfect natural child birth and while it is not unreasonable to have expectations and a plan I think it is important to be flexible and open to the possibility that things may not go as planned.”
Remain flexible and relax about the birth:
“Be flexible, don't over think anything, things are never going to go by plan, especially at birth.”
“Don't try to control the process-- just be open to the experience b/c it is truly amazing!”
“Don't be overly committed to a specific birth plan. The most important thing is to have a healthy baby, and your health care providers will make that their primary objective. Be flexible in order to ensure that happens.”
“Our birth theme was "flexibility and a healthy baby". While my preference was to go natural when I ended up using the epidural I was comfortable with that because we had prioritized flexibility above anything else.”
Expect the unexpected:
“Prepare to be surprised! There is no amount of studying that will prepare you for childbirth; just be prepared to let it all go and listen to your body (and nurses!!).
Don't obsess about the birth plan/experience. It’s over very quickly. Much more important to familiarize yourself with basic baby care (bathing, swaddling, nose aspirating, measuring temperature, etc), because once the baby is born, its much harder to find time to learn about these things and you need to use them right away!
My best advice is to think through (with your partner, doula, doc...) what you envision, but equally, not to hold too tight to that vision. These little babies sometimes have their own ideas of how they will come into the world, and holding fast to _your_ vision may make their arrival all the more complicated. Let go, and let the baby come.”
Stock up on essentials sparingly:
“You don't need 95% of baby stuff before the baby comes. Get the bare necessities because people gift you so much, after the baby comes too.
“Do not buy anything but the essentials until you need them. We knew nothing about what we needed before the baby was born - only through experience did we realize what we would and would not need. It’s easy and quick to buy what you need after.”
Shop second hand when you can:
“Don't buy many new clothes. The baby grows so fast! Just get lots of hand-me-downs.”
“Buy as little as possible because you really need so few things in the beginning. I wish we had waited on making purchases like strollers and carriers because - now that she's here - the reality is a lot different than we envisioned. We hardly ever use a stroller and we prefer a woven wrap to the Ergo we received as a shower gift. Also, buy big ticket items used whenever possible!”
“Register for stuff that you can return for credit. And DONT open ANYTHING until you are sure you will use it. Return as much as possible for stuff you actually need when you need it.”
Wait until after the birth to decide on breastfeeding accessories like stools or pillows. I didn't need mine at all.
Plan for “Life After Birth”:
“Picking a good childbirth/newborn care/breastfeeding class before delivery was useful for us to feel more prepared for the craziness of the first few days with a newborn.
I wish I prepared more for the baby and my marriage as opposed to focusing most of my energy on the birth which is like less than one day and you have little control over.
Figure out things to eat for lunch in advance of baby.”
“Birthing classes probably weren't as worth it as the newborn care class (especially when you have a good midwife). You don't need so much stuff for the hospital. A private room is worth it after a c-section. Don't be afraid to speak up.”
“Prepare for post-partum too: what if you can't breastfeed? What if your baby is supremely difficult? what if s/he has a birth defect you didn't know about? Be prepared to adapt and everything will be great.
“Remember, birth is only the beginning. If possible, begin to prepare yourself for the time after birth. Ask friends ahead of time to make sure to come over even if you don't contact them, to make you meals, to care take for you (& your partner if you have one). Once the baby comes, it can be hard at the beginning and having a community makes a huge difference.
“Prepare for the immediate post partum time by arranging help with food, laundry, dishes and garbage. My younger brother was strangely the best post partum helper ever, he cooked or picked up food every day, did the dishes and took out the garbage every night before he left. I didn't even think of needing that help, but it was so great to just be able to focus on sleeping when the baby slept, figure out nursing and enjoy our new family.”
Recommended resources and reading:
“Make sure to get the app to time contractions. Have the hospital bag ready in advance.
I loved reading the stories in Ina May's book as bedtime stories to remind me of the Zen experience of birthing. It helped distract me from baby-rearing, gear purchases, work distractions, etc.”
Related Reading on Park Slope Parents:
Updated 10/2015 from the "Baby Birth Survey."