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As with anything else, take the advice that works for you. Every birth is different, and everyone’s needs are different. A one-hour labor/delivery is very different from a 48-hour labor and C-section, and your needs will vary depending on your birth experience. The best advice is to be well-informed!
CHILDBIRTH CLASS: A non-hospital birth class is useful. “The hospital version followed a prescribed road (the way the hospital wanted you to do things). The independent one explored all options, preparing for the ‘anything’ that can happen during labor and also explored more options for ways that laboring women can have more control.”
VOCALIZATION DURING LABOR: “This is going to sound strange, but I found it to be true in my case: the more you vocalize and the more you 'dilate'...your upper mouth, the more your ‘other’ mouth will 'dilate'....”
GET NURSING BRAS (if breastfeeding) BEFORE you give birth: It's very hard to nurse without them, and once the baby's here, there's no time to go shopping for them!
LACTATION CONSULTANT: Get the name and number of a lactation consultant before you go to the hospital and call him or her right away if you're having any trouble. “I was under the impression that the baby would know what to do right away....This was not the case, and I could have used immediate help.”
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT PERSON/DOULA:
“Have a support person in addition to your partner; it is too much for one person.”
“It's good to have a family member or a doula there at the birth or soon after. My sister came and helped me out right after the baby was born and that allowed my husband (who had also been up all night but didn't have the advantage of the surging hormones which allowed me to be happy and perky for the next 24 hours) to go home and sleep for the day (our son was born in the morning). It was so great to have someone there who knew me really well and knew exactly how to help. I am still grateful to her for that. She took a day off from work for me!”
"Coaches need occasional breaks if they are going to remain fresh for the laboring woman. More people around makes taking breaks much easier. I was present for a friend's labor, and at one stage I slept for about three hours and came back totally refreshed, ready to go. That sleep was invaluable, as her labor lasted 30 hours!!”
SWADDLING BLANKETS: Before birth, get one of those special swaddling blankets for when you come home. It takes all the guesswork out of swaddling, and those newborns love to be swaddled!
FAVORITE MUSIC: Prepare an iPod with your favorite music on it. “My epidural stopped working early on, and my labor was a tough one (although I might just be a big wimp). Regardless, I couldn't even focus on a basic book or the TV. My husband had made a nice mix for me on our iPod, and it was the only thing that helped in the slightest with focusing on breathing and trying to tune out the contractions. Plus, it's a nice way to tune out all of the noise, such as nurses coming in and out, your roommate's visitors, etc.
PLAN A and PLAN B:
“Plan for a vaginal birth, but also think about what your wishes are in case of a C-section. A lot of people don't want to do this because they feel it might jinx them or something, but it really helped the second time around. You have lots of choices with a C-section, and without your input, hospital personnel often revert to the most draconian options; for example, they don't bring you the baby, they assume you need your rest, etc. A lot of people I know wanted and needed to see the baby!”
“… Read up on all possibilities ahead of time. A C-section didn't even occur to me beforehand so I never read up on it. When I needed an emergency C-section, I was terrified, more because I didn't know what to expect than anything else.”
“Be prepared for a C-section, as someone previously posted. I was convinced I was going to have a natural birth, but some things are out of your control.”
INTERVENTIONS / DRUGS / EPIDURALS:
“Try not to have preconceived notions about having drugs during labor. The first time, I had a modified epidural (no narcotics), and the second time, there was no time for the drugs. I went in both times with a "let's see how it goes" philosophy, and that worked for me. There are enough things to torture ourselves about when it comes to our children, so I decided that this would not be one of them.”
“Be careful of taking interventions (e.g., Pitocin, early epidural, etc.) because one often does lead to more.”
“If trying to go natural, you need to weigh the outcome/repercussions of an intense, exhausting labor on the one hand, and unwanted interventions that might speed up the labor on the other.”
Be aware (through research) of all risks to all procedures; some will say episiotomies, epidurals, Pitocin, and C-sections are intended for the staff's convenience, not yours.
“If they tell you they want to give you Pitocin or your baby will be at risk, be aware that Pitocin also has risks to the baby. So you're not choosing between risk (without Pitocin) or no risk (with Pitocin); rather, you're choosing between two options that both have risks. I wish I had known that when I was railroaded into having Pitocin when I had my first child.”
“Regarding the epidural: if you ask for one, the anesthesiologist may not be available exactly at that moment. Keep that in mind when you feel ready to ask for one. I had to wait 1-1/2 hours for the epidural because the anesthesiologist was about to walk into a C-section that had priority.”
PRIVATE ROOM AVAILABILITY/COST: Find out ahead of time whether there are private rooms available, the cost, etc. so that you know in advance whether your partner will have the option of staying the night and whether it's affordable. “The private room was worth every penny! Loved having my husband stay with me and having the privacy.”
HOSPITAL TOURS: Visit hospitals and take tours so you can see for yourself, even if a hospital comes highly recommended. Know what's important to you and ask questions on the tours, such as how many private rooms there are, whether the baby can stay in your room, and what kind of breastfeeding support is offered.
FAMILY VISITS: If you have strong feelings about too many excited family members visiting once the baby is born, try to take care of these discussions before you actually give birth. If your husband/partner is not going to be able to help with your wishes, try to enlist the help of somebody who will.
Have people visit you at the hospital, not at your home.
NURSERY/ROOMING WITH BABY AT NIGHT: You'll have options about what to do with the baby at night. See General Advice to Remember about Your Stay.
ARRANGING FOR HELP AFTER BABY’S ARRIVAL: “Having a doula or a baby nurse when you get home is a great idea if you can do it. Choose a doula if you would like to have someone help you, or choose a baby nurse if you would like someone to help with the baby.”
MEDICATION FOR HOME AFTER BABY’S ARRIVAL: Talk to your doctor about any meds that you might need after birth (i.e., pain pills or stool softeners), and buy them before you go to the hospital so you don't have to worry about that when you get home.
LABOR EXPERIENCE: “Don't assume the worst, and tell everyone to keep their less-than-fabulous labor stories to themselves. My first child was born in 3 hours, and my second in 40 minutes. (That's 40 minutes from when I realized I was in labor--in Brooklyn--until he was born at NY Presbyterian on East 68th!) And I was so sure it was going to be a 36-hour labor, at least the first time.”
“Whatever kind of labor you have, having a baby is so much better than what anybody tells you!”
PADSICLES: "Padsicles are pretty great too. (I couldn't find aloe or lavender oil so I used witch hazel that contained lavender and aloe and it was fine).