Wisdom from the Spring 2022 Birthing Survey

The results from our Spring 2022 Birthing Experience Survey are in! Park Slope Parents members shared their honest reviews of OB-GYNS, midwives, doulas, hospitals, and other support folks throughout Brooklyn and beyond.  They also passed along sage advice on pregnancy, birthing, and the post-partum period.

For member reviews and recommendations, head here; and for wisdom, read on!

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Also check out the PSP Birthing and Postpartum Toolkit, featuring more than 60 pages of information on all aspects of the expectancy, birthing, and postpartum journey!

We asked our members: “Do you have any advice for new parents? For example, is there anything you wish you had done differently?” Here’s what they shared.

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Prep (logistically and emotionally) as much as possible before the baby comes.

“I wish I had taken the birthing class earlier so I was more equipped to ask questions at every stage with my doctor.”

“Been more prepared with meals! Cook and freeze as much as you can.” 

“I would have opened up my pump and figured out my flange side before I delivered. I wound up needing to pump on the first day due to latch issues, but because I was using the hospital provided 24mm flanges (I use 17mm now) I wound up with trauma/bruising which made the early breastfeeding process even harder!”

“Of all of the childbirth books we had, we found The Birth Partner to be the most helpful. It’s the only one I’m hanging onto in case we have a second baby.”

“I wish I had spent more time reading and understanding the newborn and early infant phase! I spent far too much time reading about labor and delivery which in many cases cannot be in your control and is typically no longer than a 24-36 hour experience but the NB/infant stage is months long! I realized once I brought my baby home that I was so in the dark about what to expect, what was within normal, what I should be looking for, etc...I wish I had not been so afraid to take my newborn out on walks and stroller rides, I was terrified. When she cried I would turn around and go back home. Get out of your apartment when you feel comfortable and are ready. The outdoors is good for baby and mom (of course weather permitting).”

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Connect with your support network.

“Join your baby group! Having a support network with people going through it with you is amazing.”

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It’s a wish list, not a birth plan. Be flexible about your birth.

“Don’t be afraid of getting an epidural. I held off for a long time because I was scared/wanted to try to avoid medicating but the whole experience felt so much more manageable once I got the epidural.”

"I would repeat the following to myself:

You can not manage your way through this, you can only feel your way through this.

The moment I relinquished control, my daughter was born 60 minutes later (after being in labor for 26 hours). Letting go was painful af! I lost control of my body and my mind. It was the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt in my life which clearly led to the most amazing moment of my life. Then it wasn’t about me or the hospital staff (which I was soooo annoyed with the entire time) (because in hindsight I was scared and perplexed about how this labor was going to go down) it was and is about us. She is here and healthy and so am I."

"Even though it's scary, I would advise pregnant folks to go over possible emergency procedures and interventions and discuss ahead of time with any partner, family member, or doula who will be there to advocate for you what you would want to happen. For example, if the baby and birthing parent must be separated should the birthing partner stay with the parent or go with the baby. And a list of questions for someone to ask on your behalf in the statistically low instance you may have an emergency/ unplanned c-section (ie, will I be able to hold the baby, do you perform vaginal seeding, etc.). Even writing down any medications you were put on, who saw you etc because when nurses keep changing shifts and coming in fresh, it's hard to keep track of everything when the whole team is sleep deprived."


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Notes on your hospital stay.

“Talk to people who have delivered at the hospital where you are planning to go, particularly someone who was there recently given the rapidly changing COVID protocols.”

“Bring a velcro swaddle or an easy swaddle to use so you don't have to call the nurses in every time you unswaddle your baby. Bring a haakaa (pump) to the hospital if you plan on breastfeeding—it helped me get out colostrum when the baby wasn't latching so I was able to feed him anyway.”

"There is a constant rotation of staff - nurses for you, for the baby, the doctor, and it's hard to keep them all straight and they are all moving so fast they don't always introduce themselves. Make sure you know (like you fully process) who does what!"

"I initially wasn’t aware that you could send your baby to a nursery overnight (who’s totally fine with no issues) to try to get some much needed uninterrupted sleep! I had to stay two nights at NYU Langone Tisch and a nurse told me about this on my second day there. Sure would’ve been nice to know for the first night, esp since I had been awake for 26 hours before I gave birth at 830am on a Saturday morning!"

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Advocate for yourself.

“Please know you can ‘fire’ nurses if you have a problem with them. My first L&D nurse was actively mean and made me afraid to ask for things. I was induced for high blood pressure and our interactions sent it sky high. Without my Doula, I wouldn’t have known I could fire her and I worry they would’ve had to intervene for my high bp from stress.”

“I am very happy with my decision to get an epidural, and be vocal about wanting one the minute I walked into the hospital. I still had to wait over 2 hours to get one, so my advice is to not wait if you want one.”

"You know your body best. There if a place for medical experts but it should be a conversation where you’re not afraid to say your piece. Sometimes loudly and forcefully to multiple people. You know your body better than anybody else can."

"What I wish I’d known is that you can refuse absolutely anything: any procedure, practice, or person that makes you uncomfortable, even if it’s just a twinge of a feeling that you can’t quite explain, can be refused. If you want more time to labor, you can ask for it. If you don’t like the way a nurse interacts with you or your baby, you can ask for someone else. If you don’t want a resident in the room, you can say no. If you want to go home sooner, you can waive the exams with hospital staff, and go home to your own pediatrician or obgyn instead."

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Take all the help and support you can get.

“My advice is always the same: ask for postpartum support and know what to expect. Take every helping hand.”

"I know everyone says this, but get all the help you can get. Physical, emotional, psychological. The first few months are so hard, and it makes such a difference having people you can rely on.

--Hire a postpartum doula OR ensure you have in-person support set up for the first several weeks

--Outsource what you can, even if it seems not worth it/small - just do it! And, accept help when offered (applies to getting groceries, making food, cleaning home, errands, holding the baby, etc)

--I wish I knew how torturous the sleep deprivation was for the first few months. I would have level set what I expected I could ‘get done’ in my life, which would have allowed me to be softer with myself, my partner and more present in the moment!"

“Allow help in any way that friends and family can offer it, and speak up if you feel symptoms of PPD. I was diagnosed with PPD at 3 months but had been feeling the symptoms from very early on, and it made for a very difficult and challenging start for me to bond with my baby and I regret not seeking help sooner.”

“Throw money at it, the beginning is incredibly hard and you will need all the help you can get. It is worth the expense!”

 

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Notes on emotional and physical self-care in the postpartum period.

“Day 4-5 are wild. Your hormones are everywhere. Expect crying spells, moments of overwhelming grief, guilt, regret, doubt, happiness etc. Lots of crying, lots of feelings. It’s totally normal; the hormones in your body are insane. It’s just a crazy experience all you can do is ride it out. Don’t apologize for it. Your body just went through something incredible, let it adjust in its own way. This will last two weeks. Anything after that is considered PPD. Really wait the two weeks. I remember being convinced I had postpartum depression, but after the second week things really leveled out. And if they don’t that’s ok too! Post partum depression is totally treatable, and my therapist did not seem worried about it.”

“Allow help in any way that friends and family can offer it, and speak up if you feel symptoms of PPD. I was diagnosed with PPD at 3 months but had been feeling the symptoms from very early on, and it made for a very difficult and challenging start for me to bond with my baby and I regret not seeking help sooner.”

          NOTE: If you think you may be experiencing PPD or PMADs, we have resources here.

“Don't compare how you’re handling things to how your partner is handling things. They may seem calmer, or more level headed. They may be functioning better with less sleep. They didn’t just have a baby and they're not breastfeeding. There’s no comparison. Also don’t feel guilty for leaving them with the baby to go rest. It’s their baby too, they can take shifts.”

“Invest in post partum thinx/period undies, heavy duty pads can be a bummer to have to deal with.”

“Use the belly band every day!”

“Just everyone should see a pelvic floor PT after being pregnant. Even just once to get checked out!! Make your doc give you a prescription! Even if they tell you everything is fine at your 6 week visit.”

          NOTE: PSP has member reviews for Post Natal Physical Therapists.

“Your hands (and sometimes boobs) are always in demand and the first things to go are self care. My rule was before I did anything for the baby or for the house (dishes, laundry, cooking, changing a diaper, feeding) I would do a small thing for myself. These things include but are not limited to:

  • Drinking water 
  • Peeing
  • Eating a snack
  • Brushing your teeth 
  • Washing your face 
  • Changing into clothes that are comfortable/make you happy

These things take two seconds and everything can wait until you quickly do them. Carry your water bottle everywhere.”

“If you feel like you need to do dishes, or clean or do laundry to keep yourself sane (it was kinda like my only way of feeling like I had some control over my life in those days) by all means, do it. But just know you could be sleeping instead and that would be ok too. Let yourself do whatever you need to do to keep it together.”

“Be prepared to sweat like so so much. Like to wake up drenched in sweat”

“Try to shower every day! I had to shower bc of my incision but it was a real game changer in the feeling human department. Prioritize showering.”

“Invest in some new cheap loungewear. It’s nice to have some new cozy things to wear that you don’t mind getting a little messed up.”

“You don’t need to be doing anything except taking care of your baby! I remember feeling like my days weren’t productive or I didn’t do anything that day if I didn’t leave the house or something. You are being productive just by taking care of your baby, that’s all you need to do.”

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Notes on feeding.

“I wish I had educated myself even just a little on breastfeeding beforehand. I was so focused on learning about childbirth that I put aside anything about breastfeeding. We figured it out, but when different people come at you with (sometimes conflicting) advice, it would have been helpful to have some kind of framework in place. Our hope was to exclusively breastfeed, and we were headed down a formula train within 24 hours due to some advice that really didn’t apply to us in the end. It took speaking up and hard work to shift back toward our intended goal.”

“Hire a lactation counselor to come work with you as soon as you get home from the birthing location.”

“I didn't realize the difference between an IBCLC and CLC-- definitely go with a IBCLC if you plan to breastfeed! Also, try to meet with a consultant before you give birth. My milk took a while to come in, and I didn't realize that I should be pumping to speed up the process.”

          NOTE: PSP has member reviews for Lactation Consultants.

“If you are pumping - teach everyone how to clean your pump parts. Buy multiple sets of pump parts. If not, you’ll be washing those parts every second of your life. Share that responsibility if you can.”

“It helped me to have my nursing chair face a window. It can be nice to look out at 3am and see some lights on and some cars driving down the street, makes you feel less alone.”

 

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Notes on sleep (for the baby and for you).

“A lot of social media focuses on baby sleep and laying a healthy sleep foundation. I was convinced that if I didn't lay this sleep foundation correctly, then I would never sleep again. This was complete BS in my experience. All of the babies in my baby group (and friends' babies since) seemed to develop sleep habits around the same time, regardless of what their parents did. My advice is to chill out about baby sleep. Avoid the pressure to follow all of the sleep experts on social media and learn everything you can about how babies sleep developers. Know that there are baby sleep experts and if you get to 16 weeks and are really going crazy, then open the sleep expert door, but before that point, allow yourself a lot of grace and trust that it's going to get better. (IT WILL GET BETTER.) You don't need to stress about putting your baby down drowsy but awake, in fact, you don't need to stress about putting your baby down at all. You are doing great. Your baby is doing great. You don't need to set goals or milestones or things that you are working towards during this time. You need to be human and let your little baby be human. Sleep will happen.”

“I genuinely wish I had stayed away from ALL information/advice about baby sleep. We found our flow but the first few months were so much self-induced stress about the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to do things. Fact of the matter is there is no such thing!!”

“Protected sleep!!!!! Enlist anyone you can to watch the baby so you can get a few hours of protected sleep.”

          NOTE: PSP has lots of crowd-sourced sleep advice.

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At all stages, work toward flexibility, openness, and living in the present moment.

“Know that there are so many things that will be outside of your control, so be ready to be open and flexible.”

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and try to go with the flow!”

“Try to be as present as possible. It all goes by so quickly!”

"Give yourself the space and permission to change your mind about things. For me, I really surprised myself on my feeding journey as far as my preferences, desires and effort I would expend when it came to breastfeeding vs. formula. I did a 180, more than once, in a very short time period. Being a mom is a very new and unique experience. There is no way to know how you will feel about all of the things. Give yourself the space and permission to change your mind as you navigate and feel this new role."

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We asked our members: “Any advice for people who are considering using a birth or postpartum doula?”

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You've totally got this either way, but here are some thoughts who had a birthing doula and loved the experience:

“I couldn't imagine giving birth without my doula! It was my husband and my first so I felt like we wanted someone with us in the L&D room. Most of the hospital clinical team is in and out of the room whereas your doula is there supporting you and your other support person. I think a birth doula is particularly helpful in a hospital setting. They can help you labor, advocate for you, and balance the medical perspective which can create an uneven power dynamic.”

“You might not think you need one, but the birth doulas are helpful!”

“Having a birth doula was an integral part of our experience. It was so helpful and confidence boosting to have her along the way, especially in the hospital where it felt like we could have easily been taken into a whirlwind of things.”

“I found having a birth Doula very helpful, especially as first time parents. It was important to me to create a warm, relaxing atmosphere for the birth, and she really helped achieve that (with music, little fairy lights and electric candles, lavender scent… nurses who came in said our room felt like a party!) Ours was young and ‘green,’ so her rate was low, but her training made her far more knowledgeable about the ins and out of labor than my husband and I were. Experience aside, you really want is someone who’ll be fully present, that you feel entirely comfortable around and who’ll be a calm, reassuring and encouraging presence.”

“Birth doula really helped us stay at home and comfortable until it was really time to go, which meant we had a truly low intervention birth.”

“It’s worth it if you can swing the extra cost. (Costs vary depending on experience level of doula.) We were on the fence for a while and ended up hiring our birth doula during third trimester. It wasn’t ‘too late’ but if you are considering hiring one, it’s helpful to allow enough time (a few weeks?) prior to delivering for you to get to know one another, get comfortable with each other, and make sure your doula understands your goals and perspective on childbirth.”

"As far as the rotating cast of medical professionals that come in and out, I highly recommend a doula for this reason alone. Our doula helped us navigate all the different personalities and opinions and was quick to let us know when she thought that someone was doing a great (or not so great) job. As a first timer, you just really don't know what is "normal". Worth her weight in gold."

 

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Some also had an awesome experience with a postpartum doula:

“Post Partum doula was wonderful for first child. She came when I felt most overwhelmed and was such a positive energy and calming presence, I would recommend.”

“Not worth it if you are getting an epidural but I wish I had one post partum at home with me. 

Do it. You won't regret it. Worth the money. Fit matters, so find someone who energetically jives with you.”

“I also hired a PP doula. She was wonderful. I waited until 3 months and wish I had someone sooner to support. I cannot say enough how important it was/is to ensure there's a team of ppl ready to support you, in my experience it was really tough to do even small things (like make food, shower, get outside) and I wish I had taken more time to get support set up in the early days."

“Highly recommend scheduling several days with a post-partum doula, even if your partner is the most caring, committed, able, action-oriented, home-keeping partner on earth (as mine is..).”

“Hire a postpartum doula who is also a lactation counselor.”

“We had a postpartum doula who was incredible. My favorite thing was that she cleared her schedule around my induction date so she could be with us at home on our first night back, which made me feel so safe.”

“Post-partum I just can't recommend this kind of support enough. She helped with LITERALLY everything, and made us feel so empowered as new parents.”

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More thoughts on hiring and working with a doula:

“Do it!! You will not regret it. And talk to a few people. The vibe is so important.”

“I wanted a doula but by the time I was looking they were all booked for my due date. My recommendation is that if you want a doula, make sure you look for one well before your due date.”

“Give yourself enough time before birth to find someone you like and will be able to trust.”

"Strongly recommend hiring both a birth and a PP doula. I recommend reading Nurture by Erica Chidi Cohen to get more info on your options for birth, and questions to ask yourself and your health care providers.”

“If you end up needing to be induced - have a conversation with your doula where you get an explicit understanding of what kind of support to expect. My doula contract specified that doula would join me at the hospital when I reached 4cm…but I never got to 4cm because of the emergency c-section. I had minimal support throughout painful induced contractions as a result and definitely needed the support. I just had no idea what to expect from an induction but in retrospect I should have come up with a support plan with my doula.”

“Find someone you click with and find easy to talk to. You'll need to talk about some awkward things, so feeling comfortable is important.”

“Find someone that fits your vibe and feels like a friend.”

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Further reading on PSP:

To Doula or Not To Doula During Childbirth

Doulas, Nannies, and Beyond: Choosing the Right Type of Care for Your Family

Reviews for Birthing Doulas

Reviews for VBAC-Friendly Birthing Doulas

Reviews for Postpartum Doulas


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