Wisdom from our 2020 Birthing Experience Survey

The results are in from our 2020 Birthing Experience Survey! More than 150 Park Slope Parents members shared their honest reviews of OB GYNS, midwives, doulas, hospitals, and other support folks throughout Brooklyn and beyond, and they also passed along sage advice on pregnancy, birthing, and the post-partum period.

 

For member reviews and recommendations, view our Ob-Gyns, Birthing, Fertility and Post-Partum category; and for wisdom, read on!

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Wisdom in this article:

During Pregnancy

Heading to the Hospital

In the Hospital for Delivery

In the Hospital with Baby

At Home with Baby

General Wisdom

 

DURING PREGNANCY

 

Take things as they come, trust your gut, and try not to overthink:

 

“I wish I had taken a few more deep breaths and worried a little less. Everything turned out way better than I expected. ”

 

“Get all the advice. Then take what you need from it, and do what you think is best for you and your family. People have their own experiences, but they aren't your experience. Just do you. You'll be fine. And try not to Google everything ;)”

 

“There is so much advice and opinion regarding how to be pregnant, how to give birth and how to manage a newborn - I found it overwhelming. Find a few trusted partners - your doctor or midwife should ideally be one of them - and also trust that you know what makes sense for you. For example, while a home birth was a great option for a friend of mine, I also knew that my anxious personality felt more comfortable at a hospital. If you do want to pursue a medication-free birth, let people know that and see how they can support you. 

 

“I wish I had relaxed more on the prep and research and enjoyed the first few months instead of worrying and critiquing on every single thing. But I'm enjoying my baby now and I suppose it's never too late!”

 

But do your research when it comes to breastfeeding and the post-partum period in general:

 

“I wish I would have learned a lot more about breastfeeding before my daughter's life depended on me feeding her... it just felt so far away with the whole labor process hitting before it. But I do wish I would have known more about how much baby's are supposed to eat, what signs to look for that they may not be getting the right amount, and that there are options to help them get what they need while also working to get my supply up at the same time. It doesn't have to be either 100% breastfeeding or 100% formula.”

 

“Take a breastfeeding class, even more important than a birthing class in my opinion. Also learn about the foundations of sleep for infants. Highly recommend TakingCaraBabies. Also speak your truth, do what feels comfortable for you, your instincts know the answer even if you don't.”

 

“Breastfeeding was much more difficult than I had expected. I wish I had done more research and practiced with my breast pump beforehand because I needed to use it during the first 2 weeks due to milk coming in late and baby's latch issues/tongue-tie.”

 

“Research and take a class on breastfeeding before birth. Also identify which lactation consultant you will work with ahead of time.”

 

“I wish I had found and connected with a lactation consultant ahead of time so that when/if I needed her, it was easier to get an appointment and help. Not fun doing that in the throes of the first couple of weeks.”

 

“Prepare for the post-birth period! We took a four-hour class on newborn care and a four-week class on labor, and I wish the lengths had been reversed. Labor lasts no more than a day (or two, I suppose), but the first weeks and months of a newborns' life are much longer and often confusing and difficult to navigate. Having a doula who specifically focuses on the postpartum period was crucial--she was wonderful during labor, but even more helpful after we got home. And I had no idea how important it would be to have my mom stay with us for the first week of being home from the hospital. If there's someone you trust to be helpful who can stay with you, I highly recommend doing that.”

 

“I wish I had done some (not a ton, but some) basic research about newborn sleep techniques, beyond what I learned in our general newborn care class. I found myself desperately searching for ways to manage newborn sleep in the middle of the night or while trying to rock the baby to sleep for hours.”

 

“I wish I had spent less time thinking and worrying about the birth altogether, and more time thinking and learning about baby management -- how to take care of the baby, day by day, once he came home. I finally read a book called SECRETS OF THE BABY WHISPERER and it helped me deeply in giving us a routine and a sense of what to do. Read it beforehand, people!”

 

“I think I made the right calculation ‘saving’ by hiring a training-level doula with my first kid. Maybe it was specific to how talented she was, but she had enough experience to be extremely helpful without having attended dozens of births. I wish I had been less cost-conscious about an IBCLC. If you want to breastfeed, the $300 or whatever it is, if it's not covered by insurance, is worth EVERY. PENNY. I wish I'd started going to La Leche meetings when I was pregnant with my first, instead of when my first was a newborn. They could have recommended an IBCLC, and I could have had help at my fingertips.”

 

“We both read several books, watched various videos, and spoke with friends and family regarding labor. Our main piece of advice would be to make sure that the nursery or newborn space is prepped and ready to go well before the due date as our baby was born one month early. Otherwise, it's great to find a lactation consultant who accepts your insurance before birth. We also conducted research and found a pediatrician well before birth. Lastly, stock up on diapers and wipes as they have quite the output for such small beings. One more  thing, we only dress our baby once a  week or so to visit the pediatrician and definitely did not need many newborn size onesies.”

 

“Prepare yourself not just for childbirth, but what comes immediately thereafter. The first few weeks are extremely difficult, but you can and will get through them!”

 

“Think about and plan for postpartum as much as you plan for the birth!”

 

Including help from professionals if that’s an option for you:

 

Most of all, having a doula is the greatest thing we did for the two times I have given birth. I recommend that every pregnant parent look into if a doula makes sense for you. Having an experienced person in the labor room with me at all times made me feel more comfortable and supported.”

 

“Hire a doula if you can. They support and empower you like a friend who understands intimately what you're physically, mentally and emotionally going through. The best ones will advocate for you every step of the way, so hire someone you feel comfortable texting in the middle of the night and who will see you makeup-less and gross, but who'll help bring your baby safely into the world.”

 

“Really glad we had a doula; wish we had interviewed OB GYNs and shopped around a little; we had a great experience for IVF at NYU with doctor F; we love our baby Bjorn bouncer; don’t get rid of the bassinet before 6 months.”

 

Find community:

 

“Join a new moms group. Has been one of the best parts of my parenting journey.”

 

“Everyone needs to join a new parent / mom group, even the dads. You need a group going through the exact same thing at the same time.”

 

“I am SO grateful for the community of Park Slope Parents - I would highly recommend meeting up with other parents in the same birth month. It was so helpful to have that resource of people all going through something very similar to you. Both during pregnancy and after!”

 

“Positive birth stories! I was induced last minute and didn’t use any anesthesia and it really helped me. No matter the birth you choose or ultimately end up going through, I HIGHLY recommend immersing yourself in positive birth stories that reflect your situation and if the plan changes, read positive stories for the new plan. I spent the 2 hours before being induced reading positive birthing stories from women who were induced without anesthesia and I found it to be very helpful when I had to go INTO THE ZONE. From home birth to c-section, you will find it helpful to read positive stories from women who went through what you are about to go through.”

 

Consider whether home birth could be right for you:

 

“Home birth is amazing and we are so glad we chose it. It is safe, easeful and we are privileged to live near so many home birth midwives and hospitals in case you need a transfer. Insurance covered it, also and yes we only had a one bedroom apartment. Do look into it as an option for yourselves — we explored every option —

Hospital, birth center, midwives, OB, and didn’t rule any out. Have also had many friends who delivered at home safely and happily with midwives and doulas. Highly recommend!”

Stock up, but don’t go overboard:

 

“[I wish I] got on PSP classifieds earlier - there is so much you can buy second hand and save $!!”

 

“1. Don't feel the pressure to get all the stuff before baby arrives! Babies need very little at the start. Just get the essentials and take a few weeks to get to know your baby and how you parent. This will guide you in what you really need.

“Don't buy 90% of the clothes you think you'll need. You will use maybe 5 outfits max the first months of life. 2. An epidural is a lifesaver. My wife tried hypo-birthing and made it 9 hours before the epidural. She was so thankful. It's a lifesaver. 3. Pick a hospital close to where you live!”

 

“Buy nose bulbs that break apart into two pieces and can be washed on the inside.   The hospital ones get moldy basically immediately.”

 

“Don't buy a large quantity of diapers because it might not suit your baby well. Buy sample size of different brands and try them all out before you buy in bulk.

 

 

Get acquainted with your support team:

 

“I really like the OBGYN practice I was at, but I maybe should have had some appointments with other doctors in the practice, so a different doctor during the birth wouldn’t have been as much of a change.”

 

“I wish we had done the tour of the hospital. I .got around to it, but it would’ve been helpful in advance”

 

“We would have tried to better understand hospital billing practices and perhaps hired a patient advocate to allow us to push back on some of the bills that didn't actually make sense.”

 

 

Stay prepared:

 

“Pack your hospital bags early.  We ended up delivering 5 weeks early and I had just nagged my husband into finally packing his bags 2 days before we had to run to the hospital in the middle of the night.  Bring long iPhone chargers to the hospital and for new mamas sick of adult diapers Thinx underwear are lifesavers.”

 

 

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HEADING TO THE HOSPITAL

 

“Go to the hospital faster if you’re a second time mom! I had a crazy fast labor which prevented me from getting the epidural.”

 

“Bring a HUGE water bottle to the hospital. I really regretted not having my 64oz one with me. Bring your BFing pillow if you're BFing. Other than that...trust your nurses and providers.”

 

“I wouldn't have brought so much stuff with me to the hospital. My feet ended up so swollen that they didn't fit the slippers I brought, I was still so hot and there was no air in my recovery room so the pajamas I brought were unworn. The one thing I didn't bring was my nursing pillow and I would do that differently.”

 

“Birthing moms, bring some wide, slip-on shoes to wear home - wider even than anything you wore during pregnancy. I thought I was prepared for the postpartum swelling but I wasn’t.”

 

 

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IN THE HOSPITAL FOR DELIVERY

 

Set aside expectations:

 

“Something I know now is that labor can look really different from the methodical progression they teach you about in birthing class. My water broke with no contractions until hours later, when they started at 3 minutes apart. The most important thing to be prepared for is the need to improvise in the moment, and giving yourself permission to choose whatever options feel right for you once you're ‘in it.’”

 

But do advocate for yourself and your preferences:

“1. Advocate for yourself (especially in a hospital)- if there is something you want, be sure to ask for it.

2. Be willing to be flexible and change plans if something isn't working

3. Cut yourself some slack throughout the pregnancy- it is the perfect time to start practicing asking for help because you will need that skill after the baby is born”

 

Other tips:

 

“If you’re on the fence about getting an epidural, ask to speak with the anesthesiologist before contractions get bad and fill out paperwork ‘just in case’ so if you ultimately decide to get the epidural, it can happen quickly and efficiently”

 

 

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IN THE HOSPITAL WITH BABY

 

Take advantage of the nursery:

 

“If you don't mind introducing formula, you can keep your baby at the nursery for the entire night! This was crucial during my traumatic recovery period, and trust me you won't get a chance to get a full night's sleep for a long time afterwards ;-)”

 

Don’t rush out the door:

 

“I know the hospital rooms are small and uncomfortable, but those 2 nights are the only time you'll have so many people taking care of you and your baby.  Our doctor told us we could stay for just one night if we wanted and then everyone kept asking us so we felt pressured to leave the next day, and we did.  Even 6 months later I have regrets about not spending that extra night before we had to go back to reality. (Disclaimer: this was pre-covid!)”

 

Take advantage of the lactation consultants:

 

“Get a list of lactation consultant questions ready for the hospital consult, otherwise you go home being like...uhhhhh....what do I do now? It only works when she's RIGHT THERE HELPING.”

 

Seek support from folks who have had similar experiences:

 

“If your baby spends time in the NICU, please get help and support from others who have been through this experience. My wife and I did the necessary birthing classes, but none of that will prepare you for the NICU. Other NICU and preemie parents helped us through, and we are happy to help those who will be going through the NICU as well.”

 

Be careful about parking:

 

“Check the hospital parking rates/rules before someone drives over to pick you up for discharge!”

 

 

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AT HOME WITH BABY

 

Ask for help, because people want to help you:

 

“Asking for help when I needed it was key. My partner organized a meal train for 2 weeks and it was the best decision we made. It sustained us nutritionally and emotionally, for weeks. We also decided to spend the money on a postpartum doula instead of a birth doula,  in addition to having family in town, and it made a huge difference. ... Ask for help, because people want to help you.”

 

“Don’t hesitate to reach out for help as soon as questions arise.  It truly takes a village!”

 

Including help from professionals if that’s an option for you:

 

“I would get a post partum doula, it's so helpful to have someone focusing on you when you're focusing on the baby.”

 

“Hire a doula who does postpartum work. It saved our sanity and made the transition home (especially with a c section) so much smoother.”

 

“Get a night nurse for the first week post-birth. If you can afford it, this was the best money we spent! We were able to sleep and relax and get into a rhythm which is impossible when you are deprived.”

 

“I wish I had sought an independent lactation consultant after leaving the hospital within the first 2 weeks of birth. My preterm baby was a sleepy eater and I didn’t even know this was a problem at the time.”

 

“Yes - don't hesitate to figure out and problem-solve any latching issues with baby early on by speaking to several lactation specialists if needed. If addressed early, these issues can be fixed.”

 

But draw boundaries when you need to:

 

“I wish I asked my mother in law to come later, she caused a lot of grief and stress for me and made me miss my mom even more.”

 

Rest and recover as much as possible:

 

“Read up on the fourth trimester and the importance of resting the first six weeks postpartum. It really is a recovery period so treat it as such, and support the birthing partner accordingly.”

 

“After giving birth, your body doesn't jump back to what it was like pre-pregnancy. It takes time for the excess blood to come out and for the bruising/swelling to go down. I recommend doing research on how to improve your post-partum experience. Also check your flange sizes in advance if you are pumping.”

 

Tips and considerations:

 

“Be cautious with lactation consultants and doulas who immediately push tongue tie correction surgery, especially those who immediately recommend a specific doctor/dentist. Speak to your pediatrician and / or go to a pediatric ent for a professional opinion. Breastfeeding can be really hard and it is normal for it to be painful at first! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Trust your instincts”

 

“If you feel at all you are having nursing issues see someone ASAP! I waited until 7 weeks with my first child to see a LC and stopped breastfeeding at 12 weeks. I saw someone with my second baby at 2 weeks and had a lot of success. Also, if breastfeeding does't work out THAT IS OKAY! YOUR BABY WILL BE OKAY!”

 

Each baby is unique, so try not to compare your experience with anyone else’s:

 

“Don’t compare your baby to any other baby. Ask for advice when needed but remember that no one knows your baby like you. And i wish wish wish I didn’t worry as much with my first. I wish I had enjoyed it more and didn’t get caught up in how good/bad a sleeper or eater she was. Don’t care what anyone else does.”

 

“Every baby and needs are different.  As much as you can, try not to compare to what other families are doing.  It's helpful to hear what people are doing, but it doesn't mean it's right for you.  For me, giving myself permission to be more flexible and not rigid with measuring, sticking to exact schedule, and being responsive to our baby has created a very positive experience.  Everything for us has ebbed and flowed.  She's been an awesome sleeper, and she's had some tricky times sleeping...but it all keeps working out :).”

 

(Breast)feeding tips:

 

“FED IS BEST - don’t let anyone bully you into breastfeeding if it’s not working for you or baby or if you just don’t want to! The baby will be fine. Your health - mental and physical - is important.”

 

I had a lot of trouble breastfeeding, because my milk didn't come in.   I got nursing consultation at NYU Langone (they were wonderful), and I then I tried nursing for about 1 month.   I found it to be horribly stressful, because I was not producing enough milk.   I was lucky to have the guidance of both my sister and my sister-in-law who also had problems with nursing and ultimately formula fed my nephew and niece.   So i decided to formula feed after a month, and I found it liberating.   My son has been healthy his entire life, and he's a great eater and sleeper.  I wish that I didn't stress or feel any shame in deciding to formula feed.   Fed is best!  And a happy mama is the best kind of mama.”

 

“Have a breast pump ready to use in case you need to. Last thing you want to do is fiddle around with it and learn to use it when you desperately need to and are postpartum crazed with a (screaming) newborn. Have an appointment scheduled with a lactation consultant in your home within the first 48 hours of coming home from the hospital. Nothing can prepare you for how challenging breastfeeding can be no matter how well read you may be!”

 

 

PPD is real. Get help if you need it, and be gentle with yourself:

 

“The best thing I ever did was sign up for the postpartum support group at week 3. They supported me through the darkest hours and helped me support my family by suggesting grief counseling for everyone in my family. If you think you might have any sort of depression, sign up and you can always quit it if you’re alright. It’ll help you be a better mother in the end.”

 

“No one seemed to want to tell me this, but any depression or anxiety beyond a few weeks is PPD/PPA. Get treated. It is not worth you trying to stick it out when you could feel better immediately.”

 

“Post partum depression is real, even if you are the least depressed person in your everyday life. I figured I would be overjoyed with the arrival of my son, and I was, but in a weird way I was too sad and down on myself to be present. I can’t articulate it because I’d luckily never experienced depression before, but know that it is real and it will pass. Seek help if you need it. Be kind to yourself in those first few days and weeks, it gets SO much easier.”

 

 

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GENERAL WISDOM

 

“My only advice, which I admit is hard to follow, is to follow your instincts and not worry too much about doing it right. It is far more important to figure out how you WANT to do it, because there are so many right ways to raise children and take care of babies. And related to that, you can change your mind! I wish I had worried less about creating bad habits, always thinking everything I did would have long-lasting impact. In fact, everything changes on its own with babies and young children. And you have endless opportunities to change your approach.”

 

“Take the classes and welcome the helping hands and support before, during and after!  And don't forget about the after part - the best thing is letting other people cook for you, and asking for help.  In our childbirth prep class, the instructor said you wouldn't run the NYC Marathon without training, so why would you give birth without putting in the training/preparation?  I'm sure this analogy has been used before, but it really stuck with me and thankfully I felt really prepared with my pre and post delivery team.”

 

“Educate yourself about newborn care, not just about pregnancy and birth (which are important, but honestly will often mostly take care of themselves without you having much say in what happens! once that baby's born, you are really in the driver's seat). Line up a meal train, or ask a friend to do it, so that you can have a steady supply of tasty food, and visitors, coming in and you can focus more on dealing with your baby, sleeping, and taking care of your post-birth body.”

 

“Be nice to your partner (if he/she is there with you), and remind yourself how lucky you are to have this beautiful new baby!! Every phase is wonderful, but they are only newborns for a short time.”

 

 

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