Birth and Beyond Stories: January 2021

Park Slope Parents held a meet-up headlined by a few awesome members who volunteered to share their experiences birthing in NYC during the last few months. Find the key takeaways for expectant parents below!

 

Also check out the PSP Birthing and Beyond Toolkit, featuring more than 50 pages of information, from full lists of things to bring to the hospital to questions to ask before you go!

 

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Planning for birth

 

Pack EARLIER than you expected just in case. 

 

People generally thought they brought TOO MUCH. If you don’t stay long, you won’t need it, and if you stay longer, it’s likely someone can get it from home. However, there are some people who liked to have everything with them “just in case,” which provided them with comfort. Here’s what people mentioned as being most useful:

 

  • iPhone charger with extra long cord 

  • Power strip to plug in multiple devices

  • External battery for your phone

  • BIG bottle of water (S’well or this one)

  • An extra set of clothes (but really, you don’t need much)

  • Your own pillow from home

  • A nice robe to help you feel human

  • Watermelon (if allowed)

  • Heating pad

  • Small light (or warm light you can use instead of the harsh hospital light). This one and the Casper light were recommended. 

  • Shower shoes

  • Straws—they’re easier to drink from, but you can also ask for them if you don’t bring your own.

 

Practice the route to the hospital and check on parking. One hospital touted “valet parking,” but it wasn’t actually available at the time the parents-to-be got to the hospital.

 

Know that hospitals vary on:

  • What kind of Covid tests they give (one person waited for hours for test results)

  • Whether birth partners receive a Covid test

  • Whether partners can be in triage with the laboring parent

  • Who is allowed in the OR in the case of an emergency surgery or C-section

  • Whether partners are allowed to leave the hospital and come back

  • Whether there are private rooms, and if so, whether you need to reserve one beforehand or if they’re first come, first served

  • Whether you’ll be expected to labor in a mask

  • Availability of in-room showers

  • Whether your baby will stay with you in your room instead of going to the nursery so you can get some rest

  • Whether triage takes place in a private room or a larger shared room with curtains

  • Whether doulas will be available (NYP Methodist hired doulas for a time during the start of the pandemic. After a hiatus, they are back on staff.)

 

To help feel bonded and in sync with your birth partner, make a point of doing things together before the baby comes. Take classes, read books, and watch videos together. Activities like these help build a shared history that you can both tap into. Someone mentioned that NYU has classes for partners-to-be, and learning together about how to take care of the baby can be a great bonding activity. Work on the house together, including planning out and decorating the nursery if you have one. Read The Birth Partner or The Happiest Baby on the Block (try to order from a local bookshop if you can). If your doctor/hospital doesn’t allow visitors during prenatal appointments, use technology to keep you connected. Even if your partner is FaceTiming in, they can take notes on the appointment that you can go over together later. Take time to talk about expectations, each of your upbringings, things you want to emulate in your parents, and things you want to avoid. 

 

Take classes on caring for the baby. As mentioned above, NYU Classes were given praise—especially the family class, which was really more of a relationship class. Leigh Kader’s Kin Doulas online classes also came highly recommended. PSP has more member-reviewed birthing classes here.

 

Decide on your comfort level with visitors, and set up expectations beforehand. Consider what will make you feel comfortable once you’re at home with baby. Do you want visitors to quarantine for ten days? Get a rapid test on the day they arrive? Many folks have told us that having the first few weeks alone was a silver lining to Covid; it helped the new nuclear family bond more than would have happened if there was a steady stream of people flowing in and out after the baby was born. 

 

Have numbers for lactation consultants on hand before you go to the hospital. Here’s a list of PSP member-reviewed lactation consultants (many are recent reviews based on the 2020 birthing survey we ask folks to fill out).  

 

Check in on your mental health. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or overly anxious, and especially if you have a history of mental health struggles, consider getting an “emotional tune-up.” Check out this article from an Expectant Parents Mental Health Check-In to learn more about things that you may be feeling and find guidance on when it’s time to seek help. 

 

If the birthing partner wants to turn over the reins of the household during the postpartum period (and that is definitely a viable option), take a week before the baby comes to write down all of the things that you do during the week. Lists can take the psychological responsibility off of the recovering parent and assist helpers in feeling like they have a roadmap. Oh, and perfectionists? Really turn it over, and be okay if it’s not done exactly how you like it. People really can rise to the occasion if you give them agency. 

 

Mediate expectations. Consider it a “wish list” rather than a “birth plan.” One person described her “relaxed birth plan,” which hoped for a vaginal birth, as unmedicated as possible, without other parameters. Realize that very few people actually get the exact birth they want. Since that’s the case, make sure to listen in your birthing classes for the section on “if things go awry.” You may be tempted to say “that won’t happen to me,” but if you make an effort not to dismiss it, you’ll be more prepared for whatever happens when the time comes. 

 

If you’re planning on breastfeeding, check your closet for clothes that open in the front. Clips and snaps can be a lifesaver. Some people decided to exclusively pump, and that is okay too! Speaking of wardrobe planning, adult diapers can also be helpful, so order those ahead of time.

 

It’s totally normal to go over your due date. Your due date is based on an “average,” but cooking times vary (so to speak), and with your doctors' help, you can decide if being “late” is any cause for concern. Friends and family may put expectations (and worries) on you about your due date, but resist the urge to fret unless it’s warranted. 

 

Much of the first stages of labor can happen at home. Work with your birth team to decide when you need to go to the hospital. 

 

Think through how you might want to thank the nursing staff. One parent shared: “One thing we did was bring some goodies/thank you bags for nurses with some candies and a pen (we were told nurses love to get pens!)”

 

Be creative with your family leaves. If you are a two-partner family, consider staggering who takes leave, since creative planning can extend the time you have with the baby. For instance, having both people home together for six weeks might not be as useful as having a partner home for two weeks, then back at work for a month, then off again for a few weeks (and rinse and repeat).

While at the hospital

 

Find out where the water refill station is. Then your partner/doula can help keep you hydrated, and you won’t have to rely on hospital staff. 

 

Ask lots of questions. The people in the labor and delivery and baby wards are super knowledgeable, and you can bet someone has asked your question before. Remember: There are no dumb questions. 

 

Take all of the stuff they provide (chucks, diapers, flush bottles) and ask for more. Those squirt bottles end up having lots of different uses (washing baby as well as mama parts). Sometimes they just let you take what you have in your room, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if more is available. You may be able to get your hands on hats, blankets, and perinatal care stuff—all things you might need!

 

Some hospitals will try to rush you out, but if you need more time, advocate for yourself.  Some people want more time before being sent into the wild at home without help. Staying in the hospital will give you more access to lactation consultants and nurses with vast experience in things like swaddling, holding the baby, burping, etc. 

 

You may feel like you’re in a time warp. What seemed like an hour might be six. What seems like six hours might only be one. That’s all normal, and time will rebalance eventually!  

 

After you get home

 

It’s natural to come home and think, “Wow, clueless much?” Everything is a phase. Even things that feel grueling now will pass sooner than you think. The good things change too, so take them as they come, and enjoy everything while you can! You might think you’ll never sleep again…but then you do. 

 

Things typically get a little easier every day. Parenting is certainly not automatic, but with each day that goes by, you’ll get a little better at reading cues, coming up with best practices, and so much more. 

 

If you’re planning on breastfeeding, know that it may not be as easy and natural as you expected. Realizing that most people have issues breastfeeding can make you feel less alone should things prove challenging. We have a list of breastfeeding support groups on the PSP website, and the First Droplets website was also recommended as a great resource for breastfeeding. 

 

If you had heartburn before birth, it may go away! Yay!

 

Take it as easy on yourselves as much as possible. Find shortcuts where you can. Ask friends and relatives to send food rather than clothes. If it’s financially feasible for you, ordering in can save time cooking and cleaning up. 

 

Having partners work from home is in many ways a blessing in disguise. WFH was a learning curve, but it also means that your partner can be there more. 

 

You may want to “cocoon” and not talk to many people. Consider having a “PR person” (this could be a partner or a friend/family member in your inner circle) to handle communications and post social media updates. Remember that you don’t actually owe people any updates (although the basics are great to share if you have the bandwidth).

 

Check in on your mental health (again). Birthing parents may experience some “Pregnant Princess to Post-Partum Pauper” feelings after you bring the baby home, since you’re suddenly transitioning out of the spotlight. Post-birth is a time when new parents need extra support and care. Non-birthing partners may drop even farther down the “VIP list” and experience challenging feelings related to that shift and to their newfound role. Read through our Mental Health Check-In for Dads/Partners for guidance on supporting each other and collaboratively managing emotional struggles that may arise in the early days of parenthood.

 

Not as many people are going to see your baby because of the pandemic. Have a lot of FaceTime and Zoom calls, and remember to take lots of videos and photos. 

 

Do what’s best for you in terms of visitors. Maybe you changed your mind about people coming; that’s okay. Maybe a two-week visit is too much; that’s okay. Maybe having your mother-in-law come stay will just add more stress; that’s okay.

 

Ask your partner to share their birth story. Everyone involved with the birth has a different physical experience with it, so swapping stories can help you understand how your partner felt (and feels). Non-birthing partners can be hit with a lot of new emotions after the baby is born, so it’s important to check in with them to understand what they are going through. 

 

Designate tasks so that each person can have special time and alone time. Tummy time or bathtime can go to one person while the other person relaxes and reads a book. Oh—and your partner can do absolutely everything with the new baby but breastfeed. Really!

 

Nourish yourself. Read a book and do something NOT related to being a parent. Read a novel, put down the phone and stop scrolling and just be present. Take a walk by yourself without the baby, enjoy a few moments of quiet, and just recharge.

 

Take advantage of your baby groups! Check in; chat; organize a walk in the park, botanic garden, or Green-Wood Cemetery. You can keep your babies toasty with all sorts of coverings, and the fresh air is good for everyone. 

 

Stock up on products. Recommendations included:

  • Dermoplast worked for a lot of people (although there were diminishing returns for some if used for a prolonged period).

  • Period panties or adult diapers may help for the weeks after birth. 

  • The Elvie Curve hands-free silicone breast pump was a game-changer for some. One parent said: ‘It helped bring in my supply and also I began collecting a lot of milk which I could store away without the need to get on the pump. It’s a bit pricey but more practical than the Haaka.”

  • Earth Mama Nipple Butter for breastfeeding

 

Best of luck with the start of your parenting journey. We have the utmost confidence that you’re going to be the BEST parents to that baby!