How I’m Prepping for Labor

How to Prepare for Labor

A lot of you have been asking me to share my birth plan, so I wanted to finally share it with you today. Because we decided not to have a set “birth plan” (more on that at the very bottom of this post), I’m sharing how we’re preparing physically, mentally, and emotionally for labor. Obviously, I know that I have no idea what I’m in for since I’ve never done this before, but I’m thinking of it like training for a marathon (but like the hardest marathon ever): I’m going to train as much as possible in any way that I can, and when the day comes, I’ll have some tools in my back pocket that will make the experience easier and more manageable.

For my entire life, I’ve been terrified of giving birth. Based on how it’s depicted in movies and horror stories that I’ve heard over the years, how could I not be?!  With all the work that I’ve done over the last few months, I’m finally in a place where I feel confident yet trepidatious. I’m not going to pretend that there’s no fear left because there is, but it is far less.

My goal is to make the process as calm as possible by preparing in the following ways, including everything from breathing techniques to eating dates… yes, dates!

Hypnobirthing

The biggest commitment financially and time-wise has been our hypnobirthing course. I’ve been working with Laura, the woman who teaches it, for about eight years, and always knew that we would use her for Blissborn, her course for labor. She’s helped me with anxiety and insomnia and introduced me to the world of hypnosis. While it sounds scary, in reality it’s just guided meditations that help you relax.

Hypnobirthing is no different! She’s taught me to put myself into hypnosis (deep meditation) and recite mantras to stay calm and focus on other things besides the pain. I practice these techniques daily (literally) and have used them in real life scenarios like when I threw my back out and when I get calf spasms at night. In both situations, it’s been invaluable, so I’m hoping it has a similar effect in labor.

What I love about the course is that it involves your partner as well. She creates a big role for him in my labor, and he’ll be saying mantras to me as well as keeping me calm with physical and verbal techniques. Getting Anel to agree to almost 15 hours of calls with Laura was tough, but we’re both so glad that we did. It’s given me a confidence going into labor that I never thought I would feel.

Online Lamaze Class

My friend told me about this online lamaze class which she used for the birth of her third baby. She said it was, hands down, the most helpful thing she had done for any of her births, so I immediately jumped at the offer to check it out. The class itself is only $30 which is great too. I went through the labor pain management section yesterday and it was very similar to what I learned in hypnobirthing, so it seems like a great, more affordable alternative! It also teaches breathing techniques that I hadn’t learned elsewhere

Hiring a Birth Doula

I’ve talked about our doula before, but I get a lot of questions about exactly what she’ll do. Her role is to be a support system and cheerleader during my entire labor both at home and when we get to the hospital. We hired her back in January and have had regular calls and Skype sessions with her since. We’ve only met in person twice but because we’re in constant contact, I feel like she’s very involved in our pregnancy already. She has been present for 500 births (wow!) and really knows her stuff when it comes to positions, relaxation techniques, and keeping both of us as calm as possible throughout the process. She can understand the physiology of birth and emotional needs of a woman in labor better than Anel or I ever could.

For anyone local, this is the group that we used. You have a call with the owner and she puts you in touch with a doula that she thinks you’ll best mesh with. Then you take it from there!

Having a doula is an investment (although not as much as I thought it would be), but has put my mind at ease more than anything else. I’m so glad that we decided to go this route.

Parenting Class

We decided to take parenting classes with The Parent Collective instead of the hospital classes because the price was the same and because it was a totally judgment free zone. They teach breast and bottle feeding and in the labor class, give tips for natural births, epidurals, and C-sections. I loved the fact that they go over everything and then let the parents decide what’s best for them as opposed to pushing any agenda one way or another.

The classes are all taught by a labor and delivery nurse who is also a certified lactation consultant who has been working in hospitals in New York and Greenwich, CT for 15 years. She really knows her stuff!

So what about this prepped us for our birth? The first class was all about labor and what to expect. She went over the stages of labor, showed us pictures and charts, and made us really understand what to expect each step of the way. Class two was pain management and relaxation techniques including positions and partner massage.

Touring Hospital

A few weeks ago, we went to tour the labor and delivery unit of our hospital. Leaving there, I felt so much more at ease, knowing that once we arrive we will now know exactly where to go and what to do. While we were there, we pre-registered as well so that we won’t have to fill out any paper work when I’m in labor. The hospital has valet parking for laboring moms so that we can literally pull up and walk (or get wheeled) straight to the unit. Such a great perk!

We also seriously lucked out because our new neighbor is the head night nurse in the maternity unit (where you go after giving birth). She told us to text her when we go into labor so she can reserve a big room for us if possible. It will be nice to have a familiar face there.

Getting Organized

The obvious things are done like packing our hospital bag, setting up the car seat, and putting together the bassinet, but I’m hyper organized always and pregnancy has made me even more so. I have playlists downloaded for labor, a list of people to text and email, food and drinks prepped, a plan (and two back up plans) for Boots’ care while we’re in the hospital, and a list of things for us to remember once I go into labor in case we forget. The list includes things like

Perineal Massage

I won’t get into details but a friend of a friend who is an OB/GYN suggested this. You can read more here. Warning: It hurts like crazy, but has been a good way to help me practice my hypnobirthing skills. With my doctor’s blessing, we’ve been doing it regularly for the last two weeks, using coconut oil.

Staying Strong

One of the things that my doctor, doula, and all of my friends have told me time and time again is to keep my endurance up during pregnancy as much as possible so that when push comes to shove (literally) and I’m in labor, I have more stamina. My goal is to move my body every day, whether that means a walk with the dog, a hike in the woods, an online yoga class, or a workout with Madison. Although these days all of the above makes me out of breath, I feel like I’m in better shape than if I weren’t doing it.

Dates

Ok this is a random one but a reader sent me this article about eating dates and how it can help with an easier labor. It might just be an old wives tale, but I figured it couldn’t hurt, so have started adding two to my smoothie in the morning and then eat 2-3 more throughout the day. The article actually links to two medical studies supporting the claim so I kind of buy it. As my doctor said, it definitely can’t hurt. Plus they curb my insane sugar cravings so I’m eating less processed sugar. Win/win!

Raspberry Leaf Tea

The jury is definitely still out on raspberry leaf tea with a few inconclusive studies, but my doula suggested drinking at least a cup per day in my last trimester to help make labor faster and reduce complications based on anecdotal evidence. Again, when I asked my doctor, she said it couldn’t hurt so I figured why not! I always used to drink it during my period and it helped me a lot with cramping and PMS symptoms so I know how powerful it can be.

Birth Plan

So after all that, you can see that we’ve put a lot of work and and practice into this, and we hope for a natural birth. That being said, I’m 100% open to an epidural (natural mamas, please don’t hate!) because I just have no idea what to expect. Our plan is to go into it with an open mind and do our best. I’m going to use the techniques I’ve learned in hypnobirthing, our birth class, and Lamaze, and just knowing that I have these tools in my pocket make me feel better. And hey, if it ends in an emergency C-section, that’s ok too! She’s coming out one way or another, and we just plan to go with the flow.

  • So smart of you to cover all your bases. Labor is so unpredictable, I find it silly when women say “it has to happen this way, period.” No one knows what will happen, so good on you for doing your research and being realistic.

    One tip – depending on how big your hospital is, and how it is staffed, your birthing unit may or may not have their own anesthesiologist. If you plan on laboring mostly at home, you’ll want to have a decision made on the epidural by the time you arrive. I say this because if the anesthesiologist is needed elsewhere in the hospital, you could be delayed in getting it, or may be told you can’t get it at all, depending on how far along you are!

    Side note: I had an epidural with my first and a natural with my second. I prefer the healing process after the second – my body seemed to bounce back faster, was in less pain, and less bleeding. Could be just me (sorry, I’m an oversharer!)

    • I completely agree with you and tend to talk too much about this topic, haha. About 3 months after my unplanned c-section two friends of mine discussed how they would avoid having c-sections. Like I simply hadn’t tried hard enough? One said she would just ignore the doctor’s advice and the other said she’d push harder. Yeah.

      I was still a bit of a mess so went into another room to cry but have thought of many the snappy comeback since. For me if I ignored the advice the unplanned would have quickly turned into an emergency- I’d be putting my child’s life at risk. Sometimes you just gotta say I don’t have control. Also, at that point I had been pushing for over 4 hrs and had a fever so really didn’t care as long as the process was over!

      It just sometimes doesn’t happen as you thought and coming into labor with that attitude I think is so much more helpful. It’s easier to heal and accept how things go versus being hung up on a certain image.

      • Meg

        Well said, Kellie! My identical twins were born via c-section at 35 weeks. Never did I think I would have twins, a c-section, etc., but that egg split in to two, so there you go. It’s amazing what the body can do on its own, but I’m also so thankful for modern medicine, as my boys and I are all happy and healthy today!

  • Brittany Olander

    I love talking birthing stuff, so I am loving this post- so glad you have a doula! i think it’s definitely good to be more open and go with the flow- everyone told me how first baby labors were soo long, like days, and i ended up having a super fast (and intense) labor. my idea of a beautiful waterbirth went right out the window!

    and i’m super interested in how you used hypnosis for insomnia- i would love to know more about that!

    xo, brittany
    http://www.notablob.com

  • Barbara Slade

    I have to say that hypnobabies was by far the best thing I did, even after eventually getting an epidural. I’m not saying this to be marytr, but by kid had a head in the 90th percentile and I ended up pushing for 4 hours. I didn’t work out at all for months because I had symphsis pubic dysfunction,so I attribute this to where my headspace was at. I’m due in October, so this is a good reminder to start listening to those tracks again!

  • I think you have a really healthy and great attitude towards labor – having a plan but realizing you may need to be flexible. It’s sometimes emotionally hard when it doesn’t play out quite as you wanted (I had an unplanned c-section and struggled with the idea that my body had “failed”) but once your hormones calm down it’s easier to see that no matter how it goes it’s amazing that you brought this little one into the world.

    You got this mama!

  • I’m trying to remain open minded about the labor process as well. You’ve had a lot of preparation which is making me feel less prepared AHH! But the one thing I do have is a high pain tolerance and experience dealing with stressful situations using breathing. I’m hoping this will help me push through. My preference is natural as all the medical interference gives me anxiety, but I recognize that every labor is different and I may experience things that no one was prepared for. In that case, we will take it as it comes.
    Thank you for sharing your honest experience.

    • Everyone’s journey is different so know that you’re doing what’s right for you! And it’s never too late to start preparing 🙂

      You’re lucky that you have a high pain tolerance. Mine is SUPER low so I feel like I have to go above and beyond.

  • Your comment about the movies making it look freaky made me laugh!!! After I had a baby, I was so mad because I was like it is NOTHING like this in the movies and tv!!! hahaha

  • Meghan Weyrich

    Your attitude towards labor is on point – you never know what’s in store, so going in prepared and with lots of tools at your disposal is the way to go! My birth plan was the same – prepare for a natural birth, but be okay if things progressed another way. One piece of advice we got from a labor class was that if you’re planning to go natural but would consider an epidural if you really wanted it, was to have a discussion with your partner about what that threshold is for “really wanting it” – that way your partner knows when you might be having a tough time through a difficult contraction and need extra support and cheerleading versus when you’re really taken laboring naturally as far as you can and you’re exhausted and need a break. I labored at home for 28 hours and in the hospital for another 6 using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and the shower before looking my husband in the eyes and telling him I needed an epidural – pronto!

  • Morgan

    staying open minded and positive like this is so healthy and really great! It helps so much to remain flexible like you are planning. The breathing techniques help SOOOOOO much! I thought they were silly during my birthing class but they are so essential during labor!

    • Thanks Morgan! So glad to know that the breathing stuff will help. They do feel kind of crazy right now 🙂

  • Anne Fahlgren

    Love your attitude! I think it will go a long way to helping you feel satisfied with whatever happens. I was hoping to go without an epidural, mostly because I am super freaked out by needles and being stuck in bed for so long, but our doula, who is a HUGE drug free birth supporter, ended up suggesting we considering one because I was having insane back labor (our daughter ended up being posterior), and my labor ended up stalling pretty badly. I don’t think I would have made it to having a vaginal birth and made it through 90 minutes of pushing if I hadn’t gotten relief from the extreme pain.

    • I’m so nervous about having a back labor. Everyone says it’s crazy intense. I’ve never heard of anyone doing it without an epidural!

  • BRN

    It’ll be perfect, no matter what! What an exciting time for you and Anel

  • Elizabeth

    So excited for you! As others have said, you have a wonderful attitude. I am a mom of two and I can tell you that the day you meet your baby will be the most wonderful day of your life, no matter what the details of your labor are!

    A lot of emphasis and thought is put into labor and the choices we have, but really, you might find that the hardest time is actually the few days and weeks post labor – your body will be recovering and you will have a new little baby that needs constant care. It is a beautiful, special time, but it can also be stressful. I hope that you will also spend some time in the next few weeks preparing for that “fourth trimester.” Learning how to parent together was also a bit of a hurdle for my husband and me, as we discovered we had lots of different attitudes about things from our very different backgrounds. I’m sure you have thought about this, I remember reading you had planned out household duties with your husband and family that will be helping. Just wanted to encourage you to ask for what you need and realize it’s okay if your house is never quite as clean and neat as it was pre-baby!

    • Thanks Elizabeth! I am quite nervous for the 4th trimester but we’re taking similar steps to prep for that. Although I’m not sure anyone can truly be prepared for that time. I have a feeling that not having a “perfect” or clean house is going to be a challenge for me but I’m trying to mentally prepare now for it.

  • anne

    I have to say, epidurals are amazing. Don’t feel bad for using modern medicine if you decide to go that route. We put way too much pressure on having natural births and breastfeeding exclusively. You wouldn’t have knee surgery without getting pain meds!! The best birth plan is to come out alive and with a healthy baby, sounds like you’ve done an amazing job preparing for whatever comes your way. You can do it!

    • Totally! Whatever happens will happen. I’m truly open to all outcomes. At the end of the day, I just want a healthy baby 🙂

  • This is so helpful! We are very much on the same page: going for a natural birth and doing all these things to help ensure it happens, but trying not to be too disappointed if it doesn’t work out! I’ve heard so many stories of the unexpected happening in labor, but I know I will still be grateful to know that I did everything I could to have the birth I prefer! Thanks so much for all the helpful mama resources you have posted during this time! I am 35 weeks and can’t wait to keep following along with your motherhood journey!
    xoxo,
    Classic Catherine

    • Exactly. All we can do is prepare as much as possible and manifest the best outcome. Good luck!!!

  • Chris

    Such a great post! Thank you for sharing all of these great resources and tips! I’m a mother of one who also hoped for a natural labor, but after 6 days of early labor (something I later learned had a name – prodromal labor) – when I FINALLY was in official active labor, I’d had little sleep and needed the pain relief desperately. Listen to your body, as you seem to always do already – you’ll make the right choices! I’ve had several friends have super smooth and successful all natural labors so it most certainly can be done!

    • Oh wow, I’ve never heard of Prodromal labor but looking it up now. There are so many things that they never tell you!

  • I think these bits of education you’re giving yourself are great! When it comes to actual labor, force yourself to go into it with an open mind. Don’t have expectations of how it should or shouldn’t go, and you will be fine. Let your body do all the work and your mind rest. You got this! <3
    http://www.accordingtokiki.net

  • Sepideh

    It really seems like you took control over things and are giving yourself the best tools and knowledge you can. That’s very inspiring!! As someone who hasn’t had a child and is deathly scared of giving birth (which has been just one of the deterring factors for me wanting a child yet!) this is refreshing to hear that you are taking necessary steps to get ready. I’ll have to somehow bookmark this post so that I can remember these tips when my time comes (in a couple…or more…years!)
    http://www.elleisforlove.com