You are fast approaching your due date and probably thinking seriously about your birth plan. The Internet is full of lists and advice but I want to share my more non-traditional list with you. This is my collection of ideas I have gathered over the years based on great ideas I have observed at the many births I have photographed (and giving birth twice myself!).
1) Music can really set the mood for your birth, make a cool playlist or two. You probably already have some of your favorite tunes on your phone and it’s easy to compile them into playlists for your birth. I recommend having at least 2 playlists, one fast and upbeat for if you need some motivation and energy and one slower and more relaxing if you need to chill. All of the local birth centers have sound systems you can plug your phone right into and it’s easy to pick up a small portable speaker if you are delivering your baby in a hospital. Headphones may work fine too but the cords tend to get in the way. The best part about playing these songs during your birth is that you will be attaching new memories to these songs. After the birth, when you hear the songs you listened to during labor and delivery,you will be taken right back to that first moment you met and held your little one in your arms. Building a playlist is also an great dad or birth partner job and will help connect your partner more closely to the experience.
2) Labor in you own clothes. This is just a suggestion, you can wear whatever you like or nothing at all but as comedian Jim Gaffigan says “Didn’t your wife want to give birth in a gown someone died in yesterday?” Hospital gowns are neither comfortable nor attractive. What I recommend for birth photography clients is a dark jersey knit knee length skirt and a dark top like a sports bra, swimsuit top, or tank top. Better yet take at least a few options because one might get wet in the tub or shower or just sweaty and you will want a change. I recommend a skirt over pants or a dress because it’s easy to access your belly for baby’s heart rate monitoring and it’s also easy to do cervical checks if needed without having to take everything off. I suggest dark fabric because if it gets wet it doesn’t become see-through and jersey knit just because it’s super soft, stretchy, and comfortable
3) Make your bed! I know this sounds odd if you are not planning a home birth but trust me on this. Get a waterproof mattress protector for your mattress. They are inexpensive and will save you a lot of headache down the road. There is always the potential that your water could break while you are in bed and get your mattress very wet, that probably won’t happen. But what I can guarantee will happen is that at some point your newest addition will spit up, puke, pee, or have some kind of blow out in/on your bed. My kids are 5 and 7 and still come to our bed in the middle of the night if they are sick or just had a bad dream. Kids just don’t have great timing with making it to the toilet (or waking up from a deep sleep).
4) Have lots of snacks and drinks available for during and after birth. Even if you have an epidural you can have “clear liquids” which means honey sticks, jello, power gel, gummy energy chews, or even gummy bears. You can also drink broth and pretty much any non dairy drink you can think of (Gatorade, coffee, coconut water, maple water, juice, etc.) You will burn a TON of calories during labor and it’s important to keep your strength up so pack a lot of options. Your sense of taste and smell are heightened during labor so you never know what might taste good or bad in the moment. The hospital is usually pretty good about providing small containers of apple juice, broth, coffee, and jello but it has to be ordered from the cafeteria and can take awhile to arrive. I recommend taking a package of honey sticks and the Whole Foods version of energy chews. You will want really energy dense foods. If you are dragging during labor, they can really give you a boost. Staying hydrated is also really important so take lots of high caloric clear liquids. After the birth it’s good to have at least some nuts, granola, muffins, etc. If you are birthing at home or a birth center you can stack the fridge full of cheeses, fruit, yogurt, and anything that sounds amazing. If you are birthing at a hospital you are limited to more shelf stable foods. After the birth the hospital will provide a meal for the mother but not necessarily for the birth partner or other visitors. In addition if you give birth in the middle of the night the hospital cafeteria may be closed. A little known fact, however, is that most hospitals have a take-out menu binder at the nurses station. You can ask to borrow this binder and you will have the menus for all the local restaurants that deliver to that hospital. At 3am, however, your choices are usually limited to Jimmy Johns or Pizza.
5) Plan an early labor project. This is a project that you plan and set aside to somewhat distract yourself during the earliest stages of labor. Real labor is of course nothing like what is depicted on television and in the movies. Especially in the early stages it can start and stop or just be really slow to progress. Having a plan for activities to do can be really good for your mental health. Deciding on activities or a project ahead of time can make it that much easier. Many women plan traditional homemaking type projects such as crafting, knitting, sewing, baking, that kind of thing. But an early labor project should be anything that you can walk away from easily and return to as needed. I’ve photographed several births where this no kneed bread was the early labor project. It is easy to make and if labor picks up before you finish, you can just stick it in the fridge and finish it later (or when friends and family show up later to meet your baby an inevitable ask is, “Is there anything we can do to help?”, at which time you can assign them to finish the project). Another popular option is the famous NY times chocolate chip cookies. Either project would be delicious after giving birth.
6)Watch some inspiring birth videos. It’s true that telling pregnant women and new mothers birth horror stories is a favorite American pastime. Everyone seems to love to one up each other with the worst thing that happened. The truth is that things might not go as perfectly as you envision but you will still get to meet your baby eventually and that is a miracle in and of itself! One thing that can really set the tone for how you perceive labor and birth, and thus the tone for your own labor, is to fill your brain with positive birth stories. I highly recommend taking a few minuets each week in the weeks leading up to your due date to watch some positive and inspiring birth videos. You can find hundreds of them on youtube but here are a some of my favorites.
7) Get a bottle of champagne! (or your other favorite celebratory food or beverage). This is a French tradition that is catching on in America. Yet most people aren’t aware that you can take champagne to the hospital or birth center for a post birth celebratory toast. I love this trend and after witnessing several clients do it I followed suit after the birth of my second child. Even my midwife had a tiny sip. In France when a baby is born and after the first cry, the father opens a bottle of Champagne, pours a glass for everyone. He pours for himself last then dips his finger into his glass and puts a drop on the baby’s lips. Having any family tradition around the birth of a child just makes the event all that much more sweeter. Even if champagne is not your thing you might want to think up some tradition that you can repeat at the birth of subsequent children or on your child’s birthday. I’ve seen other families toast with orange juice and others make hot chocolate for everyone. It would be easy to pack a box of salted caramels, chocolates or something similar in your birth bag. The possibilities are endless!
I hope that this list has inspired you. I wish you all the best for a happy, healthy pregnancy and delivery!
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