Everything about having your first baby can be both overwhelming and exciting! Most first-time moms are particularly concerned about the labor process and how it will be. Here are some tips for those new to the experience to help the labor process go as smoothly as possible.
Create a birth plan. A birth plan is an outline of preferences during childbirth. These can be detailed documents or as simple as whether or not you plan to have an epidural. Take some time to look at example birth plans to get an idea of what kind of options you have available. Don’t get too caught up in including every detail, as the health and safety of you and your baby are the most important. Birth plans are exactly that— plans. While it’s good to know what you want, flexibility is crucial.
Arrange for pet care. Even if you are a first-time mom, that doesn’t mean you don’t have other “babies” to think about! If you are a pet owner, put together a plan for who will be caring for your pet(s) while you are otherwise occupied. If you are going to be away from home, you may want to give a trusted loved one a copy of your house or apartment key so they can take care of anything that might need to be done, before you get home.
Tour the location. Being comfortable will make your labor experience much more positive. If you are laboring away from home, take the time to become familiar with the space so that, when the day comes, you can focus on welcoming your new baby — not your surroundings. If you will be laboring at home, plan out the space and make preparations. This way, you and those around you aren’t rushing last minute to make arrangements.
Designate an advocate. Whether it’s your husband, partner, or someone else you trust, it helps to have an individual specifically focused on your well-being during labor. You may be emotional, in pain, or uncertain about how to voice your needs and concerns. Your advocate can be there to ensure your needs are taken care of.
A great option is to hire a doula. Doulas are professional birth workers with training and experience in facilitating pregnancy, labor, and postpartum recovery. They will communicate with you, your loved ones, and your birth/medical team to make sure everything is running as smoothly as possible. While doulas are popular in the home birthing community, you can also hire a doula to be with you at the hospital. They are there to support you and your choices and ensure your birth experience is safe and empowering.
Self-advocate. Having a designated advocate can be a game-changer, but they aren’t mind readers. No one can advocate better for you than yourself. If you are uncomfortable with something, have a question, concern, or need— speak up! Labor is not the time to be shy, and while being polite is always a good idea, it’s not more important than what you need in that critical moment.
Get cozy. Labor chills are sometimes unexpected by first-time moms, but surprisingly common! Hospitals will often have heated blankets available, but if you’re at home, someone can throw a blanket in the dryer for a few minutes for the same effect. The warmth can also relax tense muscles, easing the labor process.
Keep your cool. Alternatively, some women become incredibly warm while giving birth. Ice chips are a time-favored classic for laboring moms. While keeping you cool and hydrated, they also have the bonus of providing some sensory input that can be distracting and grounding. Many hospitals do not allow laboring patients to eat until they have given birth, so ice chips can also help stave off some of those hunger pains if it’s been a while since you’ve eaten.
Establish lines of communication. Undoubtedly this day has been long-awaited, and friends and family will be dying for updates! Some parents are happy to make phone calls or even post major updates on social media. One great option is to set up a group chat where your partner or someone else you trust can share pertinent play-by-play details so you aren’t being bombarded by separate messages and repeating yourself. You could even establish a funnel system where you keep in contact with a select few and they update others on a need-to-know basis. Including your “village” in the laboring process can create an invested community to welcome your baby and cheer on your growing family!
Take a shower. Or at least clean up as much as possible if you can’t shower right away. Labor is beautiful, but with all the literal blood sweat, and tears involved, the result can be a little stinky. Getting all cleaned up will make you feel more like yourself again, and make it easier to focus on life with your brand-new baby!
Eat something. Whether or not you were allowed to eat during labor, it takes a lot of energy to give birth! Your body will be craving fuel and now is the time to deliver! Many women give up foods or drinks such as sushi or caffeine during pregnancy in favor of their baby’s health, so this may be the time to indulge. (Note: talk to your doctor or midwife about what you can and cannot consume during pregnancy. Some things are perfectly fine in moderation, and other things may unexpectedly put your baby at risk, so it’s best to be well-informed.)
Slow down. During labor, things can progress slowly, but they can also move quickly! The excitement, adrenaline, and new hormone surges can leave your head spinning. While some new moms are on new-baby cloud 9, it is also normal to feel anxious or agitated. Give yourself permission to move slowly and soak in the moments as you process.
Record your experience. While everything may be fresh in your memory right after giving birth, you’ll be surprised how quickly the details begin to fade. Take time to record your experience by writing it down or recording a voice/video message to preserve those precious memories.
Know that you are strong even if things don’t go exactly according to plan. You can do this! Your labor won’t look the same as your mother’s, sister’s, aunt’s, or friends. The experience is beautiful and unique, just like you.