Whether you're diligently attending a weekly birthing class or you are taking a hospital tour (both of which are great ideas), the time is now to learn all you can about the birthing experience. Plenty of first-time mommas are curious about what's in store for them once they go into labor, and it's no wonder! Having a baby is a life-changing experience that is also much like a marathon; training and preparation are key, but every person will have a different experience, too!
If you're anything like me, you probably have lots of questions, worries, and fears to do with the birthing experience and entering motherhood. This is normal, and totally okay. The key is to not let your worries or fears get the best of you, but to become as informed as possible before the blessed day arrives. Here are some questions to ask your caregiver, birthing class instructor, and hospital staff so you can be prepared and confident in your expectations. I'll offer some of my knowledge and opinions, too.
1. What should I expect from the birthing experience?
Ah, the million-dollar question. Here's the straight truth: everyone's experience is a little different. Some women have a hard and fast labor of 2-3 hours, while others spend several days in labor with stops and delays throughout. Regardless of the journey, you'll hopefully achieve the same outcome: a healthy and happy baby, and mother. It's wise to have a birth plan with preferences in place, but I would advise you to expect the unexpected so you'll never be surprised.
2. What items should I pack in my hospital bag?A lot of this depends on you and your preferences. Are you someone that wants to do her hair and makeup before pictures with the new arrival? Pack makeup and a hairbrush. Something I wish I had brought is shampoo and conditioner to shower with (I ended up having a C-section and was in the hospital for four days). Other necessities could include:
- phone charger
- medications and/or prescriptions
- comfy clothes and sports bras
- a cute and comfortable "going home outfit"
- entertainment such as movies or books
There's a lot more that can go on this list, but try to pack light and keep things simple.
3. Am I seriously going to poop/puke/etc.?
I'd say chances are pretty high. Your water will break (which alone feels like the most giant pants-wetting you've ever had), you will likely vomit at some point, and pooping during labor is common. Yes, bodily fluids will abound. The nice part is that you won't care, and no one helping you will be the least bit phased (except maybe your husband--but he'll get through it). Please know that these bodily functions don't have to be humiliating! It's all part of the experience, and I promise your mind will likely be on other things.
4. After the baby comes, are there new symptoms to expect?I think a lot of moms gloss over this stuff either because they've forgotten, or they just don't want to freak you out too much. But, if you want to know, there will likely be some things to deal with:
- Constipation (take an OTC stool softener 2 weeks prior to the birth to help this)
- Vaginal pain as you heal from labor and any tearing
- Uterine contractions while breastfeeding
- Breast and nipple pain from engorgement and breastfeeding
- Night sweats and shivers as your hormones change
- Fluid retention and swelling from your hospital stay
Guess what? Not every woman has all of these, and some have none. I think knowing what to expect might help some women though. For example, I had no idea about the constipation, and it would have helped greatly to know beforehand. A little knowledge of what's to come can help you purchase things beforehand like these nipple softshells or this Saranoni soft blanket to stave off the shivers.
5. Are there things I should know about hospital visitors?
When you take a hospital birthing tour, ask the hospital staff about the nearest bathroom, vending machine, and the location of the gift shop and cafeteria. This is all great for your hubby to know, as well as your mom or any other family members that will be present at the hospital. It doesn't hurt to know where the nearest pharmacy or convenience store is in relation to your hospital, either. On another note, ask about their visiting hours and policies. Some hospitals don't allow children under age 12 to enter the maternity wing during flu season, which is good to know so you don't disappoint anyone that comes to visit. Ask about hospital record privacy, i.e. is your name on a public record that anyone can access? Let the staff know who you may not want to visit you in the hospital, and who is more than welcome (they usually provide a security pass code for you to give to welcome visitors).
6. It is all going to be okay?
More than anything, I think first-time moms and moms-to-be just want reassurance that everything is going to be okay. If you're reading this blog, it probably means you've done your research, taken the classes, and prepared in every way possible. That's the best you can do, along with keeping a positive attitude.