As you approach your due date, people will start to ask you how you plan to deliver. It’s just one question among the many surprisingly personal questions strangers and friends feel comfortable asking parents. Planning for a natural childbirth? Get ready to hear some labor and delivery horror stories. It’s all part of the journey. Fortunately, it’s a journey you can prepare for.
Write a birth plan
Even if your doctor tells you he or she doesn’t need a birth plan in writing, it helps to write down what you want and more importantly, what you don’t want. Having this list in writing will help you and your birth partner communicate with hospital or birth center staff. Insist on going over the list with your doctor or midwife as you approach your third trimester. Bring two copies with you in your hospital bag and don’t be afraid to mention your needs repeatedly to the nursing staff.
Consider hiring a doula
A doula is a professional birth coach. She doesn’t replace your midwife or your birth partner; she guides you and your birth partner through the process of pregnancy, labor and delivery. Some doulas will visit you after delivery to make sure everything is going well with early breastfeeding and baby care. If you’re planning on having a natural delivery in a hospital setting, a doula can advocate for your needs and help you communicate with doctors and nurses. Find a doula through DONA International. Try meeting with a few to see who you click with before you commit.
Bring your own stuff
If you want perks during your labor, find out what you can bring from home. Try speakers for your MP3 player, your own essential oils, massage lotions and a birthing ball. Pack snacks for after the baby arrives. If you’re planning on delivering at a birth center, you’ll probably have more flexibility regarding what you can wear. If you’re delivering at a hospital, find out if you can wear a robe or fuzzy socks to help you feel more at home.
No matter how much you read and how much you prepare, labor and delivery will surprise you. Keep an open mind about how your labor will go. You may be set on a water birth right now, but when you’re in the throes of transition, you might prefer a different position. Your body will tell you what to do when it’s time.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Labor is a natural and beautiful thing, but it’s hard. You’re allowed to be scared or cry or freak out. If you change your mind about aspects of your birth plan, or if complications arise, be gentle with yourself. You’re a rock star no matter how your labor goes.