You're getting close to the end. What once seemed so far away and unimaginable is just around the corner. And oddly, the anxiety and hesitation to embrace the upcoming birth melts away and is replaced with an impatience for it to begin.
Those last few weeks are characterized by Nesting - when our focus turns inwards, and we begin gathering what we need to prepare for the arrival of our long awaited baby. It is a special time, a ritual that all women share as they honour the process of birth. Blessing ways or baby showers are commonly arranged to honour and celebrate you on your final leg of the journey to motherhood.
What To Pack For the Hospital
Make sure when you are packing for the hospital, you are thinking about what you will need with you to be as comfortable as possible. You may want to take a few items, such as your own pillow or birth ball to make the environment more comfortable and less clinical. Some women will bring a birth plan--especially if a doctor is their care provider. There are some good templates for birth plans and it is always helpful to have a conversation with your midwife or doctor to understand what your hospital policy's are when you are making your plan. Sometimes, changing the language around 'Birth Plan' to 'Birth Hopes' can help us remain flexible and open to the things we don't always have control over as we birth our babies.
- Bathrobe. Can be useful when walking in labour and you'll want a robe to wear for after the baby is born.
- Slippers or Flip Flops
- Socks. You can always take them off if your feet are hot.
- A nightgown or a T shirt. It is nice to have something of your own to wear if you don't like hospital gowns.
- Massage oil or lotion if you would like to be massaged during your labour.
- Lip balm. Your lips tend to dry out in labour.
- Snacks and drinks for you while you are in labour. Hydrating drink mixes added to water are great.
- Playing cards are useful if you have to be there early.
- A headband or elastic. If you have long hair, you might want it tied up.
- TENS pain relief machine, if you are planning to use one. If you don't own one, you can usually rent one.
- Toiletries. You will want to wash your hair and brush your teeth after you have given birth.
- Music. Remember your charger. Some hospitals won't let you plug things in, so having your ipod or device charged first can be important.
Your birth partner may also want
- Labour Spritzer, or a hand-held fan to help keep you cool when you are in labour.
- Comfortable shoes. It can be a long day!
- A change of clothes
- A contraction app on their phone.
- Bathing Suit. Important if they are going to join you in the shower or birth pool.
- A mobile phone or a camera for those very first photos.
- Phone Numbers of all the people you want to call after baby is born.
- Snacks and drinks. You don't want a dehydrated, hungry birth partner looking after you and if you take some with you, they can stay with you rather than leaving the room to search for food!
For after the birth
- Nursing shirt or tank.
- Nursing bras. More than one is nice.
- Breast pads. Reusable organic cotton or bamboo are the best.
- Natural, organic nipple balm.
- Maxi pads. Often supplied by the hospital, but if you have a preference, best to bring your own.
- Witch Hazel for helping with soothing both your perineum and any hemorrhoids you may have.
- Arnica to help with bruising after the birth.
- Toiletries. Hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Old underwear, or disposable panties if the hospital doesn't supply them.
For your baby
- An infant car seat. Some hospitals won't let you leave by car without one.
- Outfit for the trip home.
- Two or three sleepers for baby to wear while you are in hospital.
- Baby blanket. Take a warm one if the weather is cold.
- Diapers if the hospital does not supply.
- One pair of socks or booties. Scratch mitts may come in handy too.
Women choose to birth at home for a variety of reasons. Often it is where women believe they will be the most comfortable, relaxed and supported. Home is where they believe their bodies will have the best chance to work the way they are designed to, and is the environment that they wish to bring their baby into. Women who choose home birth are reclaiming the How, Where and When of birth.
The great thing is that home birth is proving to be a safe option to choose in developed countries around the world. Approximately 30% of women choose to birth their babies in the comfort of their home in the Netherlands. It is re-gaining popularity in other countries such as the UK, where more and more midwives, (the majority of obstetrical care providers in that country) are responding to the increasing evidence about the safety of home birth by encouraging women to stay at home to birth, supported by their guidance and care.
In North America, a woman’s ability to safely choose home birth is dependent on how integrated midwifery is into the health care system. The evidence demonstrates that low risk mothers who choose trained professionals–midwives integrated into the mainstream health care system, with access to emergency backup–can birth at home safely, and in fact there may even be advantages that hadn't been considered before now!
Home birth in Canada, depending on the province, has been protected as an option within the model of midwifery care–allowing women to exercise their right to choose their birth location. However, most families remain unaware of home birth as a safe and viable option--and until they become fully informed, they are not able to really make a choice.
Making choices based on the safety for mother and baby is always the most important consideration when choosing your birth site. So making sure that you not only feel comfortable and supported, you also want to make sure you meet the medical criteria to be at home. That criteria includes: well grown term baby, normal amniotic fluid level, normal blood pressure, knowing that the placenta is located far from internal opening of the cervix, no history of postpartum hemorrhage (if this is not your first baby), normal iron and platelet levels, and no other significant medical history that could complicate the labour.
Home Birth Kit: What to include
Planning a home birth is very exciting! To help you prepare, your midwife will normally provide you with a list of supplies for the birth that is best to have gathered by the time you are 36 weeks pregnant. Some hospitals are able to provide birth supplies for women birthing at home, so before buying a kit you should always check what is available in your community. Matraea has developed the Happy Mama Home Birth Kit (designed by midwives), full of all the supplies that you and your midwife will need!
What we know
Home birth reduces the risk of infections, and lowers the chances of interventions such as artificially ruptured membranes, oxytocin augmentation, routine electronic fetal monitoring as well as medication and c-sections. Often women who choose hospital births arrive at the hospital too early, later regretting it. False starts and the early signs of labour have them rushing to hospital only to be sent home again. Many women want (and need!) to know what is going on but the back and forth to hospital can interrupt the natural birth process, sometimes backfiring by delaying or stopping labour, and resulting in interventions that “encourage progress.”
Generally speaking: the more comfortable the mother, the easier the birth. Home provides a more comfortable and relaxing environment for many mothers. Free to move and walk around, she can drink and eat whenever she wants – all of which has been demonstrated to assist women to progress in labour, naturally. By contrast, hospitals–by their very nature–are a confined and alien environment filled with unknown people, equipment, strange smells and loud noises.
Home birth is not for everyone. For the low-risk, healthy mama, where you feel most comfortable is where you need to be: give birth where you feel supported and safe. For some women that is the hospital, and for others it is at home. Ask your midwife to give you all the information on your options so that you can choose what is right for you--remembering that at any point during the labour, things can change--even your mind.
Why a Water Birth?
Water birth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. Some women choose only to labour in the tub and get out when the baby is coming, others stay in for the whole time. The theory behind giving birth in water is that it is less stressful for the baby because they have been in a water environment for nine months. It is also believed to be less painful for the mother.
Benefits of water birth:
- Warm water is soothing, comforting, and relaxing.
- The effect of buoyancy lessens a mother’s body weight, allowing easy movement and positioning.
- Buoyancy promotes more efficient uterine contractions and improved blood circulation resulting in better oxygenation of the uterine muscles, less pain for the mother, and more oxygen for the baby.
- The water seems to reduce stress-related hormones, allowing the mother’s body to produce endorphins which serve as pain-inhibitors.
- Water causes the perineum to become more elastic and relaxed, reducing the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for stitches.
- As the labouring woman relaxes physically, she is able to relax mentally with greater ability to focus on the birth process.
- Since the water provides a greater sense of privacy, it can reduce inhibitions, anxiety, and fears.
Water birth is becoming more and more accepted within the medical model. Many hospitals now have birthing pools in the birthing rooms. If you are interested, ask your local hospital what options they offer. If you are planning a water birth, you should always do so under the supervision of your midwife or doctor.
Choosing a Doula
Doula is a Greek word meaning woman's servant. Friends, sisters, mothers have been supporting and serving women giving birth since the beginning of time. Being surrounded by people who love and cherish you, who believe in your innate ability to give birth, has a huge impact on how you feel about your birth experience.
What is a doula?
A doula is a trained childbirth professional who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a pregnant or labouring woman, or to a mom who has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe and empowering birthing experience.
Most often the term doula refers to the birth doula, or labor support companion. However, there are also postpartum doulas who provide care to moms in the immediate postpartum period. Their job is provide support in the home looking after older siblings, doing housework, cooking and laundry. The gift of a postpartum doula's time may be the best gift one could ever give a new mom!
What does a doula do?
Your relationship with your doula usually begins a few months before your baby is due. During this period, ideally you will develop a relationship where you feels free to ask questions, express your thoughts about birth, and create a birth plan.
Most doulas make themselves available to the you by phone in order to respond to your questions or address any concerns that might arise during the course of the pregnancy. Doulas do not provide any type of medical care. However, they are knowledgeable in many medical aspects of labor and delivery.
As such, they can help you gain a better understanding of the procedures and possible complications in late pregnancy or delivery.
Words of wisdom to inspire & remind:
"Find what it is that you love and throw yourself into that. Let it be your inspiration, and let it pull you through. Be creative with what you love and let things follow that."
- Selina Boily RM
"We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” - Laura Stavoe Harm
"The power and intensity of your contractions cannot be stronger than you, because it is you." - Unknown
"Childbirth is an experience in a woman's life that holds the power to transform her forever. Passing through the powerful gates -in her own way-remembering all the generations of women who walk with her... she is never alone." - Suzanne Arms
"If we want to find safe alternatives to obstetrics, we must rediscover midwifery. To rediscover midwifery is the same as giving back childbirth to women. And imagine the future if surgical teams were at the service of the midwives and the women instead of controlling them."
– Michel Odent, MD
"I think one of the best things we could do would be to help women/parents/families discover their own birth power, from within themselves. And to let them know it’s always been there, they just needed to tap into it." – John H. Kennell, MD
"Women, don’t ever apologize for your behavior or choices during birth. When you OWN your experience and take pride in your journey, you help other women do the same thing. No matter how you did it, you just brought a human being into the world! The world should be kneeling at your feet."
– Lauralyn Curtis
"…Respecting the woman as an important and valuable human being and making certain that the woman’s experience while giving birth is fulfilling and empowering is not just a nice extra, it is absolutely essential as it makes the woman strong and therefore makes society strong."
– Marsden Wagner
"Women are strong, strong, terribly strong. We don’t know how strong until we’re pushing out our babies."
– Louise Erdrich
"Experiences have clearly shown that an approach which ‘de-medicalizes’ birth, restores dignity and humanity to the process of childbirth, and returns control to the mother is also the safest approach."
- Michel Odent, MD
"Keeping active during labour and adopting natural, upright or crouching birth positions is the safest, most enjoyable, most economical and sensible way for the majority of women to give birth."
– Janet Balaskas
...that You are amazing!
During labour, your doula is there for you in any way that you need. Doulas have the ability to provide comfort with pain-relief techniques including breathing techniques, relaxation, massage, and different labouring positions. Doulas do not replace your partner. They encourage and support participation from them--and are able to provide a break for them if the labour is long. A doula is your advocate, encouraging and helping you fulfill any specific desires you may have.
After the birth, your doulas will spend time helping you with breastfeeding and supporting bonding between you and your new baby.
Finding a Doula:
The key to choosing a doula is to find a person with whom you feel comfortable. Most doulas do not charge for an initial consultation, so take the time to interview as many as you need until you find the right person.
Questions to Ask a Potential Doula:
- What training have you had?
- What services do you provide?
- What are your fees?
- Are you available for my due date?
- What made you decide to become a doula?
- What is your philosophy regarding childbirth?
- Would you be available to meet with me before the birth to discuss my birth plan?
- What happens if for some reason you are not available at the time I give birth?