J and I were asked to visit a prenatal class at the birth centre where we had baby F and share some of our experience. To get ready, I thought about what would have been helpful for me to hear heading into labour and birth. Here are ten things. For more (possibly too many) details, check out our birth story.
10. Stay as active as you can. I believe long walks were the key to my labour starting on time and progressing well. I was out for hour+ walks in the park near my house up until the day before I went into labour. Good for the body, good for the mind.
9. Talk to your partner beforehand. Talk about what’s scary. Talk about what you think you’re going to need. I puked a bunch during labour. We didn’t know that was coming and it was weird doing it in front of him. But we had talked about the wild wonders that we would experience. We were ready for anything.
8. Visualize your labour and birth. What are you going to be doing. Where are you going to be. How are you going to feel. What are you going to listen to. Eat. Etc.. Its been proven that people can practice and improve their golf game from jail cells using only their minds. This is the power of visualization.
7. Give yourself a break. One of the pieces of advice I got before baby was to have sex! But I wasn’t feeling it. So I had the added and totally unnecessary stress of worrying that I was not taking advantage of what could be my last months of good sex, ever. Do what you feel like doing. You will have sex again when you feel more like yourself. Some report improved orgasms following vaginal birth. So that’s something to feel good about.
6. People are the worst with their parenting advice. I hated when people I didn’t know that well joked with me that I would never sleep again. It’s not funny guys, It’s Terrifying. One of my best chats during pregnancy was with a former colleague with four kids who said that expecting your first child is stressful. Yes it’s also beautiful. But for most people it’s stressful and the messages we get as new parents-to-be don’t always honour that. So don’t listen to annoying advice that makes it more stressful. Those people are insensitive and they’re also not telling you that having your baby is going to bring you immense joy.
5. Don’t buy all the things (unless you really take comfort in stockpiling). So you might need breast pads, nipple cream, perineum spray, one of those rings to sit on, giant pads, heat packs, etc. And you might not. If you’re a person who likes to stockpile and you feel good about it, then go for it. But for everyone else, send your partner or a family member out to get what you need when you need it. You’ll save money and if your partner is like mine, they will appreciate a useful outing.
4. Accept food from any and all sources. After giving birth I was so hungry. And food tasted so good. You ran a marathon. Be nourished.
3. After you have your baby, stay in bed. Don’t walk much. Take it really easy. Cuddle with your new cuddle bunny. Take visitors in your bedroom. Seriously, this is a time to be in your loungewear, don’t put real clothes on if you don’t want to. Keep your legs closed, literally, for two weeks. Your body is healing so let it.
2. Do the skin on skin thing – it’s developmentally beneficial and it just feels nice. For both you and your partner and anyone else deemed appropriate by you.
1. Take pictures. I wish I had pictures from labour and delivery and more pictures from those first moments. You won’t feel like taking pictures. But you might love having them after the fact.
All the best to the parents-to-be! The path you’re heading down is well-worn with generations of parents who were like you, and who found their way.