I’ve heard from moms worried about laboring and giving birth alone. The current situation with COVID-19 is causing many hospitals and birthing centers to limit a laboring woman’s visitors or companions. Yet, even before COVID-19 was an issue, moms sometimes had to go through labor alone for a variety of issues. Here are some questions you can ask long before going to the hospital to give birth to your baby.
How can I gain more control of my situation?
You’ve surely seen a sports team demonstrate that power. Maybe a basketball team was down by 20 points at halftime, but the team later wins the game. How did they do it?
They mobilized all of their physical, mental, and spiritual resources. They did it by remembering that other people accomplished it; they’ve witnessed that it’s possible! They believed in their athletic bodies and the mysterious power they have within themselves.
Before going to the hospital, you must believe you have power over what does or doesn’t happen. Darwin P. Kingsley said, “You have powers you never dreamed of. You can do things you never thought you could do. There are no limitations in what you can do except the limitations of your own mind.”
Similarly, positive affirmations help you to believe you have the power to do what you need to do. Repeat one or two positive affirmations several times a day, every day, for many days.
This is not “fake it ‘til you make it.” It’s more like, “Be it to believe it.” Women’s bodies are designed to birth babies. Women have birthed babies for millennia. Sometimes, they’ve given birth alone. But until the medicalization of birthing in the hospital, women fully embraced the fact that they could (and would) give birth to a baby.
In almost any case we can think of, we have more power than we think we have.
What can I do or plan before going into labor?
Benjamin Franklin famously quoted, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
Get a practical plan for your home, your kids, and your travel.
Who will stay with your kids while you’re gone? Does a neighbor have a key to your house? Did you put the route from home to the hospital into your GPS? Do you have an alternative route programmed in case you need it? What else do you need to plan for?
Get a practical plan for yourself.
Make a list of what you want or need. Pack your bag. Do not presume that someone else will be able to bring something you forgot. Before going to the hospital packing list might be a start, but you’ll need to tailor it to your own needs.
For example, I would encourage you to bring simple foods and fluids. Hospital personnel may or may not “allow” you to eat or drink in labor. But I guarantee you’ll be hungry after giving birth. Staff might be too busy to bring you a snack when you need it.
Pack some sour lollipops (to stimulate saliva and help to keep your mouth moist), juice boxes, bottles of water, some of those small packs of applesauce, and some Premier Protein shakes. (I have tried nearly every flavor they make, but I like the caramel best.) They contain 30 grams of protein, and they have no high fructose corn syrup. Yet they are delicious. These aren’t perfect nutrition, but they’re great for staving off hunger if nothing else is nearby.
Take care of your body.
Long before going to the hospital — months before your due date — focus on getting your body in shape. Dr. Andrew Dorough explains Why You Should Seek Chiropractic Care Before Delivery to facilitate a shorter, easier labor. And, prenatal exercise has been associated with shorter labors. You may want to pick up Dr. Linda May’s book, Physiology of Prenatal Exercise and Fetal Development or listen to my interview with her.
What about my birth plan?
In my experience, even under the best of circumstances, a laboring mother’s birth plan often goes out the window after she arrives at the hospital. There’s no delicate way to say this: the hospital is not very hospitable. With the medicalization of labor and birth, the medical team at the hospital is very medically-oriented.
Before going to the hospital, recognize that some healthcare providers say that a birth plan is really just a set of preferences. I disagree. I believe a birth plan is more like a wish list. Women wish they could have something, but they don’t adequately prepare themselves to transform that wish into a plan.
In my experience, women are more likely to have much or perhaps all of their birth plan accomplished if they prepare through positive affirmations and visualization.
What sorts of restrictions will I have?
This is a huge, critical question. Before going to the hospital, recognize that the answer will differ from one birthing facility to another. And, the answer can also differ depending on who your provider is, and your pregnancy and labor circumstances.
In my experience, laboring mothers and their families are often taken by surprise with these restrictions. You may or may not have control over the restriction. But at least you won’t be taken by surprise if you raise the question ahead of time.
Will I be allowed to use my cell phone? What about using my personal camera? Is playing music okay? Before going to the hospital, make a list of all of the electronics that you will want to use. Then then ask if there are restrictions for using them in the facility where you plan to give birth.
Will you be allowed to get up and walk? Or will you be tethered to an electronic fetal monitor (EFM)? Sure, some hospitals have wireless electronic fetal monitors, but many don’t. Being told not to move (in the bed, in the room, or down the hallway) is annoying, and can also contribute to a longer labor.
Food and drink restrictions
Many hospital policies forbid a laboring woman from having any kind of food or drink, even water. This “nothing by mouth” practice has predominated for decades in America. Yet, a recent Cochrane review concluded, “ … there is no justification for the restriction of fluids and food in labour for women at low risk of complications.”
I admit that I have secretly given clear liquids and semi-soft foods to laboring women. I’d do it again! In my experience, once women get into rip-roaring active labor, they don’t want food. I totally believe in the woman’s ability to listen to her own body.
Is it okay to bring in your birthing ball? How about your hairdryer? I’ve seen or heard of plenty of things that are, for one reason or another, forbidden at the hospital. Find out.
This is Part I in a two-part series. Here’s my take-home point for today’s part: Many of us talk about “prepared childbirth” as though it’s just attending a prenatal class. But it’s much more than that. It’s about raising the right questions before going to the hospital, and then finding ways to gain as many answers and some control over the situation. But control is completely impossible without raising questions early in the game.
Stay tuned! Part II will discuss things to consider once you are at the hospital.
Do you have a plan in place to for your upcoming delivery? Are you prepared to labor and deliver alone? Have you already asked your provider these questions? Tell me in the comments below. Please share with expecting mothers you may know!