The third time’s the charm, right? I’m confident that this was the number of times it took me to become confident in laboring and delivering a child. As a first-time Mom, I was so lost in labor, even though I had read every book on what to expect. The whole experience of bringing life into this world looks different for everyone. After experiencing labor and delivery with three children, I believe these five tips are universal to getting you on the right track to being comfortable and confident throughout it.
1- Love your labor and delivery nurse.
One of the most important aspects of your labor and delivery experience will lie with your experience with the nurse(s) that care for you. If you have an attentive nurse who listens to your needs and advocates for you, it takes a lot of burden off your shoulders. Of course, advocate for yourself, but when you have someone who is skilled in the area of maternal healthcare and can navigate the system better than you in your corner, you will be able to focus more on things like resting and preparing yourself for delivery.
Don’t love your nurse? Feel like they are dismissing your concerns and needs? Ask for a new one. Luckily there is not just one labor and delivery nurse on a unit. Find one that you are connecting with and ask for them by name. If you are met with a nurse who pushes back when you ask for someone else, ask for your doctor or their supervisor. You are the patient, and your feelings and needs are what is important.
2 – Get the epidural sooner than later
If you are one of the women who go into labor thinking you might get the epidural, just get the epidural. There is a bunch of back-office work that needs to be done to fulfill this request. You may also have to wait on the anesthesiologist longer than anticipated. In that waiting time, your labor may progress to a point where you can no longer receive one. I waited to see if I could push past the pain with my first and second children and asked for it when it became too much. I went through a lot of unnecessary mental and physical pain. With my third, my bag of waters had not completely broken on its own, and I knew from previous experience that once it was completely broken, the pain would multiply. I asked for the epidural before the doctor completed the bag abruption. I was spared the unbearable pain I experienced with my first two labors. Don’t give in to the shame that surrounds a medicated birth. You don’t need to experience unbearable pain to have a validated birth experience. Do what is best for you, and your baby will reap the benefits.
3 – Communicate your needs
One complaint I hear from a lot of moms about being in the hospital is the constant interruptions. Someone is constantly knocking on the door to come in to check this or tell you that. There are timelines nurses and doctors need to abide by to ensure that you and your baby are healing properly and not in any health dangers. Ask what they are. If you want to be left alone, let them know. We needed to stay an extra day at the hospital with our third due to a blood abnormality. I was already overwhelmed with how much sleep I had not gotten due to the constant knocks on the door. I communicated this with my nurse, and she made it known to others on the floor that I was not to be disturbed outside of the necessary checks, which were only once every 8 hours. I was finally able to sleep and find a sliver of sanity.
4 – Let your support person support
You most likely will want your partner in the room with you. You may even want your Mom there for support. Let them support you. You aren’t asking too much if you need them to blow your nose for you, hold your water for you when you drink, have them fill out paperwork instead of you, and even have them rub your feet. While you are moving through labor, they are just waiting. They will probably jump at the opportunity to do whatever you need. I am one of those people that puts the comfort of others before their own. When it is my time to be taken care of, I feel guilty. If you are like me, letting go of that guilt gets easier with each task you allow someone else to take over.
5 – Bring a pillow
Labor and delivery beds suck. “Suck” actually isn’t even a sucky enough word to describe how horrible they are. The best you can do is bring your own pillow to find some sense of comfort. Pack a non-white pillowcase so it doesn’t get mixed up with the hospital ones. When you’re feeling up to it, try sleeping on the roll-out bed or couch meant for your support person as well. They are much more comfortable than that thing they call a “bed.”
Every labor and delivery is different. All three of my experiences were wildly different, but these five tips can span all of them. Of course, the most important tip is to trust yourself and know that whatever decisions you make in the moment are the right ones, no matter what your birth plan may have looked like leading up to labor.