By Chris Treber
Well, gals — for those of you creeping up on the big day, I applaud you. If you’re anything like I was, you’re probably spending hours online searching anything and everything under the sun about pregnancy, labor and how to care for a newborn. You’ve probably given up on trying to hide your Internet research habits from the company you work for, because near the end, you stop caring and just want your damn baby already.
Now, let me help you out and condense your research a bit. Here are 10 things you need to have with you when things start to go down:
1. A FAN. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of those battery operated little do-hickeys you get in theme parks, or a sturdy paper fan you made out of old grocery lists in your purse. Don’t have one? Get one. You. Will. Get. Hot. There were six women giving birth the day I was scheduled to be induced. Full house! I got stuck in a “spare” delivery room. It was nice, but it was warm in there. We had no fan. My husband valiantly waved a magazine in front of my face until his arm was about to fall off. If you get hot, you want water.
2. ICE AND/OR POPSICLES. Most hospitals and birthing centers provide these. But, when I really got into labor, I was sweating like a stuffed pig at a luau and I kept slurring the word, “water” to my husband. Too scared to deny me, he thrust a giant jug in front of my face each time so I’d take sips through the straw. So, why do I wish I’d done the ice and popsicles? Well, I puked. Yep. As I hurled over the bed rails, I heard the doctor say, “I thought that might happen with all the water she’s been drinking.” What? Did anyone think it might be a good idea to tell me that? Bottom line: it’s tempting, but don’t drink the water. Chomp the ice.
3. LIP BALM. As miserable as it is to be thirsty, with only ice chips to satisfy, you don’t need to punish your already dry lips further. Have good, moisturizing lip balm. I recommend unscented. You never know how your stomach will feel during labor.
4. SEVERAL MAGAZINES. I really underestimated the amount of time this whole charade would take. I always thought I’d be lucky enough to go into labor, pop out a baby and call it a day. Nope. You likely will be there for hours. One or two magazines will not suffice. Bring several. Add a book, and some music while you’re at it.
5. SECRET SERVICE. Obama isn’t the only one who needs ’em. Fabulous laboring ladies do, too. The Secret Service heads off unwanted visitors at the pass. They are adept at politely deflecting unwanted people, and getting you what you need from the nursing team. You even can get them some shades and an ear piece for good measure. The point: have someone there to speak on your behalf. You’ll be too tired to fight the good fight, and too tired to remember who you did and didn’t want in the room with you. Here’s a tip: don’t use your partner for this task. Their brains are just as susceptible to disintegration once things get going.
6. MASSAGE TECHNIQUES. I’ll admit that my husband and I giggled like school children under our breath when we went through birthing class. It seemed so silly to “role play” birthing positions and massage techniques in front of strangers. We were waaaay too cool for all that. Wrong. Thankfully, I remembered a couple of the techniques. I had an epidural, but the contractions leading up to that were bad. My husband was there to roll his fist over my lower back while I waited for the next contraction. He was sweating with the effort, but he gave it his all. And it helped.
7. YOUR OWN PILLOW. Hospital pillows are… well… kind of like relaxing on a thin layer of worthlessness. I brought my own snuggly, down-filled pillow. It was a cushy reminder of home and a welcome comfort behind my head and back.
8. DOULA OR DOULA-STAND-IN. I decided to forgo the doula because I was having an epidural. If you are electing to go au natural, then I would definitely hire a doula. In my research, most were only a few hundred bucks. I had a lot of pain leading up to that epidural. All of our birthing class training (where we spent more time making fun than paying attention, which I don’t recommend) goes out of your head in the moment. A doula is there to reign you back in and make you more comfortable. I had my husband and my mother, who were both great supports. Make your choice, but choose wisely — you want someone supportive and positive in your corner.
9. PEDICURE. Every time they lift that sheet, you see your feet. Likely, it is the first sighting of your feet in several months. You don’t want nasty, chipped polish from last season dangling off your cracked, dry toes. Trust me. Make ‘em pretty. At this point, you deserve it.
10. VIDEO CAMERA AND STILL-SHOT CAMERA. Some hospitals don’t allow you to video tape the birth itself (thank goodness!), but they do let the cameras roll immediately after baby emerges. The footage you get of those moments are magical. Why? Because you miss those moments in person. When my son came out, I got a brief second with him, then they hauled him off to snuff, suck, wipe and weigh him. Meanwhile, your legs are still spread wide open while you birth the placenta and get your hoo-ha stitched back up as you crane your neck to see what’s going on “over there.” I will cherish those little cries and grunts made while he was being poked and prodded forever, thanks to having it on film. Have your Secret Service person ready to go with the camera though, because our doc had to remind us to turn it on. You get so wrapped up in the moment, euphoria washes your brain of any sanity and/or common sense.