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Tuesday, 18 March 2014 08:13

Conquering the Hospital




Picture your ideal birth, where do you envision it happening? Is it in a tub full of soothing warm water? Maybe it is in the comfort of your own home. Or is it at the hospital, possibly on an operating table?

According to the Center for Disease Control in 2012 98.6% of births occurred in a hospital within the United States. Therefore, if “in the hospital” was your first thought, then you are probably correct—ideal or not. With close to 2050 Free Standing Birthing Centers in the US (up from 170 in 2004) and only 27 of 52 states with legislation allowing for midwives to oversee home birth, birthing options other then the hospital are slim. Regardless of where you would prefer to give birth, if the hospital ends up being where you go, there are many things you can do before your big day to help yourself feel comfortable there.

First off, it’s important to come to terms with why you are birthing in a hospital. Do you believe it is the best place for you to give birth, because your health insurance provider doesn’t cover a birth center or home birth, or that you are considered high-risk? Whatever your reason, getting comfortable with it may be hard, as many people feel intimidated by the hospital setting.

Focusing on the positive attributes of the hospital setting will help you come to peace with the choice. It can be comforting to know that you will have quick access to pain relief or emergency medical care in the rare event something goes wrong. The NICU will be close by if baby should need help. Also many hospitals have lactation consultants on hand.

You are still in charge of your birth. You have the right to refuse tests and procedures you don’t feel are right for you. You can labor at home for a long time before you heading to the hospital—if you so wish. Once you get there, you will probably be so caught up in labor that you won’t care where you are, especially if you prepare yourself to conquer the hospital without fear.

Once you have come to terms with birthing in a hospital it’s time to choose which hospital will harbor you.  If you have a few options to choose from you should tour each of them before making your decision. Look at their caesarean section rates as well as their birth policies. Do they set a time limit on how long they permit you to labor? What is their nurse to patient ratio? 

If you want to try for a particular type of birth such as a VBAC, water or natural birth, the first thing you should do is ask your healthcare provider about the hospitals in your area. Find out which would be more likely to support your birth wishes. Some hospitals are much more supportive than others and that can make or break your birth experience. Unfortunately, many people choose their hospital based on appearance and amenities, but if you want a certain type of birth experience you need to base your decision on the hospital’s policies, facility, and support system.  

After you have chosen which hospital you will give birth in, it’s time to get comfortable in it. Being relaxed at your hospital is integrally important because labor can slow down if you are stressed. You will probably need to take a few tours to familiarize yourself with the labor and delivery unit. Take your partner along and assign him to knowing where to go and how exactly how to get there—guys are great at remembering stuff like that!  

Don't hesitate to ask questions while on tour, no matter how small or insignificant they might seem to you, and don’t worry if a couple of tours fails to make you feel at ease. Hospitals can be very intimidating! Most of us associate them with illness or preventative measures, not normal, natural events like birth, so it is no wonder some people have a hard time feeling relaxed there.

If you are having a hard time, wander around the main floor a few times. Spend some time sitting in a lounge and reading or people watching. Make a date of it and bring a girlfriend to the hospital cafeteria for lunch. Calm, gentle persistence is best when trying to familiarize oneself with a hospital. Rushing or trying to force yourself into feeling comfortable will only make you more anxious. Making repeated visits to wander around and spend time there is key if you are worried. With time and patience, you can come to accept and feel comfortable in your hospital.  

Once you feel comfortable in the hospital setting, you can start to think about how to make your actual room as cozy as possible. Bring a favorite picture to set up in your room. If your hospital does not have a fragrance-free policy and you are fond of a certain scent, get a diffuser or wall plug-in to take with you (candles are not allowed due to the combination of open flame and combustibles gases present in a hospital). Do you have a sentimental attachment to a particular pillow or blanket? Bring it along! If you want to listen to music while you labour compile a playlist of favorite and soothing songs, don't forget a CD player or iPod if your room doesn't have a sound system. Do you want to wear a certain piece of clothing in labor, rather than a hospital gown? Throw it in your hospital bag along with your favorite pair of socks or slippers! Surround yourself with things that will make you feel relaxed and at home, whatever they are. No detail (i.e. laptop, tablet, certain movies, etc.) is too small when it comes to making yourself feel relaxed at the hospital on your big day.

Choosing which hospital you birth in is an important decision. Just as important is familiarizing yourself with “your” hospital and getting comfortable in it. Even if the hospital setting seems intimidating and uncomfortable there are many things you can do to lessen your fears. Have faith, be patient, and keep trying. You will feel relaxed in a hospital and will have a wonderful birth there, too.

Did you give birth in a hospital? What was your experience? How did you familiarize yourself with the environment? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below!

Published in Birthing Places
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 18:00

How will we meet?

It's a fact that saddens me to this day, but I put more effort into planning my first child's first birthday than I did planning his actual birthday. The truth is that birth overwhelmed me. My pregnancy continued despite me being in denial about just how important and transformative his birth would be. This post is all about providing others that might feel the same way I did with some guidance. 

You've reached that magical 20 week stage, seen your little bub wiggle around at your 20 week scan, and maybe even been told your little miracles gender. Its an exciting time, you might start to think about nursery furniture, baby names, those oh so gorgeous teeny-tiny baby outfits. 

Its also time to start thinking about how you are going to welcome this little person into the world. How do you plan to meet your child for the first time? This will be their first chance to see the world, what will their first impression be? Each birth is unique, but one thing is for sure, this is a moment that will be etched in your memory like no other.  While the 10000 onesies and those gorgeous cot sheets are important, are you spending more time on the things that are fleeting and less time on that which will be everlasting? 

Preparing for birth can be overwhelming, so I have put together my tips on how to get started.

Step 1 - Plan

What do you want for this birth? What would your baby want? What does your partner want? Start with a conversation, and see where it takes you. In the ideal world, how would you like to give birth? What is important to you, and what do you think is important to your baby? Write a list, draw a picture, or take some time to relax and visualize your perfect birth. Now spend some time writing a list of how you can achieve this. 

Most of the significant achievements that we experience during our lives involve some sort of plan. Whether is be a sporting achievement, wedding,  party, or celebration, the first step is to plan. Traditionally, the birth plan is something put together at the end of a pregnancy, and is sometimes seen in a negative light. I recommend that families start planning early on. A birth plan is not just a piece of paper that you have in your hand at the end of your pregnancy, a birth plan is also the steps that you will take leading up to the end of your pregnancy. Are there fears that you need to work through? Does your partner have fears that they need to discuss? Is your caregiver supportive of your choices? All these questions are best answered early on in your pregnancy so that you can address them. I was told during my first pregnancy that planning would only set me up for disappointment. Now, as a birth worker, it is one of the most common questions I get asked - If I plan for my birth, will I be disappointed if things don't go as planned? My answer is that a birth plan is a way for a family to be in control of the choices that they make. Studies show that the key to a positive birth experience is a sense of mastery of the experience. A birth plan is a way for families to discuss their preferences, list their choices, and to be in control of how decisions are made during this most momentous event. Birth plans or preferences are not about sticking doggedly to a set of pre-determined events, its about putting families in the drivers seat so that they do not become passengers in their own birth. Most people have a plan when they go to the supermarket, so don't be afraid to plan for what will be one of the most significant moments of your life. 

Step 2 - Prepare

Read, read, read. Books, positive birth stories, and blogs. Start building your library. Look back through your plan, and pick out 3 things that you would like to learn more about, and find some recommendations for articles or books to read. (I have created a list at the end of this article). Whether it be birth, breastfeeding or parenting, there are a plethora of wonderful resources out there for you. Reading positive birth stories is also a great way to feel inspired and help you prepare. Join a prenatal yoga or exercise class. These are wonderful way to prepare your body for birth. Its also a great way to start to build you village, and meet like minded women. Start thinking of some positive birth affirmations. Positive affirmations start with words like “I will” or “I trust” “I am”. Look at the list that you created in step 1, and create your affirmations from this. For example, if you have written that you would like to birth by using your own instincts, a great affirmation would be “I trust my instincts to birth my baby the way I want.” Relaxation and meditation are other great ways to prepare for birth, and a wonderful way to enjoy your pregnancy. 

One of the best investments you could make in your birth is independent childbirth education. There are many opportunities in the community for childbirth education. You could try checking local hospitals or birthing centers for classes.

Step 3 Create your village 

Becoming a parent starts to moment you become pregnant. There is a famous saying that it takes a village to raise a child, so why not start creating your village while pregnant? A family that has a strong support system in place before your birth, which stays in place after birth, is more likely to have a positive birth and postnatal experience. Education and support can come in so many variations, but there is an army of dedicated birth professionals out there who feel it is a privilege to support families during this life changing time. Your village might be a group of like minded women (either online or in person), Doulas (both birth and post natal), childbirth educators, midwives, supportive caregivers, and postnatal support professionals such as health nurses, Doulas and breastfeeding counselors. Some of you might have a large village, and others a smaller village. Surround yourself with people who support your goals, and your preparations will flourish.  

Lastly, if you need help, start researching birth professionals in your area. Ask at your local council or mothers group, breastfeeding groups or midwife clinic. The birthing community is a wonderful network of professionals who are well trained and perfectly suited to support you during your pregnancy, birth, and parenting.

<Remember, this is the only chance that you will have to meet your baby, and the only chance that they will have to be born. Don't be afraid to explore options, and don't be a passenger in your birthing experience. So, how will you and your baby meet?


“Birth Matters” Ina May Gaskin

“ina Mays Guide to Childbirth” - Ina May Gaskin

“Birthing From Within” - Pam England and Rob Horowitz

“New Active Birth” - Janet Balaskas

“The Thinking Women Guide to a Better Birth” - Henci Goeer

Web - great inspiring birth stories - some wonderful positive birth images and stories



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