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by Jessica Williams
Taking Charge of Your Hospital Birth
I had homebirths with my first two children and then, unexpectedly, found myself in need of a hospital for the birth of my third child. At 35 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with cholestasis of pregnancy, a failure of the liver to remove toxins that can cause the placenta to collapse and require labor to be induced.
A veteran of two uncomplicated home births, I knew from experience what would help my birth go smoothly: taking charge of the sights and sounds of the room and creating an emotional cocoon of privacy around me.
My hospital birth proceeded much the same as my births at home, despite the change in environment. The hospital staff said they had never seen a room transformed the way mine was. Here are some tips for taking charge of your delivery-room environment, whether you’re there by choice or necessity.
Bring a hostess gift. We arrived at the hospital with a tray of cookies for the nurses’ station. This started things on the right foot and set the tone for a partnership between us.
Change what you see. For some, the sights in a hospital room can be distressing. While the baby-warmer, oxygen, gear, and gadgets are there to help if you or your baby need it, they can be fear-inducing to gaze upon when you don’t. You are allowed to change the aesthetic of the room. Bring extra receiving blankets and cover signs and metal equipment. We taped cloth over everything that was jarring to my psyche. Tape paper with inspiring words and images – words like “open,” “laugh,” “love,” and “now,” and pictures of animals with their young, women and babies, or family photos – to the walls.
Change what you hear. Bring a portable music player and play music that is familiar, comforting, invigorating, inspiring, and spiritual. I recommend bringing in a selection for the various stages of labor. When you listen to music that you associate with other aspects of your life, you are immediately transported there and your body will respond to the sense memory of your associations. Listening to old-school Stevie Wonder informed my subconscious that I was safe.
Wear what you want. You can birth in whatever outfit you feel comfortable in. Bringing in my own nightie, robe and slippers made me feel less like a patient and more like myself. I also wore the bead-blessing necklace that was made for me at my shower and one of my favorite bras. Things have to work out when you’re wearing lace!
Have a snack ready. Most hospitals will let you bring in your own care package of food and beverage: organic juices and smoothies, electrolytes, broths, and other light fare can replenish you during early and mid-labor. This is also nice to have for your birth partners and for after delivery. Eating customary food helps your body and mind relax.
Hold your new baby. Once my daughter was born, the doctors were willing to check her in my arms rather than on the metal tray. I didn’t want to be separated from my infant for even the length of a hallway, so they wheeled me in a gurney to the recovery room with my baby in my arms. Don’t be afraid to ask. As physically depleted as I was after the birth, I was equally eager to be home. We left unequivocally grateful to the hospital and its staff for the ability to induce my labor and a well-equipped environment to care for my daughter.
Use whichever of these tips resonate for you, enjoy the process and make it your own. Pregnancy and birth are a great place to begin to hone your unique internal mother’s intuition.
Jessica Williams offers L.O.V.E. Parenting classes, workshops & private coaching at the Sanctuary Birth & Family Wellness Center, Birth & Beyond, Exhale Center for Sacred Movement and at schools and doctor’s offices. She is a weekly writer for Mothering Magazine’s "All Things Mothering" blog. Jessica lives in her native Los Angeles with her husband and their three children. www.LoveParentingLA.com.
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