What I was most thankful for during my births.
In light of Thanksgiving, I want to share a few things that I was most thankful for during my labors and births.
1. A birthing companion besides my husband. During both births, I had a close friend attend to help with labor and pain management, and they were life-savers for both my husband and me. Especially during my birth with my firstborn, Zach was nervous and exhausted, as it lasted a full 54 hours! My birth partner was an invaluable asset. She affirmed my decisions at the hospital, she had other friends write me encouraging notes (see linked images of Ryan below!) and prayers, and she stayed awake with me when Zach needed a nap. My second birth was much quicker - how could it not be? My friend left her four kids with her gracious husband, and drove an hour to be by my side. She was so helpful, offering pain management advice and massage, giving me so much encouragement while I was pushing, and video recording the whole birth so Zach could focus on encouraging me. I would have been at a loss without them.
2. Music! For both of my births, I prepared two playlists: one for energizing and one for relaxing environments. I used both during my first birth. I used the energizing one during a literal dance party with my husband and birth partner the night my daughter was born, as we were trying to hasten labor. I used the relaxing one at the hospital with my first and at the birth center with my second. It gave me something to think about and enjoy during the waves of contractions and rest time in-between. I remember hearing "Hallelujah" by Kate Voegele during transition and then when I pushed out my son and finding it so beautiful and peaceful.
3. Comfy "I look sexy" maternity outfit for leaving the hospital/birth center or for the first outing outside the house. When I left the hospital after my first, I picked this huge shirt and leggings, mainly striving for comfort, but I didn't feel confident at all. I felt like an insecure slob. After my second, I picked leggings (not tight ones, but comfy ones) and a long maternity shirt that I love (see main photo). I was comfy and felt adorable as I left, which is oddly important to most women who've just had a baby. I also got a tip from my sister-in-law to include that maternity jeans will not be comfy after having the baby!
4. My personal pillow and Boppy pillow. When I was at the hospital with my firstborn, I brought my own pillow and was so thankful I did. Everything else, including the awful hospital gown, was foreign and uncomfortable, but my own pillow was a small piece of security when I needed it. I also loved having my Boppy pillow, especially after my firstborn. It really helped me feel comfortable when I was figuring out positioning with nursing. Also, I needed that Boppy pillow for the ride home! I sat on it during the car ride, and the space that it gave me between my bum and the hard seat was amazing. I actually sat exclusively on a Boppy for about two weeks after my first.
5. Depends adult diapers! Okay, here we are getting real. I brought Depends to the birth center for my second, and they were the most amazing postpartum underwear ever! I used them for about a week and a half (I think I bought a package of 24 or so), and they were amazing. They soak up everything and nothing gets out or leaks into your clothes. Then, you get to just throw them away! I can't rave enough about these. They're so practical and extremely comfortable.
6. My essential oils, in particular clary sage and lavender. Honestly, I didn't have time to whip mine out during my second (hadn't brought any for my first), but the midwives had clary sage and lavender oils diffusing when I came to the birth center, and they were amazing!! Clary sage is helpful for hastening and inducing labor, and lavender is helpful in relaxation. I have used them both with doula clients since that birth because I enjoyed them so much.
7. Socks! I was so so thankful I brought my own fuzzy socks to the hospital with my first. My feet are perpetually cold anyway, but they were extra cold on the tile hospital floor.
8. Water - shower and birthing pool. With my first, there was no birthing pool or bathtub, only a shower, and that was the only place I felt relief from the intensity of the contractions. I remember greatly desiring a water birth with my second because of how great I felt in the shower with my first. I did (mostly) get to have a water birth (see next month's post for full story) with my second, and I loved it! I am already planning one for my upcoming birth. The contractions were manageable, and I felt relaxed like I never was with my first birth. My pelvic floor was very loose and comfortable too, and I pushed out my son with two contractions!
9. My own toiletries. After both births, I wanted to shower and get myself feeling clean and fresh. I didn't wash my hair, but I washed my body and cleaned myself up, and it felt wonderful. I was very thankful that I brought my own things that I like to use, especially the following: chapstick, hair ties, body and face wash, and moisturizer. These are the things I'm most particular about, and I was glad I brought them.
10. Coconut oil for baby's bum. If you lather baby's bum with coconut oil before the first diaper, it is so much easier to wipe away those first meconium poops. Trust me, it's extremely helpful!
A few other things that I've not used personally but have heard recommended:
1. TENS unit
2. A few reusable bags for dirty clothes or items the hospital/birth center gives you
3. Tennis balls or Deep Relief oil for massaging
4. Your own robe
6. Birthing ball
7. Coconut water for hydration
8. Tucks pads/wipes
9. Hand mirror to see baby coming out
10. Blank thank-you for helping staff
11. Notebook and pen to write down things the staff tells you for postpartum/newborn care
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and an especially huge "Thank You!!" to my husband, Zach, whose role during my births was vital and perfect. You're my best friend and biggest cheerleader. I love you. And two more to my friends L and R who attended my births and honored and loved me in every way during such intimate moments. I love you both more than words can express.