4 Tips on Preparing for the Labor & Delivery Process

Everett's birth photo

For the first half of my pregnancy, I pretended my baby would be magically delivered without any direct involvement from me (and definitely no pain on my behalf).

While I’m mostly kidding (kind of), for the first few months after finding out I was expecting, I avoided thinking about the labor and delivery process. It freaked me out, and I just could not imagine my body enduring such an event… much less, facilitating it.

Going into my pregnancy, my goal was to have a natural birth at the hospital without being induced and without an epidural. I didn't think this was the right way to have a baby, this is just what I wanted. 

Well, when it comes to labor and delivery, the best thing you can do is to expect the unexpected. Things did not go as planned, but Everett did arrive safe and sound, and for that, I will be forever thankful. Looking back, I wanted to share a few things I did to prepare for labor. Some things I would do again, some things I wouldn’t. I do plan to share Everett’s full birth story in the future, but for now, here’s what I did to prepare for labor and delivery.
 

My Tips for Preparing for the Labor & Delivery Process

1. Get Educated: Gain Knowledge, Eliminate Fear

Like I said, the first couple of months of my pregnancy, I happily buried my head in the sand and avoided thinking about giving birth. But then, talking with a family friend who had successfully had SIX children without pain medication or major intervention, I realized I needed to get out of my own way. Here’s what she said:

“Knowledge is power. Your body was designed to give birth, and you need to understand what your body is doing. By knowing what is happening, you will be less scared and less likely to fight it.”

With that sage advice in mind and with the support I received from the Centering Pregnancy Program we attended, I decided to immerse myself in all things labor and delivery. I committed to doing my best to prepare for the unpredictable event of having a baby. I decided to arm myself with knowledge and to get a handle on my fear. No, this wasn't a sure-bet that things would go well, but it gave me a little peace of mind. 
 

What I Did to Prepare for Labor:

Centering Pregnancy Program

The best thing we did when prepping for the arrival of our baby was enrolling in the Alliance OBGYN Centering Pregnancy Program. Instead of meeting with one of the on-staff doctors for fifteen minutes every month, we joined a group of five other expectant parents for an educational class taught by a certified nurse-midwife. We still had our vitals taken, got to listen to the baby’s heart rate, and had to do the dreaded weigh-in.

After everyone had their vitals taken, we gathered together for an educational session and discussion. Not only were our concerns and questions addressed, but we enjoyed getting to know the other parents and being reassured that what we were going through was normal. One of the coolest things is that I am still in contact with these moms and we continue to support each other through the rollercoaster of motherhood.

Read & Research

While I didn’t go crazy, I did read a few books on what to expect during pregnancy and a few books on natural pain coping mechanisms. I tried to understand more about the actual process my body was going to go through and prepare mentally for what I had to do. I read blog posts, talked to other moms, and listened to podcasts.

Attend a Childbirth Class Taught by a Doula

Because the Centering Program focused on having a healthy pregnancy, we felt like we wanted a little bit more information on the actual delivery process. I researched what classes were available in Lansing and found one taught by a doula. Only one other couple attended, so we were able to ask a lot of questions (and if you know me, I had A LOT of questions). The best part of this class was learning about ways Nate could help me through contractions and what I needed to do to stay mentally strong.

 

2. Know What You Want, But Be Prepared for Things to go Differently

A lot of people talk about creating a birth plan. And from talking to other moms and all of the research I did, I knew that instead of coming up with a strict plan that it would be better if I just had a list of birth preferences. I wanted to have an idea of what my ideal birth situation would be and practice visualizing it. I was trying to keep my expectations in check so I wouldn't be disappointed (harder said than done), but also wanted to know what my hopes were.

My birth preferences

  • Go into labor naturally, without being induced
  • Manage pain without an epidural, unless I had to have Pitocin
  • Try a variety of methods to work through contractions: Walk around, use an exercise ball, massage, shower, etc.
  • Maintain a calm environment

For me, I think it was good to have a rough idea of what I wanted out of my birth experience. The challenge was keeping that in check and not getting too hung up on the specifics. I'm someone who struggles with needing control and wanting to have a perfect plan. Well, if I have learned anything in the last few months, motherhood is one big lesson about how little control you have. 

With that said, I know I wouldn't have done well if I went into the hospital without a clue of what I wanted. And yet, I now realize that you truly have to expect the unexpected and be prepared to adjust as things progress (or don’t progress). While it’s good to know what you want, don’t obsess over the details. 


3. Use a Mantra 

Labor and delivery is nearly as much mental as it is physical. One way to help yourself mentally is to have a mantra.

The mantra I clung to during my pregnancy and delivery was one that was shared by the certified nurse-midwife who taught our Centering Pregnancy program. After each session, we would each take a deep breath and say together, “My body knows just what to do.” That might sound a little woo-woo, but it helped me relax every time.

Throughout my pregnancy, and especially in the days leading up to having the baby, this phrase gave me a lot of peace and confidence. I would repeat it to myself as I was soaking in the tub, when I was overcome with nervousness, and as I would lay in bed trying to determine if my contractions were the real deal. Something about this phrase gave me so much peace.

Having a phrase or a picture to settle your mind and give you a sense of calm is a helpful tool to have. If one thing is for sure, labor and delivery will test you. It’s a good idea to have something that keeps you grounded.

 

4. Expect the Unexpected 

Whether you want an unmedicated birth or if you are going to ask for your epidural while you’re in the waiting room, there is one thing that might help you during the labor and delivery process. - Expect the unexpected.

During the week that I was over-due with Everett, I tried to practice this mindset. While I like to be in control, I knew I needed to let go. This little baby was going to show up when he/she wanted to (or when my doctor wanted). If you can go into the hospital with an open mind, have a rough idea of how you want things to go, and then adjust as needed, you will do well.

While I tried to be flexible - being open to an epidural if I needed - I struggled because I never imagined I would be in labor for so long or that things would not progress even with Pitocin. There was a point after I had been in labor for over 12 hours that I just broke down. I hadn’t progressed and things were not going anything like I had imagined.

All in all, the best thing you can do is to prepare your mind for the process - know what is happening with your body, be informed about your options, and be your own health advocate. Then, keep your heart open.

Labor and delivery is usually a long and arduous process. It’s not predictable, and you need to be mentally prepared (or at least open) for whatever your body throws at you. It is not easy or pretty. But the best thing? Your sweet baby is on the way. 
 

One beautiful thing about labor and delivery is that everyone has their own story. And just like motherhood, it can be messy, hard, and totally different than what we imagined. Or, maybe your birth went exactly how you had hoped. Either way, sharing these experiences strengthens and encourages us.

If you’re preparing for labor and delivery, I hope you are left feeling encouraged and empowered to keep your mind open. Already had your baby? I’d love to hear what helped you prepare and endure labor and delivery! Comment below!