Birth will change you. There is no way around it. So how do you prepare for something so great? You’ve likely planned your nursery and bought adorable outfits for your little one. But have you started preparing yourself for your little human? The mental and physical shifts that happen begin as soon as you see that positive pregnancy test and don’t stop there. Here are some ways to help navigate the transition.
Set and Discuss Expectations
Sit down and write out your expectations. Have your partner do the same. How do you hope your labor and birth will unfold? What if it goes differently? How do you expect your partner to be involved? Be specific. How do you expect your care providers, whether that’s your OB, midwife or nursing staff, to participate? What do you expect from your partner and any other support people in the immediate postpartum period? Who will take care of the big and little things around your home, like cooking, taking out the trash, laundry? How will you delegate these things? Will there be a shift in finances and if so, how do you expect things to be covered? Will you and/or your partner take parental leave? If so, for how long? Once you’ve both written out your expectations, sit together and discuss them. Some things may align while others do not. Have the sweaty conversations. Get uncomfortable. It’s better to discuss these things before you’re in it. Sit down with your care provider and discuss their role during your labor and postpartum period as well.
Create Your Birth Preferences
Birth can unfold in a variety of ways and there is no way to predict how your story will unfold. If you’ve hired a doula, they will likely discuss birth preferences with you. Even if you do not have a doula I strongly encourage you to review birth options and potential interventions as well as your rights as a birthing individual. Do your research and discuss with your partner and care provider. The time to research is not in the middle of labor. I shy away from calling it a “birth plan” because you cannot plan your labor, but birth preferences are certainly accessible. Consider the scene you’d like to birth in. Do you prefer the lights dim or bright? Do you prefer to stay active and mobile or would you prefer to labor in bed, maybe with an epidural? Have you discussed delayed cord clamping or cord blood banking? By discussing the possibilities before you’re in the moment, it will allow you to sit with your feelings around particular interventions and routine procedures and process how you may best manage your expectations and feelings should things go differently than you hope. There are many birth preference outlines online and this may be a great place to begin if you have not received one from your care provider or childbirth education class.
Pack Your Bags!
Try to stick to one bag. Keep it to the essentials. Will you really need three outfits? Probably not. Will your baby need three outfits? Probably not. Pack what you know you’ll need for labor and your partner or a friend can bring you the extra postpartum supplies. My recommendation for essentials? Your phone charger, lip balm, change of clothes for you and partner, toiletries like toothbrush and toothpaste, hair band or headband to keep loose hair off your face, bluetooth speaker for music during labor, electric tea lights to allow for less harsh light in your birth space, a copy of your birth preferences, eye glasses or contacts and lens solution if you wear them, a pillow in a non white pillow case (to avoid mixing it up with hospital items and potential stains), anything else that you feel would create a warm, safe and comfortable birthing environment, such as essential oils, printed affirmations or photos, or your own birthing gown. Need some more inspiration? Team Perelel shared their hospital bag packing lists for both the maximalist and the minimalist mom.
Prepping Your Family
Have a fur baby at home? Be prepared to help them transition to their new human sibling. Read up on best practices for introducing a baby to the family pet. Oftentimes it is recommended to bring an item home from the hospital that your baby was in contact with, like a receiving blanket or hat, before discharge. Allow the pet to smell the item and take some time with it getting to know this new human before they arrive. Delegate pet care duties ahead of time. Who’s taking Spot out for his nightly walk once you have a newborn at home? What about the litter box? Assign duties to ensure that your pet is fed and nurtured. Know that it may take some time for everyone to adjust, pets included. You may feel guilt for not having the time, energy or space to dedicate to your pet that you had before but know that this time is not forever and you will get that space back.
Have an older child at home? Spend time discussing with older children about how things may shift at home with a new baby. Brainstorm ways that your older children can get involved with their new sibling. Even young siblings can take active roles and may even feel proud to be helping out. Many parents worry about not having enough time for the attention required for multiple children. Again, sit down with your partner and have those sweaty conversations about expectations and roles. You may wish to set aside a special time to dedicate to your older children without the baby each day a week. This may be a great time to journal about feelings around growing your family and how it feels for you. There are no wrong feelings. Be vulnerable and honest with yourself.
Your life is growing in new and exciting ways.You can’t always plan your birth but you can plan your options. Take a Scouts’ approach to birth and “always be prepared.”
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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.