There are a lot of important things to think about when you are planning your birth, but one thing that many people overlook is: What do you want to wear? Many people assume that when they are giving birth in a hospital that they will be required to wear a hospital gown. Although this is certainly an option, it is absolutely not a given! I am preparing for my third birth, and have attended dozens over the last 8 years, and I have seen people labor in anything and everything.
Some of the reasons that people might refuse the hospital gown:
- They aren’t necessarily the most comfortable material. These gowns are sometimes stiff inorganic materials with many tags and snaps that might irritate you.
- The back is open! For someone that plans on being mobile and possibly even walking the halls this can be a big deal. The suggestion from many nurses is to simply put on a second gown turned around backwards, but when you are working hard this might feel like a lot of clothes.
- You want to go in the tub or shower! Hydrotherapy is amazing, but no one wants to wear a gown in the bath. If you don’t plan ahead of time then your only other option may be wearing nothing (which is a perfectly wonderful option too).
- Wearing a gown brings back memories of being a patient. This is a really big deal for anyone that has spent time in a hospital for surgury or anything else major. As a laboring person you are not ill. You want to feel strong and in control. Wearing something that you choose might help in ways you can’t predict.
So what should you wear? The possibilities are endless. You might choose a loose fitting nightgown. Others choose to wear a skirt and sports bra. Still others go in expecting to labor completely nude. I have to say that many people put a lot of thought into what they will wear and end up nude. For my first birth I packed a 2 piece swim suit for the tub. I am fairly modest and thought that this was a brilliant idea. What I didn’t expect was to feel so confined by the tight synthetic material. Luckily, I had also packed a tank top that felt much better.
Some things to consider:
- At different points your care providers may want to access your belly (to monitor heart tones), your arm (for IV or blood pressure), and cervix (for a cervical exam). Not to mention the obvious access issue when you are actually pushing your baby out.
- Everyone has a different level of modesty. Most people want to be fairly covered while walking to their hospital room. Later on, however, it is common for all semblance of modesty to go out the window as heat and excitement ramp up. For others modesty is extremely important, so finding something that can keep them covered for all situations becomes very important.
- If you plan on using hydrotherapy, walking the halls, and otherwise doing whatever feels right at the time, then having options can be wonderful. If you only prepare for a waterbirth then you might find yourself grabbing that hospital gown if you decide you need a break from the tub. (Note: If your partner wants to join you in the shower or tub then they should also bring a swim suit).
- This might not matter at all to you. For others, however, having something that they like in those first family photos is important. I promise that people will be looking at the beautiful new family, not the clothes, but if it is important to you then go with what you love.
- After you give birth you are going to want to hold that little one skin to skin. Finding something that you can easily pull open or take off will make breastfeeding and bonding much easier.
I am personally planning to give birth in the next few weeks and have been carefully considering all of these things. I actually decided to splurge this time and buy myself a beautiful homemade hospital gown from an Etsy shop in Austin, TX called Mod Mum Maternity. The gown fully covers all sides of me, has snaps to facilitate breastfeeding, and best of all it has pockets!!! I also decided to get a matching microfiber robe. When I step out of the tub and try to dry off with those tiny towels, I want a big comfy robe to put on. In the tub I will likely just wear a tank top. I will throw a few in my bag so that I have a dry one to put on if I decide to get in and out. I did hire a birth photographer, and I will admit that it did play a part in what I ended up buying. I know that my hair will be a mess and I’ll be dripping with sweat, but maybe my cute outfit will make me feel a bit less self-conscious.
Now that football season is upon us, we’re sure you’ve heard of The Big Ten. Today, we’re here to talk about The Big Four: the 4 main things we recommend parents focus on when they experience their first labor contractions. It’s definitely possible that your baby will decide it’s time to make the journey Earth-Side before you’ve had the time to finish all of your preparations. Don’t panic! Do what you can, conserve your energy, and reach out to your support system if you need a little extra help putting together frozen meals, a hospital bag (if you’re having a hospital birth), or buying diapers. Raising a baby is a team effort (football pun intended), so once you’ve called your OB/midwife/doula/support system to let them know your baby is coming, here are The Big Four to focus on:
1. Stay calm
So your contractions have started! Congratulations!! For many parents, their first instinct is to switch into “Go Go Go” mode. All of the excitement, preparation, and anticipation has led up to this moment, and now your baby is finally on the way! Some parents may even feel stressed, anxious, blindsighted, or like they couldn’t possibly prepare enough! All of these reactions are TOTALLY normal. And even though it seems counter intuitive, the first thing we tell parents to do is to stay calm. Labor is exhausting, and even more so if you have a long birth. We’ve seen many parents use up a ton of energy and strength with that initial excitement/ adrenaline rush, which leaves them even more exhausted for the rest of the labor process. Save as much energy as you can for when you’re pushing your baby out! Although contractions will feel jarring and uncomfortable, please don’t forget that they are completely normal and they will not harm you. So whether it’s meditating, cooking, knitting, watching reruns of your favorite tv show, or going on a date with your partner. Do whatever you can during early labor to stay as calm and relaxed as possible to conserve your energy!
2. Eat a big meal
The next big thing we tell parents to focus on is eating a giant meal in whatever capacity works for you and your body. Whether you feast on the biggest burger you can find, or just eat a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and peanut butter. What’s important is filling your stomach and making sure your meal has lots of protein! Once contractions really get intense it’s common for parents to feel nauseous, exhausted, or to lose their appetite from everything that’s going on physically. This is all totally normal, but it also makes eating early on in labor SUPER important. Not only will it keep your energy and blood sugar up throughout labor, but a protein-packed meal will allow that meal to last you longer than a carb-filled meal. That way you don’t have to worry about eating as much if you do experience nausea. Plus, that extra boost can honestly make a HUGE difference when you start to tire out. Not only will you be giving nutrients and strength to your baby, but you’ll be less likely to experience complications related to calorie deficiency, you’ll have more energy, and as a result you’ll have more options for your birth experience. One of our rules of thumb for childbirth is: the more nutrients you put into your body before and throughout labor, the higher your confidence, strength, and endurance will be!
3. Take a nap
You read that right! When your contractions start, TAKE A NAP. This one also probably seems counter-intuitive, but it’s so true! If your contractions start in the middle of the night, roll back over and try to go back to sleep for as long as possible. And if your contractions start during the day, take a little snooze! Napping is along the same lines as our Stay Calm tip in the sense that you’re conserving energy for later in labor. Labor can be unpredictable. Some parents have births that last 2 hours, and some parents have births that last many days. Since you don’t know the next time you’ll sleep, resting as much as possible during the early parts of labor will help keep your energy up during the hard parts, and make sure you’re well-rested for as much of your baby’s birth as possible.
4. Take a shower or bath
If you’ve done the other 3 already, or if you’re just someone who feels more comfortable/calm when you’re clean and smelling like soap, try to take a bath or shower before active labor kicks in! Taking a nice warm shower can be exactly what some parents need to clear their heads, prepare for the journey ahead of them, and go into labor with positive mindset. Depending on where you give birth, you may have access to a shower or birthing tub, but it’s unlikely they’ll allow soaps if your water has already broken. Then after labor you’ll honestly be so exhausted and wrapped up in the beautiful little bundle you just gave life to. So lord knows the next time you’ll get to bathe! We honestly cannot sing enough praise for soaking in the tub or shower during early labor. Taking a warm bath/shower allows all of the muscles in your body to relax which makes it so much easier for your uterus to contract and your cervix to dilate. When your body is tense, your muscles hold your baby up further in your abdomen. So get in that tub, or step in that shower, and give yourself the relaxed, fresh start to labor you deserve!
Disclaimer: If you are in early labor and your water has already broken, do not take a bath unless your midwife or OB has said you’re in the clear!
All in all, these four things will help you start labor off strong so that you can get as close to your ideal birth as possible. So whether you’re a football fanatic, or someone who couldn’t care less about The Big Ten, just remember The Big Four! And above all else, if your contractions have started, remember to breathe. YOU CAN DO THIS.