I am officially 33 weeks pregnant today. (Edit: No I am not. Halfway through writing this article I got an email telling me that I am officially 32 weeks pregnant this week. Pregnancy brain is real, people.) It is time to prepare for labor and delivery. Well, I don’t really know the the right time to prepare for labor and delivery is, but for me, it’s going to be now. Let me start by saying you are reading an article by a mom who has had two all natural, drug-free deliveries, and has never taken a “class”. I’ve never taken a birthing class, breathing class, whatever other classes there are. I’m not against them, but we’ll get into that later. Just so you know, I have real life labor and delivery experience, but I’m not going to make a list full of classes you can take.
Instead, I want to share some of the things I personally do to prepare for labor and delivery, and also some things I’ve heard other moms do to prepare. What you decide to do is personal to you, there’s no right or wrong.
10 Things You Can Do to Prepare for Labor and Delivery
I was completely inactive during my first pregnancy. Working in an office, I sat all day at my desk, and then sat on my couch all evening. Maybe I went for a few slow walks during my pregnancy, but certainly not enough to count on more than one hand. With my second pregnancy, I exercised almost daily. Not only was I chasing a toddler at the time, but I walked, ran, worked out regularly. What a difference it made in labor and delivery! I didn’t realize how much I was preparing my body for labor at the time. I had just fallen in love with exercise. However, my labor and my recovery were so much easier thanks to all of that exercise. I’m quite bummed that during this third pregnancy I’ve had a hard time exercising due to complications, but I’m trying to at least get a good bit of walking in.
2) Make a playlist
This is something I did with my second delivery. My first sort of snuck up on me when my water broke three weeks early, and I didn’t even own a bassinet yet. I did listen to music during my first delivery, but I remember thinking it would have been nice to have a playlist I liked instead of worrying about skipping songs I wasn’t into mid-contraction. You don’t want anything messing with your mind! I’m starting to work on my new labor and delivery soundtrack now, adding songs to it as I hear or think of them.
3) Make a birth plan
You can write it down or not, that’s up to you. I have personally never written my birth plan, but remember I’m the girl who never took a class either. To me, the important part is communicating your birth plan with your doctor, spouse, and whoever else is involved in any way. Make sure you have communicated how you would ideally like labor and delivery to go so everyone is on the same page.
4) Pack your hospital bag
You can download my free printable hospital bag checklist here. I recommend having this mostly ready to go about 4 weeks before baby’s due date. I didn’t do this the first time. Just picture me scrambling to think of what to pack while in complete denial and having intense contractions. Yeah, no fun. If you have this at least mostly done ahead of time it will ease your mind and make you feel more prepared.
5) Create your postpartum care kit
Not sure what to put in it or what they even means? I’ve got you covered. Read my list of items you might need for your postpartum care kit in this post. Knowing that you’ll be all set in the care department once you get home is another way to feel more prepared for labor and delivery.
Communication to-dos to prepare for labor and delivery
6) Have a “go plan”
My husband sometimes gets very busy at work and cannot answer my calls. Most of the time, this doesn’t matter. But as we get into those last 3-4 weeks before baby is due, we decide on a “code” if you will. So if I happen to call him while he’s working, or anywhere else really, and he doesn’t answer, then I just assume he’s busy and he calls me back when he can. If he sees that I call him twice in a row, which I never, ever do otherwise, he knows that means it’s “go time” and he needs to answer no matter what. We also, at this point, communicate with whoever is going to be coming to watch the kids while we go to the hospital, so they know to start being on alert to our phone calls at any hour of the day or night, and they are ready to come so we can go.
7) Know who you want in the room, and make sure they know
It’s important to decide ahead of time who you want in the room with you during labor and delivery. Only you have the right to decide this, and you should not feel guilty about whatever your decision is. If you prefer it’s only you and your partner, stand firm. The important part is that you feel 100% comfortable and at ease, and everyone else just needs to understand. You can decide what that looks like for you and your family members. It may be that select others can be in the room up until a certain point, and then they need to wait outside. It’s all up to you, but it’s important to decide and communicate that ahead of time so you aren’t stressed about communicating this while you’re in labor, and emotions are running high.
How to mentally prepare for labor and delivery
8) Mentally prepare for the unexpected
Notice I said in number 3, “what you would ideally like to happen”? It’s important to mentally prepare yourself for nothing to go as planned. Every labor and delivery is different, and you just simply cannot control every aspect of it. If you become too attached to expectations of how it’s going to go, it can be really stressful when that all goes out the window in a time of immense emotions.
So yes, have a birth plan, and then also get yourself mentally prepared to change it all in the moment. Maybe have an acceptable plan b, plan c, etc. Prepare yourself mentally for it all to change. For example, I knew that ideally I didn’t want an epidural. However, I paid the deposit with the thought in mind that I’ve never been through labor and delivery before and I wanted to reserve the right to change my mind at any time. I didn’t end up using it, so I got my deposit back and treated myself to something with it later.
9) Take a course
As I mentioned, I have never actually taken a prenatal course. The reason for that was, the first time I was pregnant I was very freaked out about labor and delivery, but more freaked out about the eh, unnatural aspects like the epidural. I don’t fault anyone for getting an epidural, in fact, the reason I don’t get one is because I’m a big ole scaredy cat and the idea of a ginormous needle going into my spine terrifies the heck out of me.
Instead, I rested on the idea that women’s bodies were created to do this. Because I was already freaked out, I didn’t want to focus on it too much and over think even more than I naturally tend to do. So for me, watching other women on videos give birth, and talking about it over and over just didn’t appeal to me. In my mind, it’s a natural process, our bodies know what to do, it’s supposed to hurt, but the pain ends. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with epidurals, prenatal classes, and anything else that makes you feel more prepared for labor and delivery and at ease. After I survived my first labor and delivery, I figured there was no point in taking a class for the second. I mean, I went to the school of experience ya’ll.
If I was going to take a course, I would take one online (for time and convenience purposes). I have heard these courses are really good.
I told you I went to the school of experience, right? Well one thing I learned during my first go round is to breathe. Not only during, but before. Don’t let any of this stuff stress you out too much. I know, easier said than done, but really trust that everything is going to work out just fine. Women do labor and delivery every single day. It’s going to be fine. But also, during labor I learned that if I could totally relax my body and breathe through the contractions, it was much easier than tensing up and almost fighting them. (Maybe a breathing class would have helped, huh? Ha!)
If you plan to do a natural birth with no epidural, just breathe. Think of each contraction as a good thing, because it’s getting you closer to that end result of holding that sweet babe in your arms and being done with labor. Rest in between the waves of contractions, and when they come just relax your body and breathe. This will also help with muscle soreness later. I learned that the first time, so trust me.
You’ve got this, mama! I’m not sure if this will make you feel better or worse, but at the end of the day, labor and delivery is one of those things you can prepare for all you want, but you will never truly be totally prepared. The list above are things you can do to prepare, but please don’t drive yourself crazy. I did basically none of the things above my first time around and I still live to tell about it. It’s all going to be fine!
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Hi, I’m Jessica! I am wife to Chris, and mom to Kaiper, Alana and Koa. I am a graphic designer, website developer and aspiring author. In this space, I share about everything from parenting, working from home, food we cook, and lots of things for kids! Learn more about me here.