You’re finally ready to pack your hospital bag! So where to start? Here are a few suggestions, but remember you’re partner will likely be carrying all the bags when you arrive in active labor, so don’t go overboard!
Optimal birth position – does that even exist?
As a birth doula and yoga instructor, I obviously understand the importance of movement, strengthening & stretching during birth, but Gail Tully, a midwife with over 30 years experience who developed Spinning Babies, takes it a bit further. She focuses on 3 principles; balance, gravity and movement. Each of these principles she says are essential to “enhancing baby’s starting position for labor.”
When you think about babies in utero, they are trying to find a comfortable position working around the shape of the mother’s organs, muscles and ligaments. During birth, it’s baby’s job to move and rotate through the pelvis and its Mom’s job to provide the space for baby to do so.
So, what can Mom do to create the balance, gravity & movement necessary to get baby into a good position? Practice these 3 poses every day. It’ll only take about 10 minutes – you can fit it in somewhere!
“Sifting the entire abdomen can relax tight ligaments and may help a baby rotate in pregnancy or labor more easily (Spinning Babies. Maternity House Publishing Inc., 2016, Web. 4 Feb. 2016.).” And it feels amazingly relaxing for Mom.
Using a large shawl or sheet, cover your entire belly and have your partner grab it behind you. Lower onto your hands & knees, resting your arms on the couch or an exercise ball. Have your partner stand up behind you, with the sheet in both hands, fingers facing forward. Have your partner lift the weight of your belly up and begin to slowly make baby circles with his hands (picture a choo-choo train) – tiny tiny circles. This should feel like a comfortable vibration for you. Be sure to communicate how it feels. Do for as long as your partner can stand it (they’ll finally appreciate how much weight you carry around every day).
2.Forward leaning inversion
The forward leaning inversion “stretches and potentially, untwists support ligaments to the lower uterine segment and cervix, such as the uterosacral and cervical ligaments. Repeating this stretch can release any asymmetry and allow baby’s head to fit more easily (Spinning Babies. Maternity House Publishing Inc., 2016, Web. 4 Feb. 2016.).”
Sit on the couch on your shins. Slowly lower your hands to the floor and then come onto your forearms, your head should be freely hanging, hips high. Stay here for 3 deep breaths and then slowly make your way back up to where you started. Sit back on your shins for 3 breaths.
This is not recommended if you are at risk of a stroke, have glaucoma, hypertension or heartburn.
The side-lying release “relaxes and lengthens muscles supporting the pelvis (Spinning Babies. Maternity House Publishing Inc., 2016, Web. 4 Feb. 2016.).”
Lay on the edge of your bed with a pillow under your head (make sure you scoot all the way to the edge). Be sure to stack your shoulders and your hips, legs are long, feet flexed. Have your partner support you at your hip. Lift your top leg on an angle and let it drop towards the floor (be sure your leg is hanging). Your partner should be pressing your hip back slightly to keep you from falling off the bed but be sure your shoulders and hips stay stacked. Stay here for 3-5 minutes. Switch sides.
In addition, walking, stretching, squats and lunges are all great exercises to keep the body loose and supple – ready for whatever birth will bring!
I’m not sure anyone can be prepared enough for the day you become a parent – this new little human relying on you to care and shape them… but let’s give it a go!
Here are my top 5 book recommendations before baby arrives.
1.Yoga for Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond by Francoise Barbira Freedman
While baby is in utero, it’s all about you! Learn positive benefits of yoga with this quick reference. It provides breathing techniques and simple steps to practice poses for early, mid & late-pregnancy as well as postnatal yoga from birth to 16 weeks! Best part – most of it is filled with pictures!
2.The Birth Partner (Third Edition) – A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas and Other Labor Companions by Penny Simkin
Penny Simkin is the founder of DONA (formerly Doulas of North America) and has a wealth of knowledge about birth. This is the ultimate reference for anything birth-related. While this is a longer read, it can also just be used as a reference if you have specific questions. Pack it in your hospital bag, just in case!
3.Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel
For those of you wanting a “natural” birth but feel more comfortable in a hospital, this book’s for you! Being your own advocate and listening to your body gets more difficult when surrounded by hospital staff trying to speed up your labor and get you out. This book explains how to evaluate medical advice and avoid unnecessary interventions so you can have the best of both worlds – natural in a hospital. It’s not an oxymoron!
4.Breastfeeding Made Simple Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher IBCLC, FILCA and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett PH.D., IBCLC
Love love love this book! Such an easy read, makes so much sense. We trust our bodies know how to make a baby; we need to trust our bodies know how to nourish our baby!
5.Easy Labor by William Camann M.D. and Kathryn J Alexander, M.A.
I had the opportunity to meet William Camann after reading this book and what a pleasure it was! For anyone who fears pain during childbirth, this is a great read. This book includes an abundance of doctors/medical providers and Mom perspectives, which help wrap your head around what you might want or can expect.
What are your favorite getting-ready-for-baby books?
So you’ve read a bunch of books and you’ve thought about every scenario of how your birth could go… now its time to boil it all down and create a plan for how you want it to go.
First, I recommend American Pregnancy Association's checklist:
https://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/birth-plan/. Once you see the list of options, you can research each and see if you have a preference. If not, no worries, don’t include it!
Next, use this box format to organize your thoughts.
Now you’re ready to finalize your plan. Start with a short intro paragraph introducing you and your partner. Note that you “understand certain emergency or other medical circumstances may not allow for the accommodation of all your goals listed below.”
Then write your plan in bullet form and keep it simple & direct. Try to condense it all so it fits on one page. You obviously don’t need to include everything, just include those areas that are important to you and keep it positive!
Be sure to review it with your doctor and/or doula prior to birth and pack a few copies in your hospital bag so you have it with you.
Finally… relish in the newfound feeling of accomplishment. Another “to-do” checked off your list!