My first baby was born in a natural birth center inside of a hospital. It was a very good experience, though there were some things I would do differently. Most of you already know that I had a beautiful homebirth for my second baby in November. I hope to be able to have any future children in the comfort of our home. I highly recommend homebirth to most women, though not all. But what about the mama-to-be who loves the idea of a homebirth, but isn’t able to do it for some reason (no midwife, medical complications, hubby says “no”, etc.)? There are some women who truly need the medical expertise of an obstetrician. Are those ladies stuck with an unfamiliar, noisy, uncomfortable hospital room to bring their precious little ones into this world? Not at all! The trick is to be informed, get creative and be prepared.
Ask the Right Questions
When you have the maternity ward tour, ask about everything. Find out what the policies are (for example, no candles allowed, but you can bring an electric essential oil diffuser) and write it all down. Let them know that you’re wanting to make your room as “homey” as possible, so you need to know what you can and can’t do. Also, see if you can preregister while you’re there for the tour. That’ll save you the discomfort of filling out paperwork while timing contractions. 😉
Take your birth plan with you and go over it with the nurse (or whoever is giving you the tour) to make sure that you don’t have any conflicts between your plan and hospital policy. It won’t feel very homey if you’re expecting to keep your baby in the room with you, but they whisk him away to the nursery! If you just can’t get what you want, see if your doctor has another hospital he/she has privileges at. Also, ask the nurse if she has ideas that you might not have considered.
Once you know what you can’t do, think of some things you can do to feel more at home. When you’re under stress, in pain or trying to concentrate, what do you need? Use your five senses to come up with ideas.
- Sight: Do you need dimmed lights? Would a picture of a baby or something beautiful help you to focus? Maybe something distracting, like a lava lamp or digital picture frame with rotating pictures would help you best. Think outside the box and do whatever works for you.
- Sound: Many women like music during labor. Some like energizing, fun music. Others like soft, soothing songs or even nature sounds, like waves or birds singing. Bring your CD player or load up your ipod with a good selection (don’t forget the headphones, if the hospital doesn’t allow music that can be heard outside of the room). Other women, like myself, want NO noise. Just soft voices, when necessary. If you like quiet, bring a white noise machine to cover over the hum of hospital noise. Earplugs might work, too.
- Smell: I really don’t like the smell of a hospital (not sure that anybody does), especially during pregnancy! A good way to help cover over the chemical smell is to put several drops of your favorite essential oil on a cotton ball and stick it in a jar or zip-top bag. When you get to your room, open the jar or bag and let the oils do their thing!
- Touch: This one is really important. Learn about different ways your hubby can help you relax or focus through counter-pressure, effleurage, massage or just by holding your hands. Plan to have some kind of heat source (a hot water bottle, a rice hot pad and/or a bath or shower). Also, think about ways to cool off (labor is hard work!) with a fan, cool washcloths (bring your own) or a cold water bottle. Bring your own pillows, sheets, blankets, birth ball (exercise ball), clothes and slippers, if it’s allowed and would comfort you.
- Taste: Some hospitals still won’t let a woman in labor have anything other than a little ice to suck on. Labor is hard work and you need to be able to eat and drink, if possible. Skip the “hydration drinks” and bring some fresh coconut water, some homemade lemonade with a pinch of sea salt or some spa water (water with slices of fruit or cucumbers in it). Bring some snacks that will give you energy, like fresh fruit and cheese. If there isn’t a fridge, plan to bring a cold bag with blue ice to keep your food and drinks cold.
Don’t forget to also pack your regular overnight things (shower things, some clothes that will fit when you leave, baby gear, etc.).
Get Ready to Go!
So many women find themselves frantically trying to get their hospital bags packed when they realize they are in labor. The best thing to do is to make a list of everything you plan to take, then mark each thing off the list as you pack it. Do as much packing as you can at about 36 weeks, then add the rest as you get closer to the end of pregnancy. Some things will have to wait until you’re about to leave, but if you have your list right there you won’t forget things.
By the way, don’t forget to have the baby’s car-seat properly installed at least a month before the due date. You will not be allowed to take the baby home without a car-seat.
What other ways have you made a hospital or birth center feel like home?