BIRTH PLAN, EPIDURAL, CORD BLOOD & MORE.
Let’s make it very clear right off the bat I am NOT a doctor providing medical advice or some amazing expert in childbirth. (Although, every mom out there totally deserves to feel like superwoman after birthing a child, so high fives to all of you and know you ARE an expert in YOUR story!)
I’m here to hopefully shake some of your nerves about labor and delivery by sharing my experience, advice, and a checklist of what to do ahead of time. Late in your third trimester, so many of us can build scary scenarios in our head and get so nervous for birth. I want to share that birth is beautiful and can be totally enjoyable. Drew and I had so much fun and still talk about it all the time in awe of how perfectly every step went.
YOU’VE GOT THIS, MAMA!
This is not my birth story, this is me recapping some of the most talked about topics we debate in our heads pre-baby arriving: what to do ahead of time, birth plan, epidural, cord blood & birth photography. But if you want to read my birth story, here it is!
Love to all of you and wishing you the best of luck for a healthy, happy, and safe delivery.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOU GO INTO LABOR:
- Preregister at the hospital you will deliver at at least 10 weeks in advance so you don’t have to deal with paperwork come game time. You may think 10 weeks is too early and keep convincing yourself you have plenty of time. But, please don’t push the envelope. I don’t wish perterm scares or other unpredictable situations on anyone, but they happen all the time. Go ahead and get registration out of the way so you can go straight to L&D triage if you need to.
- Take a tour of the hospital in advance so you can visualize your surroundings, learn where you’re supposed to park, etc.
- Decide if you’re going to do cord blood banking. If yes, you have to set-up in advance and have your kit before heading to the hospital for L&D. This is done completely through a third party – not your OB or hospital. If you’re looking for a recommendation on who to use, reach out to me and I’ll share who we are storing with.
- Pack your hospital bag weeks in advance. (I’m sharing my must-haves asap with you!)
- Talk to your OB about when you should be heading to the hospital. (How many contractions, how far apart, etc.) & when you are supposed to notify them.
- Talk to your partner about your goals, plan, fears, excitement, what they can do to help make this experience enjoyable for you, who is going to be in the room with you, when to tell your loved ones you’re in labor (who all is on your list of people to tell), and when you want visitors coming to the hospital (if you want visitors coming at all).
- Decide if you want to have a photographer at the hospital and if you do, at what point of birth do you want moments captured?
BIRTH IS BEAUTIFUL. If you follow me on Instagram, which I hope you do, you’ve seen me say this a few times. It’s because I mean it. Some of you may think I’m crazy for thinking this, but it’s the truth. Birth is beautiful. Did I have the best experience ever? Yes. Does everyone have the same experience? Unfortunately not. So I can only speak to my own. I am one of those women who absolutely loved being pregnant, but I of course also couldn’t wait to meet my baby girl. I guess I never thought about delivery as bas as that sounds. I thought about every stage of pregnancy and thought about holding our girl, but never visualized the in between. I toyed with the thought of taking birth classes that share different techniques to deal with pain, coming up with a birth plan, and learning the ins and the outs of birth. But when it came to it, we didn’t do it. Looking back, I’m really glad we didn’t. I am a go with the flow person who doesn’t like a strict schedule. I think if I was told to pick one particular method or birth plan (like you will hear lots of people tell you to do) then visualize that and prep for that, I would have been frustrated if one little thing went off track. Also, it’s nice not knowing. Of course, I knew what was going to happen, but I didn’t know exactly HOW it was going to happen. All I cared about was I was having my girl and I would do whatever I needed to do. It was the most beautiful, magical experience EVER! I had zero pain and loved every single moment. (read epidural note below about zero pain 🙂 )
ADVICE: Truly sit and think what will work best for you and your personality. Don’t think about anyone else and what they did or didn’t do to prep for birth. This is YOUR birth experience and everybody is different with their needs. It comes down to you and your personality. What will make you feel most at ease? Taking classes and filling yourself up with every scenario possible and every outlet possible? Or trusting at the time that it will come naturally? Only you can make that decision. Read credible articles, talk to your doctors, and friends you trust. But don’t feel like because one of your friends took a class that you feel bad if you don’t. Once you come up with what you think is best, talk to your partner about it and get on the same page. You want them to be well aware of your goals and need their support and encouragement. Even if your plan is not to have a plan – share that with them! I will say that almost every article you will read says to come up with a birth plan, write it out, and hand it to your nurse to hang in your hospital room during L&D for reference. Funny enough, when we did our hospital tour around 30 weeks pregnant, the nurses said do NOT do that. They said they’ve seen way too many women freak out if something doesn’t go according to plan and it ruins their entire experience. Just do what’s best for you, that’s all.
Let’s clarify me saying I had zero pain. That is thanks to modern medicine, not because I’m some super human freak that doesn’t ever feel anything! I have no shame in my game to say I wanted an epidural. And you shouldn’t feel any guilt either!! I had nothing to prove to anyone, other than myself. Learn the facts and make the right, educated decision for you. I will say, if you’re getting one, don’t be afraid to get one early on. There is no point in waiting. You will hear it all when you’re researching epidurals, and unlike scary stories you might hear – no, they don’t ware off. (An epidural is a constant drug being pumped in you that you have control of dosing the entire time). Also know, before you’re even able to receive an epidural they have to take a blood sample and check your platelet count.
I sing my anesthesiologist’s praises for giving me the greatest epidural there ever was. I’m convinced he’s a bad***. I actually would never use that word to describe him because he was the sweetest man. But, clearly a miracle worker. I will say though, that I had read multiple times, and had been told multiple times by my nurses and my OB that epidurals don’t take all the pain away and that you absolutely still feel pain and pressure. (They like to convince you that this is a positive. I’ll explain in a second). Anyway, my OB told me before labor that some lucky people just don’t feel pain at all due to people having high pain tolerances, but that it is very rare. After I delivered, she told me clearly I was one of those very lucky people. So, I don’t want you to give your hopes up, but I also want you to know it’s totally possible. I will say, I am also the girl who let herself get to 3-4cm dilated during preterm labor just sitting on the couch not thinking she was having real contractions. I went through a month of a preterm labor scare and wasn’t in pain during contractions. Was it really uncomfortable? 100% – Absolutely. But not pain. So maybe it is also my body. I think it’s a mix.
Why do doctors tell you they want you to feel pressure during delivery? Because they want you to feel your contractions so you know when to push. They will adjust your epidural accordingly so you can “feel.” No thank you. I didn’t feel my contractions and Miss Bridget arrived perfectly. I knew exactly when to push, and my unbelievably fabulous nurse knew when I should push, and it couldn’t have gone more smoothly. Don’t let a doctor tell you that you need to be in more pain so you can push. I’m a testament to that.
ADVICE: Educate yourself. Talk to your OB and nurses. Read reliable, trustworthy sources. Talk to your partner about your goals. Talk to your anesthesiologist when you get to the hospital and have a conversation about your fears, wants, etc. I did every single one of those things and I’m so glad I did. Is an epidural scary? Yes. Are there potential side effects and cons to everything in life? Yes. But now having gone through it, I promise you, you will be TOTALLY fine. (Please know though that an epidural is not a shot and what all it consists of so you don’t freak out when you see it…) Drew was my rock during my epidural. I was sitting on the edge of the hospital bed with Drew sitting in a chair facing me. We were facing each other. I had my legs on his thighs, while they had me in the very still and specific position you have to be in to receive it. Drew was amazing and had total dad strength in that moment because he HATES needles and shots, let alone seeing the biggest one ever. Let your partner be your support. Don’t be scared. Of course, you will be. But don’t freak yourself out more than you have to. You will realize how perfectly fine you are. Once you receive it, you can’t leave your bed. Nope, not even to go to the bathroom. (You’ll have a catheter.) Originally I hated the thought of being glued to one place but time flew and it is completely fine. You won’t mind at all. Just make sure you lay evenly for awhile so it can spread everywhere. And if you are on one side mainly, then make sure you switch occasionally to make sure the other half of your body receives the medicine as well and one side isn’t hogging it all. Otherwise, hello biggest numbness you’ve ever felt in your life! Spread the good stuff throughout so come time of really needing it, it’s everywhere it should be. Your epidural will be taken out after you have the baby, before you are taken to your postpartum room. However, you will be wheeled to your next room in a wheelchair and won’t feel comfortable walking on your own for hours (without some serious assistance) until you get your total feeling back in your legs.
What exactly is cord blood? Well, quite literally it’s the blood in your baby’s umbilical cord. It houses TONS and TONS of stem cells specifically for your baby and can also be used for your immediate family as well. These days, stem cells have been proven to aid in cancer, health disorders, diseases, and so much more. God forbid you or your baby need stem cells, there are blood banks that store stem cells and you can find the best match for you. But, if you’re financially capable of storing the EXACT stem cells you would need, why wouldn’t you store the ones perfectly made for you that will be the most beneficial for yours or baby’s health? I pray that my child will never need them, but in case she does, I want to set her up for the best outcome possible. Isn’t that what all of us moms are always trying to do? Set them up for success. That’s my personal opinion.
Once you decide if you’re going to do blood banking, then you need to find the blood bank you want to store with. Find an accredited, reputable bank. If you know you want to store stem cells but don’t know who to use, you can reach out to me and I can share with you who we are storing with. Please know that you have to do all of this in advance! Blood banks are a third party and have no relation to your OB office or hospital. So you cannot show up birth day and tell the doctor you’re storing. Once you choose who you’re going to use, they will send you a cord blood kit. Make sure you pack that in your hospital bag ASAP! You will fill out paperwork online in regard to yours and your husband’s health history, etc. And also, you (the mom) will have to provide a sample of your blood inside the kit when you send off the stem cells. They need to make sure you’re healthy and have suitable blood in addition to testing your baby’s cord blood and making sure it’s healthy to store as well.
Please know donating cord blood is also an option instead of just discarding it.
ADVICE: If you’re going to store, here are some tips. Tell the nurse as soon as you get emitted to your hospital room that you are storing cord blood and have your kit with you. Go ahead and hand your kit to your nurse so you don’t have to deal with it and they will take care of the gathering of both yours and your baby’s blood. For you, have them take your blood right after you get your IV port in so they can just collect from there instead of having to prick you multiple different times for multiple different things. (Why not kill two birds with one stone??) After you deliver and are about to transfer to your postpartum room they will give you your kit back with everything needed inside. It is up to YOU to get the blood to the bank. It is NOT their responsibility. Have a designated person assigned to take care of this for you because the very last thing you want to deal with is picking up the phone and calling a delivery service to expedite blood across the country and making sure it gets their in time. (You want to be soaking up parenthood and loving on your brand new baby!!) Assign this “job” to a family member or friend. I didn’t want Drew or our parents to have to do it so I asked my trustworthy sister. There is a number plastered on the box as well as in your instructions manual. The stem cells need to be received at the bank x hours after delivery so it’s pertinent it gets done in a timely manner. A courier service associated with your bank will literally pick up the kit from the hospital room and boom that’s it!
Having a photographer document your birth or doing a “Fresh 48” is clearly trending. What’s a Fresh 48? Fresh 48 is when your photographer comes around 24-48 hours after your baby has been born to take pictures of you with your little love and detailed pictures of your baby. What did we do? Neither of those technically. It was really important to me to have the beyond valuable moments of us and our family meeting our newest love. Those were the moments I wanted captured. I wanted the actual birth to just be a sacred time that just Drew and I got to experience as we created a family and brought our firstborn child into this world. We wanted that unbelievably intimate time and the hour following to soak each other up, just the three of us. So after our first hour with Bridget, we had our photographer friend, Jessica of Jessica Jane Photography, come in and capture natural pictures of us with our baby girl. Then we quickly let our family in and she captured the most loving pictures of everyone meeting their newest family member for the first time. It was the beginning of a new generation on both sides of the family and you can feel the warmth and happiness radiating through the photographs. Jessica was like a fly on the wall in regard to letting everyone have their loving time and so kindly froze the perfect milestone moments in time for us. It was absolutely perfect. Did I have my hair and makeup done like lots of the fresh 48 ladies get to do? As you can tell in our birth photos I shared in our birth story, nope! I just birthed a baby! Do babies drastically change their features within 24 -48 hours of birth? Yes! These pictures were literally taken an hour after Bridget made her appearance into the world. But it was absolutely wonderful. This was our brand new baby girl and that’s exactly what I wanted. I will forever cherish these photos with my whole heart for the rest of my life.
ADVICE: Do what feels most comfortable to you and your spouse. If you do decide to have a photographer capture your precious moments, most importantly, find someone you’re comfortable with and enjoy being around! This isn’t just a posed photo shoot. This is one of the most important moments of your life. You need someone who you vibe with and trust! Secondly, let them know ahead of time what kind of pictures you want captured. Also, come up with a plan of action to see when your photographer wants you to reach out to them when you’re in labor and keep communication open so they can get there in time. Give your husband the photographer’s number so they can be in charge of contact if it makes it easier on you. ps- some hospitals provide their own in-house photographer the day following birth. They will then e-mail you package options with your pictures, etc. (imagine school photo style). I personally decided against that at our hospital, but know that potentially can be a less expensive option. Ask your hospital in advance if they offer that so you can plan accordingly.
I hope all of this information helps or at least eases your mind! It will be the greatest experience of your life and you will experience a love like no other!
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