Having a baby is full of many unknowns. A labor and delivery nurse offers a helpful list of suggestions for anyone having a baby.

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An illustration of a delivery nurse and a pregnant woman.
Credit: Yeji Kim.

Having a baby is full of unknowns because there are so many moving variables in any given situation. As a labor and delivery nurse, I have patients commonly ask me: How long will this take and when will my baby be here? In your experience what's the average? If my water breaks, how much time do I have?

I wish I could answer those questions for my patients, but the truth is babies come when they want to, and I have no idea when that time is for anyone. I can only promise my patients that I will take great care of them until that moment arrives and that they will be in great hands with pediatricians and lactation consultants once the baby arrives.

While it's often impossible to predict how your labor and delivery will go, there are ways to prepare and help ease any worry you might be feeling leading up to your labor. I've put together a list of what I want pregnant people to know before heading to the delivery room. And as a mom myself, I feel these simple tools can make all the difference.

Get Educated

The number one thing I can suggest to people is to get educated on the labor and delivery process. I'm not talking about typing symptoms into a search engine or asking your friends about their delivery experience; I mean a real solid education. See if your health care provider, hospital, or birthing place offers classes, such as a birthing education class and baby care class. These will teach you about the birthing process, the induction process, and what your hospital offers, including if you can get a tour of the place where your baby will be born. All these things can also help you have realistic expectations.

Pack Less

For your labor, you won't need as many things as you think. The advice I give to my friends is to bring a long 10-foot charging cord for their phone, their own gown if they want, lip balm, and snacks. If you're getting induced you can bring something to keep you entertained such as cards, a tablet, or a coloring book. You can leave extra items in the car and just retrieve them if you need them. You also won't need your car seat until the baby is going home, so no need for that to take up space if you have someone who can bring it later on.

Be Patient

Many of my patients expect delivering a baby to be like the movies. Their water will break and then a few minutes later someone will yell, "The baby is crowning," and that will be it. Although I wish it was always this quick, many times it's not. For example, the induction process can take days if you have a patient provider, long as the parent and baby are safe. Pushing for your first baby can also take hours and that's completely normal.

Labor is Painful

Labor is going to hurt. I think this is the only place in the hospital that we want you to be in pain. Contractions are typically painful but as your labor nurse, we want you to have them so you can have a baby. I always tell my patients, "There is no such thing as a pain-free delivery" and "You can't be pregnant forever." We have tools to assist you with that pain depending on your setting, such as movement, position changes, IV pain medication, and an epidural. Talk with your provider about what will work best for you.

Make Delivery Day Yours

Make this day special in a way that feels right to you. If you want to labor in a dark room, let your nurse know. You can bring a star projector, string lights, battery-operated candles, or a diffuser for aroma therapy. Pick your music and let it play on your phone or a speaker. It is so special when patients plan the music they want their baby to hear first. Keep in mind, most hospitals won't be able to provide those things for you, but you should be able to bring your own.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Your providers are here to help you. If the plan of care changes, it's OK to ask questions. It's also OK to ask for a few minutes to think things over before making any decisions. Even after your baby is born, don't hesitate to get answers to any concerns you may have. As the medical team, we are here to support you.