When it comes to delivering your baby, you may not want a home birth -- but that doesn't mean you don't want the comforts of home in the hospital. In the midst of the life-altering experience of childbirth, sometimes it's the little, familiar touches that can help make the labor and delivery experience even better. So find out what's acceptable at your hospital or birth center, and consider these tips for making your delivery room feel more like your living room:
1. Create a music playlist. Music can be a wonderful tool for helping you relax and feel comfortable during labor and delivery, so create a special birth playlist and pack earbuds in your hospital bag. You can also check with the facility you'll be delivering at to see if it offers any iPhone- or iPod-compatible hook-ups (many birthing suites now offer music therapy for their patients). "Most everyone brings music of some kind," says Tina Alessi, a certified nurse-midwife at Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, New Jersey. One musical dad-to-be at her facility brought in his guitar for some sweet birthing serenades!
2. Make a birth plan. Even if you do nothing more than jot down a few bullet points about how you hope your birth experience will go, actually writing out your birth plan can help you realize what it's important to you during the labor and delivery process. You may find, for example, that your "perfect" birth would have music and dim lights, or you may discover that you envision a room full of people. A little planning ahead can help you prepare for what to bring with you when it's time.
3. Bring your own pillow. Let's be honest: The standard-issue hospital bed linens aren't always super-comfortable. What is comfortable: the favorite pillow you're used to snuggling up with at home! Alessi has had patients bring in their own pillows, sheets, gowns -- you name it. (Just keep in mind that any linens you bring in will, um, get soiled. So leave those Frette sheets at home!)
4. Buy a special robe or nightgown (or both) for visiting hours. Sure, you can wear your hospital gown -- and you might appreciate that easy-access garment -- but many women feel more comfortable wearing their own clothes after delivery, or even during birth itself. Make sure it's roomy, nursing-accessible if you're breastfeeding, and something that will keep you adequately covered so you don't inadvertently flash your visitors. But as with the bringing-your-own bedding scenario, remember that birth can be a messy process: Be prepared for the accidental stain, and don't bring in anything that you would hate to have ruined.
5. Pack your favorite scents. Your favorite aromas can be incredibly comforting during your hospital stay, so consider bringing in scented candles (although hospital policy usually prevents them from actually being lit) or essential oils. Or ask the hospital staff for amenities, as some birth centers carry their own aromatherapy kits!
6. Pack some DVDs. Many a pregnant patient of mine has waddled up to the labor and delivery floor ready to have her baby, only to be stuck waiting...and waiting...and waiting. The first stage of labor can be a long one (up to 20 hours for a first-time mother!), and, hey, the latest season of Homeland may be just the distraction you need as you as you prepare to meet your new addition.
7. Get the Wi-Fi password. We're not suggesting that you live-tweet your birth, as Rosie Pope did, but you might want to let friends and family know that Junior is on his way -- or Skype with a grandma-to-be who can't be there.
8. Have a meal plan. Fact: You'll probably be ravenous postbirth. Not only will you have legitimately burned a bazillion calories during the delivery, but you may not have eaten much in the early stages of labor. (Ice chips and juice don't really cut it.) A favorite meal can help you fuel up for your new role as mom -- and, let's face it, will be better than what you get in the hospital. So have your favorite takeout on speed-dial before you deliver, or make a plan for Grandma to bring in something special for you when she meets her grandchild for the first time. Hey, it's a fair trade, right?
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