Can I speak my truth at the risk of sounding rude? I am so sick of reading post after post talking about WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR HOSPITAL BAG when you’re pregnant.
Because it centers shit that doesn’t matter and distracts from what does – the mechanics of LABOR AND DELIVERY and a positive birthing experience.
Trust me when I say your silk pillowcase and matching pajama set won’t mean ANYTHING if you don’t know how to advocate your patient rights or understand your options when it comes to preparing for birth and a positive postpartum experience.
If you’re pregnant, here are TWENTY-FIVE questions to answer before you even think about packing your bag for the hospital. And once you do, you’ll feel so damn good.
- How do you prioritize mental health during pregnancy?
REST. When you are pregnant, your body is doing an unprecedented amount of work; it is unrealistic to think you’ll be able to sustain previous levels of energy, productivity, and bandwidth. It’s crucial to unwind, unplug, SLEEP and take time for yourself, so you’re able to re-energize and maintain a quality of life.
THERAPY. Labor and delivery are TRAUMATIC and cause a trauma response within the body. Within that time, unresolved conflicts, traumas, and emotions are likely to come to the surface. We are ALWAYS a work in progress; as much healing as you can do before labor and delivery, the better position you’ll be.
SET BOUNDARIES. To prioritize rest, you need to give yourself the space to do so. Do not mistake your availability or free time as space for others. You have to take care of yourself before anyone else, including family members, co-workers, friends, and other commitments.
STOP SAYING “SHOULD.” You don’t have to do anything – period. Whether you’re pregnant or not. By saying or thinking, I should do this, or I should be doing that, you rob yourself of the moment, deprioritize your rest and self-care, and disrespect your boundaries. When you notice that you’re “should-ing” all over yourself, flip the script to say, “I acknowledge that it’s uncomfortable to be doing X instead of Y, but here is how it’s serving me.”
- How do you prioritize your mental health during the two week wait or after receiving a negative pregnancy test?
When you’re trying to conceive time CRAWLS, it feels like minutes take hours, and days take years. And it can be absolutely excruciating. One of my girlfriends gave me the advice to schedule something to look forward to EVERY week. That could be lunch with a girlfriend, a manicure, a solo staycation, etc. You may still watch the clock, but you’ll be receiving joy while you do.
- Should I use a fertility tracker or app?
Every woman should know and understand their cycle – which is made up of four phases – to understand when it’s best to conceive and understand their bodies. Period trackers such as Ovia, Glow, Eve, Period Tracker, and Flo are great options.
A fertility tracker and app such as Mira may be helpful…or not. Some women find fertility trackers add to their stress and can develop maladaptive (obsessive) behavior.
- How did you change your fitness protocol?
In most cases, your OB is NOT going to be that helpful when it comes to fitness and nutrition advice – their education covers very little within those spaces. And that’s okay. Their job is to see your pregnancy to term and deliver a healthy baby, not guide you through exercise science. That means YOU need to take the wheel.
Physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, early delivery, or low birth weight. Your previous protocol will usually be safe while pregnant. However, modifications may be required as your belly grows and the pregnancy progresses. I have some basic guidelines for perinatal modifications in your first, second, and third trimester so check it out.
Other posts to reference:
- What do I do to survive the first trimester?
Any way you know how. SERIOUSLY.
Stay hydrated. Sleep. And eat what you can keep down.
Don’t worry about exercise, protein, or anything else that may keep you up at night. This is a blip in time and a time unlike any other in your life. For most, the feelings of extreme fatigue and nausea will pass, and a switch will flip, and you’ll feel like your old self overnight. You’ll make a return to the gym and vegetables alike.
6. What questions should I be asking my OB or provider?
7. How did you prepare for a positive birth?
Labor and delivery can be an incredible source of anxiety. Yet, how you prepare (outside of packing your hospital bag) is an all too often overlooked part of the conversation.
Enroll in the birthing classes offered by your hospital or facility and consider your options for how to give birth at your hospital or facility. Some have pools, showers, or other pieces of equipment you can utilize while in labor. I used a peanut ball with Luke, but there are usually birthing balls, squat balls, and more.
I took a hypnobirthing course led by Mother Down Under, and it was INVALUABLE. Caitlin is a genuine exert without an agenda. Her program is for anyone giving birth, whether vaginal, cesarean section, medicated, or not.
I learned SO much about the birthing process itself and options I didn’t know I had regarding positions, equipment available, and general patient rights. Labor and delivery are a great unknown, so my advice is to spend less time making your birth plan and more time understanding the birthing process itself so you’re able to make informed decisions at the moment that’s best for you and your baby.
- What are my rights as a patient and how do I advocate for myself?
One of the best parts about hypnobirthing was learning about SO MANY OPTIONS regarding your birthing experience. I’m not an expert on patient rights, so I’m still trying to educate myself on my rights as a patient, but I received a lot of value from the BRAIN acronym on Bloom Life.
9. What are different birthing and laboring positions?
I learned so much from Evidence Based Birth, read with discernment. I didn’t take anything for the gospel and filed everything away in my brain for what may be needed at the moment as different situations arise.
- How did you prepare for breastfeeding (if you’re planning on feeding?)
I worked with Lactation Partners of Chicago – which was an INVALUABLE experience. Judy is an angel from heaven that walks this earth. She helped me with positioning, healing, pumping, and supplies and hacks that could help ease my process. I wrote about my experience with breastfeeding and how I managed to get over the hump. Regardless, I’ve also expressed my opinion on infant feeding – period.
Aeroflow will walk you through a process step-by-step to qualify for a breast pump with insurance.
- What if I don’t want to breastfeed?
Don’t. The stigmatization around choosing not to breastfeed ends with YOU. Fed is best, and breastfeeding is EXTREMELY challenging. Again, see my post on infant feeding on Instagram and pay special attention to the comments because the solidarity runs DEEP no matter what you decide.
- Did you ever feel sad, depressed, or “blue” during your pregnancy?
Yes, experiencing baby blues it’s not uncommon. I experienced in my second trimester with Luke and off and on with this pregnancy. The difference between my first pregnancy and second is now I’m on medication and in weekly therapy sessions. Your goal is never to control your feelings, rather understand them and then cope with them. This time around, I was able to acknowledge my moods and feelings without anxiety or stress. And I was able to understand them, unpack them, and bring them to a licensed professional to help me cope and move forward. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times; very few people can heal themselves. It may be scary to refer out, but it is always worth it.
- Can you take anxiety medication while pregnant?
Yes, there are anti-anxiety medications that you can take while pregnant and are pregnancy safe, so have an open and honest conversation with your doctor to make any shifts in medication or dosage. If you’re already pregnant, ask for advice on intervention. Regardless, there is an acclimation period where your body will adjust and level out to the medication and dosage. It takes a few weeks or months, so it’s not overnight. Be patient and trust the process. Keep in open communication with your provider to decide when to maintain or troubleshoot.
- What is pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) occurs when the tissue and muscles of the pelvic floor no longer support the pelvic organs resulting in the drop (prolapse) of the pelvic organs from their regular position.
The pelvic floor’s supporting muscles and tissue may become torn or stretched because of labor or childbirth or may weaken with age. POP is COMMON; as many as 1 in three women experience POP during their lifetime, and despite that statistic, it is underrepresented in the conversation. Women who have symptoms may experience pelvic discomfort or pain, pressure, and other symptoms, including bulge of tissue or organs that protrudes to or past the vaginal opening, urinary incontinence, or pain with sex.
You do NOT have to live with POP. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists can help assess weaknesses, over compensatory muscles and tissue, and prescribe a treatment plan. Surgery is available but often not effective. Rehab and therapy should be your first step in healing.
- How do I find a pelvic floor PT? When should I see one?
Ask your OB for a referral, or visit Pelvic Rehab to find a practitioner in your area.
My treatment has been ongoing since Luke’s delivery, including throughout this pregnancy. I’m already planning to contact Meredy once I’ve had the baby to give her an update on how labor and delivery were, as well as discuss my treatment and rehab plan.
- What is open vs. closed glottis breathing?
When delivering Luke, I was told to implement a closed-glottis push, which is a Valsalva breath. You take a deep breath in and hold that breath for the duration of the contraction as you push. Closed-glottis pushing can put a tremendous amount of pressure on your pelvic floor and intrabdominal muscles, and it’s the most effective way to push. However, if your body isn’t prepared or capable of tolerating the overload of pressure, it can put your pelvic health at risk. I had a rather long and traumatic recovery from Luke, having three different instances of POP, and while I can’t be sure, I am curious if the closed-glottis pushing had anything to do with it.
On the other hand, open-glottis pushing Is defined as a prolonged exhalation contracting the abdominal muscles (pulling the stomach in) to help move the fetus down the birth canal. A breath that’s not unlike how you’d breathe while lifting or working out.
My doctor and I have agreed to start with open-glottis pushing and, depending on its efficacy, move to closed-glottis pushing if and when the time comes to get the baby out. When I voiced my concerns about continued or re-occurring prolapse, she assured me my pelvic health was a top priority – and I truly can’t articulate how good that made me feel.
17. How did you prepare for a positive postpartum experience?
I stocked our freezer with easy-to-eat, prep, and make foods that are nourishing for me and delicious for my family, so I don’t have to worry about cooking.
I set up my house in a way that would be EASY for me to access everything I need without trekking up and down the stairs. That includes a breastfeeding cart on our main floor and in my bedroom—a postpartum toiletries kit in our master bath and main floor bathroom. And finally a changing station upstairs as well as in our living area.
Check out Karrie Locher’s Instagram page for her highlights on how to put together your own carts and kits. They’re going to be lifesavers, I can tell!
- How did you find a therapist?
I found mine via referral from my OB but when I was looking to make a decision I relied on Google – reviews were really helpful and I had an idea of what I was looking for in the relationship so it was easier to be articulate on the intake forms. Finding a therapist is like dating, sometimes you gotta kiss a couple of frogs before you find the one, you know?
- When should I see a therapist?
- How do I talk to my partner about PPD?
Your partner will most likely notice uncharacteristic behavior before you do. While most red flags for PPD revolve around self-harm or harm to your baby, there are other symptoms. Rage, anxiety, excessive mood swings, or intrusive thoughts can be signs you need help. Ask your partner (and be open) to their observations and ask them to approach you with kindness and empathy. Emotions run high no matter who you are when there is a newborn in the picture. Postpartum Support International has an excellent resource for men. I also wrote about my approach to handling my mental health in this recent Instagram post.
- Do you recommend any books?
Most baby books are totally useless – I’m just going to call it how I see it. The ones worth their salt IMO are below.
- Bringing Up Bebe
- To Have and To Hold
- The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
- Happiest Baby on the Block
- I’m pregnant and so uncomfortable. How do I find relief?
- Sleep with a pregnancy pillow or wedge to help alleviate hip and backpressure
- If you can afford to do so, schedule prenatal massages every month to keep muscles relaxed and release tension that accumulates in your back, shoulders, glutes, and lumbar spine. If you’re in Chicago, I recommend Allyu, Glow Birth and Body, and Urban Oasis.
- Go to physical therapy for manual release, skin rolling, and dry needling or acupuncture if your doctor approves it.
- What is perineal massage and how do I do it and why is it important?
The perineum is the area between your vagina and anus. Around the 34-week mark, it’s recommended to massage the perineum to help soften the tissues and prepare for a vaginal birth if you’re planning to have one. The softening and stretching of these tissues help prevent tearing, which can impact your recovery process. The Vagina Whisperer is an incredible resource for your perineal massage how-to.
- How do I get comfortable asking for help?
I don’t know.
LOL! it’s really hard.
I cannot ask or accept help easily, and I will be the first to tell you that your survival as a partner depends upon your ability to relinquish some control and rely on the support around you – whatever that may look like. Start small, take baby steps, and fake it until you make it. Practice will make perfect, so swallow your pride, and take all the help you can get!
- But for real, what do I take to the hospital?
You’re going to the hospital to give birth to a baby, not Tulum to stay in the Revolve House, calm yourself.
- Photo ID
- Insurance Info
- Eyeglasses/contacts if you wear them
- Cell phone/charger
- Ponytail holders/clips
- Travel size toiletries
- Jammies/Robe (dark colors, you will bleed)
- Nursing bras
- Outfit for you, your SO, your baby for pictures if you’re taking them
- 2 comfortable outfits that would fit your six-month self – they will still fit you. If you’re having a c-section, bring a few more outfits depending on how long you’ll be staying in the hospital post-delivery to recovery
- Underwear – NOT THONGS, boyshorts, or briefs.
For the Baby:
- Outfit for your baby to go home in – weather-appropriate
- Breastfeeding pillow
- Warm blanket for the trip from the hospital to the car – weather-appropriate
So, fam. We, as women, have A LOT of work to do. Not only to prepare our minds and bodies for birth but to CHANGE THE TONE of what it means to champion ourselves and each other while pregnant and in postpartum life. This space is overwhelmed with “fluff” that is nice but doesn’t do much to move the needle of our mental and physical health forward – which are our greatest assets.
If the silk pillowcase is important to you – then pack it. But don’t expect it (or anything else) to help you peel back the layers of your personality to know why you are the way you are so that you understand your view of the world. After all, that view will be passed down to your children, so you want it to look as good as it can be.