What to pack for the Labour Room: Things to help stay grounded and prepare for the unknown

Quite a few new mums or mums who haven’t had a baby for awhile, have been asking me what I brought into the labour room with me! It seems like just yesterday I was carefully packing my bag. I had tried to keep things simple when I had Olive, but second time around, I wanted a bag full of things that helped me feel a little more in control, prepared and calm. I needed a few reminders to help me stay grounded throughout labour as I was so fearful of going through another traumatic birth. Sometimes being prepared gives me a little less space for anxiety and the unknown. Are you similar?

My bag of tricks for the Labour Room

Here are the things I brought to the birth suite when I had Ezra.

  1. Bliss Birth TENS machine To be honest, I was skeptical about the effectiveness of a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator. I felt like it was similar to the advice my Mum gave me, “just breathe” through the labour! But this tiny device was what helped me experience a calm, focused birth! It was so easy to use, adjust and distract me from the contractions. A natural pain relief mechanism that helps to block pain signals from reaching the brain and increase endorphins. What a great tool! I used the TENS machine during the active phase of labour (when I was between 3 to 7cm dilated) and for a little while during the transition stage. Prior to being induced, Steve and I tried the TENS machine using the reusable electrode pads on our backs. The gentle buzzing of the pads and boost option to increase the intensity to dull the pain of a contraction was amazing! The machine also had a built in contraction timer which was useful during labour. I was so thankful to Ariel and the warmth and encouragement I received when communicating with her. She passionately runs Bliss Birth sharing practical tools, support and guiding women to a natural birth whether that’s a c’section, drug free or all the drugs, she hopes to support mothers to having that bliss moment when they meet their newborn. Hiring the TENS machine was easily done online, it included the Elle TENS plus machine, new batteries, brand new reusable electrode pads, easy to read instructions, lead wires, prepaid return envelope to send the products back to Bliss Birth. Go check out the Bliss Birth shop, blog and hire options! Click here to head straight over to the labour TENS hire info!
  2. Home Made Affirmation Cards So this is where I got all hippy in Steve’s opinion! But I needed all the tools I could think of to keep me grounded and calm during birth. I’m a visual person so I found these so helpful! I searched in Google for birth affirmations and printed out the ones that resonated with me. I also typed up a few of my own to help me focus and stay grounded if I needed them during labour. It was probably as we approached the transition phase where I asked Steve to help me find these cards. I placed them on the bed and paced around, rocked on the spot and read these cards. Reminding myself about the world outside this clinically, sterile environment and the purpose of the pain I was experiencing. I had written affirmations such as: “The power and the intensity of my contractions can’t be stronger than me, because it is me.”, “Breathe in peace, breathe out tension”, “The Lord God is with me”, “Women around the world are birthing with you right now.” … there are so many!
  3. Photos of my daughter, Olive I needed a reminder of what the pain during childbirth was for. Having some photos of Olive reminded me of the outcome of labour…. a beautiful creation from God, a gift of new life. I found I brought these photos out mid way through the labour to help remind me of the big picture. Our family was growing and she would be a big sister soon! Looking at her photos strengthened me to keep going, knowing that I would soon be meeting a little boy who would one day have his own personality of his own. But even if this is your first labour experiences, I would recommend bringing along photos of things that give you peace, remind you of the outside world, things that remind you of home or a place where you feel calm and relaxed. This helped my heart to stop racing and gain perspective.
  4. Eucalyptus oil and a USB charged diffuser from Kmart The moment we were shown to our room, Steve helped to set up a diffuser. Aromatherapy has its benefits and I chose a smell that I associated with home, relaxation and wellness. I bought a $15 diffuser from Kmart and it was very easy to use. You can find it here.
  5. Bible Verses and messages from amazing women in my life! Prior to having Ezra, some beautiful women in my church threw me a “Baby Blessing”. Many had walked with me after I had PND with Olive and been my “village” throughout my recovery. They knew my heart was burdened with the fear of labour, PND reoccurring and the anxiety of the unknown. These women were my rocks! Their thoughtfulness and prayers helped me stay focused on trusting God and knowing He will be with me. Many of them wrote down verses from the Bible to encourage me and letters of reassurance. I brought these with me to the birth suite too! A big fear of mine is being alone, and these visual reminders were great to have as I rocked and swayed throughout labour. Knowing they were praying for me helped to keep my eyes on the Lord.
  6. Vicks This is my ultimate comfort smell! I had been using it throughout the pregnancy and found it took me back to places in my childhood. I would hold the bottle or put some under my nose and tension points for comfort.
  7. Lavender Heat Pack Ok so there are a heap of conflicting smells going on in the labour room. But I would recommend a heat pack of any sort just in case. This was helpful to use on areas that were aching or just as a temperature distraction.
  8. Snacks for birth partner Energy drinks, lollies, chocolate… a few snacks for your birth partner if you have one is handy. That way they can be focused on staying by your side and have sustenance to have their hands squeezed for an unknown amount of hours!
  9. Battery operated candles I wanted to feel relaxed and the atmosphere of the room was important. Whether it’s bringing your pillow from home, a comfy blanket or wearing your favourite pair of socks. The ambiance of the room is what will help you feel less like a science experiment and more like the Mama Bear! I read that the body senses tension, fear and stress during labour and this can often slow down cervical dilation. You can imagine, if there’s fear pumping through your body, the last thing it wants to do is open up to bring a fragile life into the world. So observing the pain through labour as “healthy pain” with a purpose helped to get me through. Rather than interpreting the pain in a negative way and wanting to tense up and flee from it. You can find the candles I used from everyone’s favourite go to shop! Kmart.
  10. Maternity/Nursing Bra This is a great option for during the labour or in the recovery room. Prior to having Ezra, I had not heard of Mamaway. But they have kindly connected with me and gifted a Rose of Versailles Maternity Bra. It was comfortable with adjustable clasps, extra padding for those lopsided milky boobs and easy access for discrete breast feeding. I have added a link here if you would like to check out their range of maternity clothing, breastfeeding bras and more baby products.

Most importantly, I would say that having the support of women in my church, Steve and my family helped me feel reassured through the process. My husband and beautiful church friends knew how much the fear of the unknown and trauma from my first birth lingered on my mind. They all reminded me that God had got this. He was the constant support I had through my whole pregnancy and birth. We can try to be organised with all our tricks and tools, but at the end of the day, I knew God was who sustained me and went before me. I will be sharing more about my birth story with Ezra very soon! I would love to know what you found helpful to bring along to your birth. Send me a message or comment below!

A comfy Spell dress to feed in, heat pack, electronic candle and Spell calico bag to bring all these items into the hospital with me!

Celebrate the small things

Since the time I had Ezra, I have been seeing a Psychologist. This was so beneficial at this stage of change in our family. She guided me with tools I could use to help with anxiety, negative thoughts, depression and self care. It was great to have someone to talk to during those early weeks where I felt like Post Natal Depression (PND) was resurfacing for a second time around. As the weeks went by, I was able to go longer stints without seeing her and it never felt like I was hanging off her. It was such a contrast to when I had PND after Olive’s birth. That was such a different experience and the intensity was a lot stronger.

One chat we had really highlighted to me that I like to achieve things. Having a ‘to do’ list, completing a project, feeling productive, these were all things that gave me a sense of worth. It helped me subconsciously “rate” whether I had a good day or a less worthwhile day (or so I thought!). It changed my mood, it made me feel unmotivated or down if I didn’t have a focus. I had unknowingly been doing this and operated in this way for so long.

So when we got to those newborn weeks of slowing down, focusing on feeding and caring for an unpredictable little human, I started to shut down. I started to get cabin fever and feel the walls closing in. It is a precious time, but also, in many ways, a mundane, repetitive time too! There’s so much sitting, feeding, folding, washing, burping, swaddling, rocking, stumbling! It is sweet, it is tiring, it is different but it is quick in the scheme of things! Although it still felt like a long time when you are sleep deprived!

My sense of worth and achieving something during these early weeks really bothered me. I found it helpful to have small, achievable goals that I could tick off. Such as, I’ll fold the laundry today, change out of my pyjamas, read my bible devotion book, cook dinner/chuck it in the microwave, go for a walk, paint my nails, take a milestone photo, pluck my eyebrows?! Etc. It helped that part of me that desired order, achievement and completion of a task.

I learnt that identifying the small things is important. Because small things are still good things. These small things may have been things I do anyway, things that were essential, simple and necessary. These things were still good things and did not mean the day was wasted or I achieved nothing!

Celebrate the small things because they are still providing balance to how you feel. One negative feeling or situation sometimes can taint all the successes that have happened in the day. But having balance of what makes you feel satisfied, content and accomplished helped me have a sense of peace.

If you identify with this, here are a few steps you can try! Let me know in the comments if this resonates with you or if you have any strategies to recommend!

Steps to Small Things being Good Things

  1. What are the small things? Identify what makes you feel content when they have been achieved, no matter how small.
  2. List them out – speak or write them out.
  3. Aim to complete these tasks in an achievable time frame that you have set.
  4. Celebrate these and know that “Small things can still be good things.”
  5. Glow in the knowledge you don’t have to do everything, be kind to yourself! Survival mode is okay.
  6. Reflect back at your list and see how much you have achieved in the week. Even if you got though one thing, don’t discredit the fact that you are functioning. If you get to the end of the day and the kids are fed, you are in one piece, this is a good outcome! Be grateful for the small and mundane things because you have achieved them despite it feeling like it’s a routine task.

 

Since writing this post in April, I have finished up my meetings with my Psychologist. She was such an integral part of my recovery from PND a second time around. It was great having the practical strategies and routine of seeing her for mental health support. The tools and ideas she educated me on were new and more suitable to me. I feel that it is important you find someone who you “click with” and has methods which resonate with you. Mindfulness, science and learning about the processes behind why something happens really help me! Feel free to speak to your GP if you feel a Psychologist or Mental Health professional would be someone helpful for you.