bY rACHEL ANSARI
We all know that there are some things in birth we cannot control. Focusing on what you can control in your chosen birth setting can help you feel more empowered leading up to and during your labor. As a birth doula in Asheville, I know there are many ways to create a relaxing environment that fosters feelings of comfort and security whether you’re giving birth at Mission Hospital, WNC Birth Center, or at home. Use this guide to help set the mood in your birth space or to find a little control in a moment where things may seem out of your control.
Temperature - Your temperature will fluctuate during labor and postpartum. Being able to adjust the temperature can keep you feeling comfortable during all the stages of labor. Dads, The Mothership doulas strongly recommend that you wear or bring layers so that you can also stay comfortable, too.
Lighting - The lighting in a hospital setting can often be bright and cold, but Mission Hospital and WNC Birth Center did a great job setting up the lighting in a way that allows parents to have as much or as little light as they desire. The bathroom at Mission Hospital only has one fluorescent light but you can bring a pretty scarf and a two small pieces of easily removable tape to make it feel much cozier. Didn’t pack a scarf? No problem. Turn on the light just outside the bathroom and crack the door open just enough to get the amount of light you prefer. At home, you can enjoy the glow of unscented candles but most facilities do not allow open flame. Bringing some LED candles can be a nice way to create some ambiance and keep the lighting low. Note that during any medical procedures there may be a need for brighter lights and I’m pretty sure we all want the best visibility possible if a doctor is about to stitch between our legs.
Music - I have heard a wide variety of birth playlists over the years, everything from yoga-like instrumentals to classic rock to Christmas songs. Whatever helps you relax and find your groove is fair game. Many women find that their preferences change throughout labor and some women prefer silence. In the event of a cesarean birth at Mission Hospital, you can choose to play music, which can be comforting and give you something to focus on if you’re feeling anxious about the surgery.
Scents - If you want to use essential oils during your birth you may find it helpful to put the oil on a cloth or cotton ball in a jar or sealable plastic bag so that if a time comes when you are no longer enjoying the scent you can close the container to seal in the scent.
Clothing - Wearing your own clothing during labor is an easy thing you can do to be more comfortable. Not only do your clothes feel good on you but you can pick something that suits your style, which can help you feel more confident. While you certainly can wear pants during labor, it’s probably easiest to choose something like a cute, cozy nightgown, or skirt and top. Bring a robe to help with temperature fluctuations and any modesty concerns and slippers or non-skid socks to keep warm and use when walking the halls. It’s worth mentioning that whatever you wear will likely get messy as labor progresses and you birth your baby. Some women prefer to wear things that can be thrown out and others choose to take their clothes home and wash them.
Your Team - Surround yourself with people who support your hopes and desires for your birth experience. Choose people who believe in you and who make you feel completely comfortable in their presence. Many women find that having a very small number of people present allows them to focus on labor and even helps labor to progress. And, while I am admittedly a bit biased, include a doula on your team so that when the big day comes you don’t have to remember any of this because she’s got you covered.