Well, soon to be eight kids, anyway. ?
So…first…MY Catholic birthing center experience/s.* ?
*I do not actually birth in a Catholic birthing center. I am just sharing tips for Catholics to bring into a birthing center. ?
As I sit here, I’m staring down the barrel of my fifth experience birthing at a birthing center. Well, technically fourth (I’ll explain a bit further down), and between these experiences and the three hospital births, I thought it would be fun to share what’s worked for me over the years and what hasn’t.
I remember feeling like I needed to pack everything under the sun for my first labor.
My first hospital birth. I wasn’t necessarily a planner at the fresh young age of 20, but I thought I had a decent handle on what I’d need. Turns out, I hadn’t anticipated rapid labor being a part of the experience, something that would turn into even faster labors with each child.
My longest labor was with my eldest in 1996. I trusted the doctor’s input and he said the baby would be too big for my body frame, and suggested an induction. It did not occur to me at the time to challenge his opinion because it was commonly seen then as accepting the doctor’s opinion as the best acceptable professional opinion. Why wouldn’t I trust his expertise? And so, with a variety of choice labor inducing and pain relief drugs (one of which made me feel so loopy it felt like being drunk), I began what would be the longest of my precipitous labors at 38 weeks – 3.5 hours.
Each labor afterward would get increasingly shorter:
- 3 hours with #2 (I was induced at 37.5 weeks due to too many signs of pre-eclampsia; the doctor barely made it in time)
- 1.5 hours with #3 (I showed up for my induction at 38w6d already at 6cm). I begged the doctor not to leave to go back for his office appointments and ultimately he did not.
- The fourth kid threw us all for a loop as we found out private insurance in Texas did not cover maternity, so we opted to go to the area birthing center. We had not anticipated pulling over and delivering him in the parking lot of the library in the middle of the night en route to the birthing center, but that’s what happens when I apparently don’t have an induction. ? At 38 weeks, my labor with him was well under an hour and I woke up just minutes outside of transition. My husband is listed as one of the “mid-wives” (mid-husband, really!) and it’s a story we love to regale every year, lol. That set up a huge amount of anxiety for my next pregnancy, and why wouldn’t it? No one – NO ONE – sets out to give birth in a car, and if my past labors were any indication, it was imperative that I have a serious birth plan in place. Giving birth at home unassisted seemed extremely imprudent, given that I was GBS positive with #4 and the statistics were not in my favor that that would not be an issue with subsequent pregnancies.
- From then on, I felt strongly that being monitored during labor was absolutely necessary. With kiddos 5, 6, and 7, my active labor at the birthing center came in at a ridiculous 20 minutes each.
So, now that you pretty much have the downlow on my labors, how did the hospital experience differ from the birthing center and what should you pack?
Birthing centers typically encourage a much shorter stay. The primary difference in the essentials is you need less of all items, and typically, the hospital will provide you with many of the essentials that a birthing center won’t. Though the time to stay varies from birthing center location to location, my overall stays have averaged between four and six hours after birth.
I know a LOT of my friends love love LOVE hospital stays and sort of consider them a mini-vacation, lol, but that was never my experience. Truly, the birthing center option (that we fell into quite by accident, thank you very much awful insurance that doesn’t cover maternity) has felt more like a homey experience that has gotten better with each child. As a grand multipara, I have had the same midwife deliver all of my birthing center babies and I have appreciated her no-nonsense German (like, true legit straight from Germany) bedside manner. She has been – much like my German descent husband – the perfect for my birthing experiences. What I also love about this particular birthing center over the past 12 years is that they have a wide range of midwifery care, bringing in and sustaining midwives from Germany, France, the UK, and even Canada! I have also been pleased to see their care programs unfold and seen how they have handled patients, including the expansion of the center from one office building to occupying two. They offer centering programs, in which you can join a small group of other moms due around the same time and talk about specific topics. This time I decided to “treat myself” to these small groups (a huge change from facilitating groups over the years at church!) and hopefully share some insights as the old lady momma of the group. We meet once a month and then every other week as we get closer to our due dates and our midwife appointments are wrapped up into those meetings.
Something else I love is that the postnatal care includes not just me, but also my baby in the following weeks. This allows me to focus on care with one provider for up to six weeks after baby is born, vs. seeing an OB/GYN for myself and immediately seeing a pediatrician soon after. I should mention we have a great pediatrician who I get along with really well, but in those first few days/weeks, having one place to do a check up for mom and baby is SO much easier to coordinate than multiple providers, especially when you are already running on exactly zero sleep.
So now that I’ve given a small primer in birthing centers, let’s begin with all the things you’re going to want to consider bringing.
// Tote bag – I would recommend a separate bag for these items, as you don’t really want to be pulling your bible out of a stack of adult diapers…I would hope. ?
// Personal photo for focal point
// Small religious artwork or statue for focal point – no need to overthink this. Chances are, if you’ve decorated your house in some small way, you probably already have something on the wall or in a frame that you can pick and add to your bag.
// Crucifix for focal point
// Candle – depending on the set up in your birthing room, you may or may not have space to set up a candle. Ask ahead of time to get clearance on that. You can likely pick up a candle from your home church or, barring that, the local Catholic store.
// Holy water
// Journal & Pen – it might seem crazy, but if you are laboring at home with a slower labor, journaling can be a great way to document the event and how it unfolds. You might even find that you want to write when you get to the birthing center. Typically, by the time you get there, they want you to be following the 4-1-1 rule of four minutes between contractions, lasting one minute, for one hour in duration at minimum.
// Prayer intentions – if you have precipitous labor like me, you can always do this ahead of time. I tend to take requests weeks ahead of labor, knowing full well that when it’s “go time” I won’t be able to focus prayerfully. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of a rapid labor, you know what I’m talking about. It’s like being pushed off a cliff, and so for that reason I decide to pray for intentions ahead of time. The best plan is the one that works for YOU.
// Religious socks – these DARLING socks by Sock Religious will keep your feet warm AND do a bit of evangelizing for you. Our couples group gifted us and another couple some baby items recently and among them was a pair of these socks. I know what I’ll be wearing in labor!
ESSENTIALS FOR YOU (AND YOUR SPOUSE)
// Things to pass the time – playing cards or other games – mind benders, go fish, read, have someone come in and give you a massage or chiropractor adjustment, sing karaoke, write a letter to your bebe, order take out (to eat AFTER baby has arrived…trust me on this one), watch some Netflix or Prime on your laptop or phone together, distract yourself by answering some emails…if you are able, sleep.
// Electronic devices – phones, chargers, laptops, video cameras (if you’re still kicking it old style with your Super 8 ?)
// Music – make a few different playlists, from Gregorian chant, classical, jazz, piano music, or even rap or heavy metal – hey, no judgement here, lol. You just never know what you’re going to want to listen to DURING labor, so have a variety of playlists at the ready and just tell your loving husband to pick whatever you’re in the mood for. You might actually surprise yourself when you are in labor!
// Liquids (bottled water, sparkling water, Gatorade, broth, etc.)
// Light snacks – I’ve found the birthing center to be a bit more lenient with foods during labor, although I will say it’s probably not wise to chomp down on an entire meal just prior to or during labor. A granola bar, a honey stick, some ice chips…they all get the job done!
// Birthing ball – yes, birthing centers carry these, but they are made in various sizes and depending on your height, you may need something bigger or smaller. If you have one at home, consider bringing it to labor in.
// Sports bra to labor in
// Swim trunks for your husband for water births
// Homemade meal or a fresh quick meal from the grocery story to keep in the fridge to eat after baby is born. Birthing centers typically have an oven or microwave so you can heat food. Once you’ve given birth, have someone on staff throw that food in the oven and start warming it. It’s time to EAT!
// Pain medication – it’s important to start this RIGHT AWAY after baby is born and to continue care. Put reminders in your phone every four hours, alternating between aceteminophen and ibuprofen. More on this down below.
// Nursing bra
// Change of pajamas
// Nipple cream
// Nursing pads
// Tucks pads or witch hazel
// Frida Mom cold therapy pack
// Heating pad
// Toiletries – you probably won’t be there long enough to use everything, but our birthing center has a shower, so take advantage of the help they’ll give you while you bathe after laboring! Then you’ll have what you need like deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, brush, comb, soap or body wash, a hair clip or tie. My guess is you won’t be up for using your L’ange products, but hey…you do you, Brand New Mom. WHATEVER makes you feel like a new woman is totes fine. ?
// Change of clothes – don’t forget your underwear…rather…just skip ahead to adult diapers. See more below under Care Hacks for You and Bebe
// Adult diapers – see below under Care Hacks for You and Bebe
// Comfortable shoes
ESSENTIALS FOR BEBE
// Baby’s going home outfit – you won’t need this until it’s time to go home. They tend to wrap the baby up nice and warm in a blanket they have.
// Baby blanket
// Diapers – our birthing center provides a few, but if you plan to go the cloth diaper route, consider bringing your own with you.
// Diaper cream
// Car seat + base
CARE HACKS FOR YOU AND BEBE
// Adult diapers – you think I’m crazy for saying this, but…you will THANK ME when you pick up a package and forget those flimsy little overnight pads in those first few days. Not does it get the job done, it removes all kinds of stress and worry about leakage and spills. Just do it.
// Nightstand must haves – have water available in large quantities by your bedside so you focused on healing and not walking too much soon after getting home. You’ve got your pain medication reminders set on your phone – great! Now, have them available at your bedside. Stay on top of your medication, especially if you are nursing. Nursing brings with it sometimes painful contractions as your uterus starts to shrink. Have some energy bars on or near your nightstand. Eating when you feel hungry is important, but make sure you are getting the right kinds of calories and nutrients.
// Cord care – roll the diaper down to give that little belly button and cord room to breathe and heal. Don’t get it wet – you can do a wet wash cloth bath. Use tucks medicated pads to squeeze out the witch hazel onto the cord for quick and healthy healing. The cord will dry up quickly if you use the witch hazel with each diaper change.
// Navigating meconium diapers – the best pro tip I’ve got for you is to keep some olive oil on hand. Rub some on baby’s bootie and the meconium will not stick to his/her bum. If you forget to do this, you will end up with a 10 wipe diaper and a screaming baby who does NOT like all that rubbing on his/her bum. A nice thin layer of olive oil will keep the meconium in the diaper and off baby.