Something that was really helpful for us was to take a tour of the Labour & Delivery area so we knew what to expect. Also talking to our doctor about what to expect was helpful. And the biggest thing of course was to have a fairly detailed birth plan. The doctor loved it and the nurses actually read it. We also brought chocolate to hand out w/ the birth plan. I believe that helped it go over better.
My biggest piece of advice for everyone is something I wish I'd followed myself. My hypnobirth teacher said over & over "Ask for forgiveness instead of permission." She was talking about things like eating & drinking when they tell you not to (completely unfounded reasoning for that) and for me, I was told I HAD TO sit on the bed & have the baby monitored for 20 minutes, which was torture for me not being able to move around. So, just do what you need to do (within reason of course) and ask for forgiveness later because you won't get permission to do what you feel your body wants to do in some situations. Don't feel bullied by the nursing staff to comply with outdated rules and regs, just do what you feel you need to in order to have the birth you want!
Two things I thought were important in my own hospital birth experiences:
1) Having a good relationship with my obstetrician. A lot of the worst hospital birth experiences I hear about come from women who had never met the OB who delivered their baby before showing up at the hospital. Because I had a good relationship with my OB, she was not only willing but proactive about going to bat for me with the nurses. She supported quite a few things that went against the hospital's usual practice, and even one thing that went against their actual policy (they wanted continuous monitoring after meconium was found in the amniotic fluid).
2) Hiring a doula. If you can't afford a doula, see if you can find a student doula who will work for free or a reduced cost. I found that having someone there whose only job was to support me very helpful.
I'll try to come back to this later with more thoughts.
The phrase "my doctor said..." was very useful. As in, "My doctor said I didn't need an IV, but could have a heparin lock instead," and, "My doctor said I didn't need continuous fetal monitoring." I had also rehearsed (though did not need), "I'd like to discuss this course of action with my obstetrician before we proceed."
A birth plan was helpful to me, though I did not ask the nursing staff to read it. I viewed the birth plan as a way to ensure that my doctor and I were on the same page. Once my doctor had signed my birth plan, I also viewed it as a "permission slip" to be used as needed if the nursing staff gave me a hard time. But I never actually needed to show it to them, as the "my doctor said" line was enough.
This isn't really about the birth, but I would highly recommend finding a pediatrician who has privileges at the hospital where you're giving birth. That way, if there are any questions about your baby's health, you'll be working with your own pediatrician, rather than a random resident. Of course we all hope there won't be any concerns, but something as simple as whether your baby's level of bilirubin is too high, or whether your baby is nursing sufficiently well not to require supplementation, can cause a lot of stress if the wrong doctor is working with you on the situation. Also, at the hospital where I gave birth, the staff pediatricians have the nurses "round up" all the newborns and take them to the nursery to be seen at the same time (which I've heard can take a couple of hours!), while your own pediatrician comes to your room to see the baby.
Yes I agree!!!! hire a doula!!
Very very FABULOUS to have in a hospital setting!
Also a birth plan is good-I like the notion of getting it signed and taking it with you to the hospital.
Make sure to give it to the staff as soon as you arrive and have additional copies on hand.
Make a door sign that says exactly what you want..no lights no drugs, no visitors no tv..whatever..
Making sure your ped has rights in the hospital is great advice too!!
1.) Chose a very natural-minded OB, who fully supported drug-free birth. Not just saying the words, but she actually preferred her patients going drug-free. Let the moms catch their own babies, let moms birth in whatever position they wanted to, etc etc.
2.) Labor at home. We arrived at the hospital 30 minutes before DD was born. All the laboring was done at home, just me and my husband. It was fabulous. I ate, I drank, I felt very comfortable doing whatever I needed to do, without all the nurses hovering and telling me I *couldn't* do something.
3.) We had a doula, but everything happened so fast that she didn't arrive in time! LOL! The doctor had arrived just in time, and was still getting robed and gloved while I was pushing!
BTW - I see you're in Binghamton. I grew up in Endicott!
I chose an OB who would support my ideals (no intervention, drug-free). This meant I also chose the local community hospital over the larger research hospital, as the former is more encouraging of natural CB. I read a lot about childbirth, both clinical texts and stuff like the bradley method book and others. I took the hospital's birthing class to prepare me for what they would expect, so that I could set up my support staff to best counter any possibly non-me-friendly situations.
I had a very close friend join us in the birthing suite. She acted as doula/support. She may not be a doula by trade, but she's very knowledgeable and I trust her. And she came back to the hospital first thing Sunday morning (ds was born sat night) with a big ol' hazelnut latté breve.
I also put cardstock, sharpies, and tape in my bag to make signs (no latex, no circ), in case they were needed. I also knew my rights as a patient and consumer.
Turns out I had a great experience, aside from the hospital peds being upset about the vit K. Oh, and the cafeteria couldn't handle my dietary needs. I had a cooler and left after 18 hours, anyhow. Next time, I'll have our own crunchy ped.
Shared my birthing preferences with my husband who was wonderful throughout. Was flexible and open minded -ended up with a wonderful waterbirth with no anelgesia. Went in planning to take each contraction as it came and to live in the moment. This is what I did. I also prayed in between each contraction to God to get me through the next contraction. This is how I got through and was blessed with a beautiful daughter Abigail her fathers or fountain of joy very appropriate.