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For nine months, I convinced myself that I was going to have a natural birth. I read all the books and blogs of positive birth stories. I followed inspirational doulas and crunchy mom pages on IG. Planning for the unexpected seemed silly to me.
In my mind, there was no reason for me to have a c-section, or belly birth as the name is becoming. During my pregnancy, I learned that only 3% of cesareans are true emergencies – life or death situations. If this were true, then what were the chances of me actually needing a cesarean?
My body was made to birth a baby, just like the millions of women before me. My friends and doctor suggested that I not have a birth plan, so instead, I focused on my birth preferences. You can see an example here.
Because I was so certain that I would have a natural birth, I only planned to stay one night in the hospital. All of our family was coming from out of town, anywhere from two and a half to five hours away.
I knew that booking a hotel/AirBNB near our home was the best option. I would be home soon after having my baby, so why would they need to stay near the hospital?
Here are 6 ways to plan for the unexpected when having a baby.
1. Pack accordingly.
Think comfort. Bring comfort items (food, clothes, bedding) from home that will help with an extended hospital stay. This is especially important if someone will be staying with you at the hospital.
The hospital where I gave birth had a cafeteria, but it only sold pre-packaged sandwiches, chips, sodas, etc. They provided three meals a day for the birthing mother, but when I asked about buying meals for my husband, they said that wasn’t an option.
Honestly, this is something we should have considered before choosing the hospital. While my husband had a few snacks, he didn’t have a full meal until 5 hours after my birth, and the meal wasn’t ideal. But, we won’t complain because food is food and he was grateful for it.
Luckily, I had an extra outfit or two in my bag in case of an emergency. I was so happy to have packed a maternity/nursing dress that was loose-fitting after my c-section.
My cropped sweats from Victoria’s Secret and favorite pre-pregnancy tank top was my cute outfit for coming home, but when the time came to leave, I couldn’t fathom anything touching the area of my new incision.
Hospital pillows and sheets feel like paper – maybe from the bleach after hundreds of washes. I brought a pillow from home for nursing my baby. I also inadvertently brought a blanket, which was useful for my husband.
While laboring at home, I found comfort wrapped in a blanket. That blanket made it to the car and into the hospital room. I’m so thankful it did, because otherwise, my husband wouldn’t have had anything comfortable to sleep with.
Read this for a more detailed list of what to take to the hospital.
2. Arrange for children to have appropriate care.
While I didn’t need childcare for my labor with my firstborn, I am already planning for who will watch her when our second is born. What if I have to have another c-section?
Consider who knows your children well enough and who your children are most comfortable with.
This may be family or a really close friend. In our case, our family is far away. I might be more likely to let a friend keep her because 1) they have children her age, 2) we see them much more often than family, and 3) we have similar parenting styles, so I trust them to care for her like I care for her.
3. Arrange for pets to have dependable sitters.
Our pets went crazy when we got home. They were confused about why we were gone and for so long, and what was the screaming banshee that couldn’t be put down?!
We prepared our animals for a new addition as best as we could before her arrival, but we didn’t realize how long we would be away from them after she was born. In their eyes, we left them for an extended weekend (or forever to a dog).
Our pet sitter and good friend was more than willing to watch after them while my husband, baby, and I were at the hospital. He already planned on feeding them and letting them out 3 times a day when we were gone, but when we sprung it on him that we wouldn’t be home for 3 days, he was happy to help – free of charge.
4. Prep your house for how you want it to be when you return from the hospital.
The day before I was supposed to be induced, I made two dozen coconut chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. They would be a delicious treat to take to the hospital and share with all of our visitors from out of town.
Well, instead of being induced, I went into labor at home and completely forgot about those cookies. We left them at home. I was bummed when I realized this after having baby.
However, when we got home, we had two dozen cookies waiting for us. They were a tasty well-deserved snack, although not so healthy, and were easy to eat during midday breastfeeding sessions.
I also didn’t want to be on my feet for any longer than 10 minutes at a time after a c-section, so having homemade treats was amazing.
Apart from accidentally leaving cookies at the house for us to return home to, I cleaned all the sheets, towels, blankets, dishes, etc the week of my induction. I scrubbed the kitchen, including the refrigerator, baby’s room, and bathroom.
This was more than nesting, which I never really did because I’m already naturally organized. I never scrubbed baseboards like I’ve heard a lot of moms-to-be do, nor did I clean the fans, although I probably should have.
After having a cesarean, I wasn’t able to do much. So, cleaning certain areas and going to the store BEFORE we brought baby home was very helpful.
The most helpful thing we did was buy all the groceries and household items we thought we would need when we got home – toilet paper, soaps, wipes, frozen dinners, nuts, snacks. I lived off of protein smoothies and peanut butter graham crackers the first month of Baby R’s life. It was fatty, high-cal, and kept the milk coming.
5. Discuss options with family and visitors.
Instead of telling my family to book reservations near our house, it would have more beneficial for them to stay near the hospital. I don’t know if this would have been the case if I had had a vaginal delivery and was able to come home after a day, but in hindsight, I feel bad about them having to drive 30-40 minutes every time they wanted to visit us in the hospital.
Having friends or family stay in your house could be helpful. We opted out of that for several reasons, the main two being 1) we wanted our house to be exactly as we left it when we got home, and 2) our house is very small (700sqft), so staying in our house isn’t the ideal situation for most visitors.
Other things to discuss with family and visitors are:
• Preparing/providing meals – they will want to help you, so let them – especially if you’re recovering from a c-section. My mom brought breakfast, my dad brought dinner and coffees, and the mother-in-law brought frozen meals, which lasted two weeks after baby was born.
• Visiting time – this is YOUR decision, mama, not theirs. You know what is best for you and your new little family, and if that means spending time alone, so be it.
• Future visits – this is especially important if all of your family lives out of town. You don’t want to have too many visitors in the first few weeks of your new life as a family because you are still learning the ins and outs of your new life.
6. Hire a DOULA!
Hire a doula, either birth, post-partum, or both. They are your saving grace in the hospital when all you want is a familiar face. Postpartum doulas offer services for when you’re home from the hospital – food prep, holding baby while you shower, folding laundry – all the things that are 100% more difficult after having a cesarean or something unexpected.
I would love to hear if you planned for the unexpected and how. Share your story in the comments below.