Birth is beautiful and you have the right to birth any way that you please. Most of us have a general idea of what we believe a hospital birth looks like from TV shows or film, however that doesn't necessarily mean that is what your birth has to look like. I wanted to write a little something about the various hospital births I have witnessed as a doula so that all birthing people can know their options. This is your birth, your body, and your baby, so inform yourself and choose to birth the way you wish, after all I'm a firm believer that peace on earth begins at birth.
Hospitals have a few rules, called protocols, each hospital has their own set of protocols and some may differ from others. It is always beneficial to tour hospitals beforehand and question the staff about any things you may be uncertain about to find out where they stand and what their protocols are. Protocols are what the hospital want to follow because they believe it to be in your best interest, however they are not laws and if you disagree with a protocol you have the right to deny it. That being said, you and your baby's health is the priority of the medical staff during your birth, if they feel that your labor, your birth, your health or the baby's health may not be going in the most positive direction they may recommend a type of intervention to help. It is very important to research all possible interventions before hand and educate yourself of the benefits and risks. If you are ever in doubt in a hospital environment, you can 100% ask the staff what the benefits and risks are and ask for time to think before you make a decision. Having this knowledge in the back of your mind will be super helpful in allowing you to have an empowered birth experience.
Additionally, it is always helpful to have a brief bullet point list of your birth wishes or a simple list of icons or images of what you would like and what you would not like, i.e. IV, epidural, circumcision, rupturing membranes, etc. Other things that you can do for a hospital birth to personalize the experience is create a relaxing birth environment. Everyone has their own style and things that help them to remain calm and relax, you should brainstorm what that is for you and pack those items in your birth bag. For some it may be an aromatherapy diffuser, LED candles, twinkle lights, Bluetooth speaker with music playlist, or items to create a birth altar to use as a focal point.
Birth altars can be simple with sentimental objects or photos, or you can include religious relics if that is something that is comforting to you. Some hospitals carry birth balls, peanut balls, and birth stools whereas others don't, so that is always something that you should ask about before choosing a location. If those are things you would find useful, it is always helpful to pack them in your birth bag.
One other item that has been deemed very useful during hospital births is bringing your own bedroom pillow with pillowcase so that you are smelling familiar smells near your face while in labor. Your brain will go into a very primal-like state during the throes of active labor, it is hard to rationalize many things as the neo-cortex switches off and the reptilian part of the brain switches on. During that phase, many of your experiences will be sense based, and smell is a very strong sense. Smelling something comforting will help you relax. When packing a birth bag for the hospital, you will not need too much, a busy bag will make it hard for you to navigate and find the things you need. I advise bringing a birth environment set-up bag with your candles, music, pillow, etc. and have that separate from your personal amenities bag in which you might include toiletries, chap stick, water bottles, favorite hydration drinks, healthy snacks, cozy pajamas, an outfit for leaving the hospital and an outfit or two for your baby. The hospital usually has a lot of things in stock as well such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo and conditioner, soap, and diapers, but if you have personal preference be sure to pack your own items from home.
Last, but not least, it is highly recommended to hire a birth doula for a hospital birth. They are a calming presence which will help you navigate hospital protocols and lingo, as well as offering endless emotional and physical support to the birthing person and their partner. Recent studies have shown that with the support of a doula, women were less likely to have an epidural administered and less likely to have a cesarean birth. Women also reported having a more positive childbirth experience. Other studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of pitocin by 40%, and requests for an epidural by 60%. For more information on what a doula does, please check out my birth journey page at https://www.livingwildonlongisland.com/birth-journey.