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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Baby Love: Birth

Mt. Sinai Maternity has its own building beautifully overlooking Central Park. © Nina Corvallo
My pregnancy was so enjoyable that I was in no rush to give birth. Our baby apparently agreed.My due date came and went and there were no signs of labor. Our baby finally came into this world at 41 weeks and 6 days.
The extra time gave me time to pack and re-pack my hospital go-bag.
At first I was a bit timid. I didn't want to bring a big bag to the hospital. But in the end, I brought a suitcase and surprisingly I used everything in it.

Pillow. I brought a very comfortable pillow. In it I stuffed a huge bag of dried lavender. I had read that one should use a colorful pillow case to distinguish one's pillow from any hospital pillows. So I  treated myself to a pillow case from Saffron Marigold. However I did not have to worry about pillow confusion. I was never given or offered a pillow. My pillow made all the difference in the world to me. It was indispensable throughout my entire hospital stay - helpful during labor, recovery (something soft to sit on! ) and it was even good for nursing ( I did not bring a nursing pillow and my regular pillow filled in just fine). I now have an emotional connection to that pillow ;)

Blanket/Shawl. I swear, while Mount Sinai is an exceptional hospital, my stay at at times felt like I was flying a budget airline. No pillows or blankets were made available to me during labor. Nor was there any ginger ale avaialble in the hospital vending machine or on the delivery floor. In the movies you always see patients being offered jello. Nope. None of that here.
I vacillated between being hot and cold throughout labor. Luckily I had brought a pashmina with me, which kept me warm. The softness of the pashmina and the lavvender scent from my pillow gave me a little luxury. Again, a bit like flying: As any frequent flyer knows, making yourself as comfortable as possible is the key to airline travel - and it helps in labor too.

Food & Drink. In true ailrline tradition, the food at the hospital was awful.
Once I was admitted there was no solid food for me.  But I consumed low sugar organic lollipops, ginger ale (brought from home), coconut water, pedyalyte (bring it in powder form to save on space & weight in your bag), electrolyte enhanced water and vegetarian broth (again pack it in powder form). For the husband we had brought power bars, chocolate , Japanese seaweed crackers and some nuts.
Good thing we did, because I had a long labor that ended very early in the morning when there was no food available at the hospital. I was starving once labor was over and dug into the left over snacks.

Private Room. The minute I gave birth and I knew my baby was alright, I dispatched the husband (while Maiysha , my doula, stayed with me) to fetch us a private room. In NYC you generally cannot reserve a private room ahead of time. You have to wait to give birth before requesting one. Real Estate, even inside the hospital, is competitive in NYC!
At Mount Sinai a private room starts at $600 a night. The only thing that is good about that, is that it regulates demand. My mother-in-law kindly treated me to the private room. But it was so important to me that I would have splurged for this luxury myself. Why was it so important to me:
A) because a private room meant that the husband could stay
B) because a private room also meant a private bathroom. My labor was not easy and sharing a bathroom would have been difficult & annoying.
C) because we needed the privacy. Labor was long and our baby was placed in the NICU for observation. All that emotion I wanted to process privately.
D) because I am not hot on sharing a room generally.
The Private Recovery Rooms at Mount Sinai are nice and feel good. Some of them have a view of Central Park, from others you can see the East River. The entire staff was flawless and really kind. It's expensive, but worth it.

Noise Cancelling Headphones. My Bose headphone are great. I used them to listen to my hypno birthing affirmations with my smart phone.(And yes, these are great on airplanes -or the gym- too ;) ).

Clothes: I brought a long black Natori robe. It made me feel presentable and I wore it a lot, especially when shuffling down to the NICU. Robes are also easy for breastfeeding. I wore/wear it a lot at home too, so this was a good purchase.
I love Lucky Jeans Sweatpants. They are really cozy and I brought a black pair, which I wore in the hospital during recovery and also on my way home. I also brought a big black & soft v neck t-shirt of my husbands. Roomy clothes are just more comfortable after giving birth. And I brought all black clothes not because I am one of those New Yorkers who only wear black, but I figured you would not see stains on black so much.
We also packed a change of clothes for my husband, since he also stayed in the hospital for days.
I also brought a pair of flip flops. That was helpful, because my feet were so swollen from all the extra fluids I did not fit into my regular shoes right away.

Toiletries: I brought my own shampoo, deodorant, shower gel, etc. Mount Sinai provides decent stuff, but when I finally took a shower, it was nice to have my own products with me.During labor the husband rubbed my legs with Weleda Oil, which I also used during pregnancy and now post-pregnancy as a body oil.
My doula has the best lip balm. And I was grateful for it. My lips were so dry during labor.

Little Pouch. My friend Minette had gifted me a little pouch from Asia. It fit my cell phone perfectly. During labor and after I kept the little pouch around my neck with my smart phone in it. I found this very helpful. A hospital gown does not have pockets and I wanted to have access to my phone -- to listen to things and so that I could receive phone calls and emails.And the pretty little pouch reminded me of my friend.

Birth Plan: The other day while going through some paper work I came across my original birth plan. It made me laugh. Just as everyone tells you, birth is unpredictable and my birth went differently than planned in almost every way it could. Luckily at some point during my pregnancy I tossed out that original birth plan. Instead I wrote a paragraph in which I simply stated that I trusted that my doctors would do whatever was in my best interest. When I gave these new birth preferences to my doctor he asked me if it was a joke. After all we had discussed all my ideas and wants in great detail over months.I told him it wasn't a joke and then he smiled.
He said he never thought I had lost sight of the end goal. But I felt I did and that I had become someone I did not want to be. I chose a hospital birth and I believed in my doctor. That was the reality. My original birth plan set me up to be a difficult patient and not a team player and quite frankly I don't think it was realistic.
I did not want to end up like so many women I heard about who had a terrible birth experience in the hospital.  I realized if I was going for a hospital birth I needed to accept hospital culture and be part of my team. That was a smart decision.
In the end I had an amazing experience. Yes, it was not what I had imagined. And yes it was a long and difficult labor. But now I am a mother to a wonderful baby boy. My doctors, nurses, doula and husband took outstanding care of me. I feel that my doctor gave me the birth I wanted to the extend possible under the circumstances. I never felt ignored or disregarded. On the contrary, I felt empowered!
So if you are embarking on the adventure of reproduction, take the time to learn about your choices and to  inform yourself, find the right team - and then relax, surrender and enjoy!


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