1. Birth plan
Of course you need a birth plan. This is basically just a bullet point list of your desires for how you would like the pregnancy to go in terms of interventions. The best way to approach this is with an open mind- you never know how your birth story will go, and things may not happen as you have them planned out in your mind (in fact they almost certainly won't). Make sure that you have a contingency plan. For example- let labor begin on its own, unless 42 weeks or later. Make several copies of the plan. Go over it with your doctor in advance so that they know what your expectations are and to see if there are any areas where you don't see eye to eye ahead of time. Make copies to give to the nurses and discuss it with them when you get to the hospital- they may not agree with what your doctor agreed to, but clear, kind, and open-minded communication will go a long way to making the birth what you would like for it to be.
2. Exercise ball
I. Love. This. Ball. I spent weeks leading up to pregnancy sitting on this ball. When you feel all that pressure and no position is comfortable, this ball is a life saver. Not only does it feel good, but it also helps get the baby into the correct position for labor. I sat on this ball throughout the entire labor until the pushing stage and it was the best thing ever. No lie.
This is for early labor. Pick out some relaxing music that will keep you calm and happy during the early contractions. Once things pick up, you may not want any extra noise breaking your concentration, but it is great for the early stages.
4. Something to distract you
Depending on how early you go to the hospital and how slowly your labor progresses, you will need something to distract yourself during early labor. My husband read a book out loud, we watched some episodes of our favorite show, but my favorite distraction was some adult coloring pages! I think it will be neat to put our artwork in her memory box and tell her that we made it while anticipating her arrival!
5. Something that smells good
A lot of people use different essential oils, diffusers, candles, etc. for this- each one has different ways that they help in labor. I used a soap that was made with frankincense and myrrh essential oils that smelled amazing! After each contraction ended, I would smell the soap. It was almost like a little reward for getting through one more contraction :) Do some research on essential oils and find the one that is right for you.
6. Knee pads
There are several comfort positions that are on hands and knees, or kneeling while leaning on the exercise ball. Your knees will be in a lot of pain if you don't bring something to kneel on. I bought a bathtub kneeler from the dollar store and cut it in half to make two knee pads. They worked great!
7. Crock pot and washcloths
The nurses will ask questions and give you strange looks for this one, but don't go without it! Put a little water in the crock pot with some washcloths and you have an instant hot compress machine. Put one in to warm up while you use the other and keep switching them out between contractions. This is great for the lower back! This also came in handy for hot compresses during the first few weeks of breastfeeding when your milk is coming in.
Bring a picture or a visual to focus on. I brought a framed 5x7 ultrasound picture of our little girl. It really helped to look at it and be reminded of the reason for the pain- the end goal is worth it!
9. Lists of affirmations
My husband is a software developer, which means he is great with numbers but not always with words. He spent some time writing up a list of affirmations to use to encourage me while going through labor. He read them to me a few days before we went to the hospital, and they made me cry! Yes, I was being pregnant and hormonal, but just hearing someone that you love tell you verbally that you can do it is a very powerful thing!
I brought these but didn't need them. A lot of women get nauseated during the later stages of labor and say that sucking on a peppermint helps.
You are not allowed to eat at the hospital during labor, which is why I snuck in plenty of snacks. Not only did I eat peanut butter crackers, trail mix, and applesauce during labor (when the nurses weren't around), but our bag of snacks also came in handy for my husband to eat and for me to eat in the middle of the night while trying to figure out breastfeeding the next few days. You will be glad that you have them!
12. Birth partner
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT! Have a birth partner who has gone to the classes with you, prayed with you, gone over the birth plan with you, and practiced with you for the weeks and months leading up to the birth. This person will be vital to the success of your natural birth. I just have to say- my husband is incredible and I couldn't have done it without him!
Bonus Item- Plastic Biohazard materials box
Yes, you heard me right. I found that rhythmic tapping to keep my breathing steady was the best thing for me to get through contractions. My husband went on a search around the hospital room for the perfect thing for me to tap on and found a red plastic biohazard materials box. It had the perfect solid hollow sound, and it did not leave my side until we had the baby! So yeah, you never know what will come in handy when the time comes! Be as prepared as possible, and if all else fails, get creative and resourceful!