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Important Things to Decide Before the Baby Is Born

Get extra help; decide who's in the delivery room

Physical Limitations

Make some advance preparations for the fact that you are going to have some physical limitations before and after the birth of your new baby.

Before the baby's birth, you will be extremely fatigued, due to hormonal changes and breaks in your sleep pattern, not to mention the fact that the size of your belly gets in the way of sleeping in a comfortable position. This would be a good time to get some extra help from family and friends if you want to clean the house or complete any projects.

Avoid any activities that could jeopardize your health or the health of your baby, meaning that you don't want to fall, be injured, or traumatize your body in any fashion. Use common sense in your activities because you will be less able to get around. Let family members know that they may have to pick up some of the slack here, say helping with the gardening, housework, shopping, or other chores.

Be sure to line up help for yourself after the baby is born; for example, it's a great time for grandparents to be useful and welcome. Work out a schedule so that you're covered for at least the first few weeks after delivery – the longer, the better. Believe me, you won't want to tackle those weeks alone.

Here are some areas of your life that will change after the baby is born:

  • You'll be very, very tired and need more sleep than usual. Plan on having someone in to help watch the baby so that you can get caught up on sleep. The baby could be up every couple of hours to eat, making a good night's sleep downright impossible.(Get used to it – it's going to last 20 years, give or take....)
  • You won't be able to do your normal workload and activities for a couple of weeks. For example, you shouldn't carry or lift more than the baby's weight (or less). Light housework and exercise are OK, as long as you have the time and energy to do them. Slowly and gradually, you can return to a normal lifestyle after about a month to six weeks, but in the first few weeks, you simply shouldn't be doing much of anything. You'll still be bleeding from the birth, and your stitches need time to heal.
  • Obviously, you can cook, but picking up the phone and ordering out might have even more appeal. If you're lucky, friends and relatives will keep you supplied with food. The only problem with cooking (other than cleanup) is that standing in one place for any length of time isn't always comfortable after having a baby. (Sometimes, you feel as if your guts are still spilling out.)
  • If you had a vaginal delivery, you probably shouldn't drive for a few weeks or so. Plan on having someone else drive you around. It's too easy to tear your stitches if you get into a tight situation and need to brake suddenly. If you had a c-section, you won't be allowed to drive for a month to six weeks. You'll need help grocery shopping too, in this case.

Who's In, Who's Out

Here is the most important question, and also the most avoided question of any pregnancy: Who will accompany you into the labor and delivery room?

OK, there are really two questions here: Who do you want to be there during labor and who do you want to be there during the delivery? The labor and delivery rooms are often two separate places, although in many hospitals, the labor and delivery rooms are one and the same spot now.

Determine in advance which people are invited to experience which areas. For example, you might have frequent visitors coming and going during your labor, but you don't want them around during the delivery. Having people around to watch the labor is one thing; having them there to experience the birth might be too personal for you. Or you might not want anyone to see you in the throes of labor and delivery. That's alright, too.

If you want to confine your birth experience to you and your spouse (plus a few doctors and nurses), that's perfectly normal. As you near the actual delivery time, you just need to send all unnecessary people into the waiting room, so that you can experience the birth alone. Just let your nurse know your plans in advance, and she'll be the bad guy for you.

In general, you will have to follow the guidelines of the labor and delivery department of the hospital that you choose, so the number of people in attendance is really up to them (and their policies). Because of this, it's wise to visit the hospital early, look around, and check out how everything functions, so you don't have any surprises when you arrive. If you have questions, ask them in advance. Usually, labor and delivery rooms are among the friendliest places in the hospital.

In this hierarchy, the nurses manage everything in terms of your care (not the doctors). You will end up loving these nurses (male or female) who track their patients' needs at all times and establish who belongs in the L&D room and who doesn't. If you tell a nurse that you don't want an estranged boyfriend or ex-husband to be present, the nurse will keep them out.

Generally, when it comes time for delivery, the optimum number of extra people in the room is about two, in addition to the patient. The reason being that the space is small, and there has to be enough room for the doctors and nurses to perform their functions. Although medical personnel are sensitive to the patient's need for a support person, keep in mind that their first priority is to their two patients – mother and child. Everyone else is incidental.

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