Making the Hospital More Like Home


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Many of us are lucky enough to have access to Midwifery Care, waterbirths or birth centres. However, the reality is that many of us do not have any access to a local midwife or a birth centre. Some of us have complications that preclude us from using those options if they do exist.

So, how do we make the hospital more like home? There are a number of ways to do it and some of them are really fun!

First of all, there are simple tips, like for your to bring (and use) your own pillow, blanket, robe and slippers. Labor in your own clothes.

Bring your own music. Check beforehand to see if they have a CD/Tape player available. If not, bring your own. I’ve assisted at a number of births where music and singing became large parts of the labor ritual.

Change the room to suit you better. Get aquainted with the controls for the bed, and move it up and down to suit your needs. Turn off any overhead, florescent lights and access as much natural light as possible. If all else fails, turn off all the lights except for the bathroom light and leave the door ajar. That usually does the trick of providing some, but not too much, light. Or try a battery-operated “safe” candle to provide a candlelight effect.

Find the clean linen and grab a spare sheet or two to put on the floor so that you may get down on your hands and knees or lean over the bed.

Bring your own special items to create your environment for the birth. Stuffed animals, ultrasound pictures, photos of family or friends, focal points all add to a personal atmosphere.

Bring your own lotions, oils, lip balm (scents that you can tolerate or unscented) and hair ties.

Bring your own food and drink so that you may have access to what you crave, when you want it.

Create a birth plan that reflects your wishes, around the atmosphere and environment of the birth. Have open communication with your care-givers and support people, so that you feel heard.

Those are nice, common sense tips. But my top three are a bit more creative.

1) Be affectionate with your partner and support person, if you are a demonstrative person. These people have a relationship with you. Humanize yourself. You are a family and you are about to grow. You love and care for one another and have a history. Get that across to the medical practitioners by being open and affectionate with one another, touching and kissing as you feel the urge. A loving environment can have a great effect on the atmosphere in a room. Either they warm up to you greatly or they stay the heck out of your way. Both can be a welcome change.

2) Get in the tub or shower as soon as you can. Stay there! Re-create the comfortable environment you had at home, especially if you had been enjoying your own tub and shower in early labor. Have your partner or support person stay with you and pour cups of water over your abdomen or back. Or they can just stay and support you. You can be alone. Most nurses are reluctant to really bother a naked woman in bathtub.

3) Sit facing your partner or support person, knee to knee and forehead to forehead. “Create a bubble” that encompasses just you two, focus on one-another and “erase” the rest of the room. Breathe together and whisper support and encouragement to one another. I’ve coached couples into this position shortly after their arrival at the hospital and the intake exams and am amazed with the change it creates in the environment. It brings a respect and grace into the room. Nurses or doctors who walk in on that scene are immediately more respectful, soft-spoken, and polite. And let’s face it, we can all use more of that!

So, even if you have to labor and deliver in a hospital environment, use the tips above to control some of the “otherworldliness” of the whole experience. This is your birth, your body, your family and your baby. This is not an everyday experience for you. May it be memorable in a wonderful way.

Happy Birthing!

Sarah Hilbert-West is a Childbirth Educator, Birth Doula, Breastfeeding Counsellor and Post-Partum Depression Support Group Facilitator. She owns and operates , offering birth stools, unique teaching aids and useful resources for childbirth educators, doulas, parents, and midwives. see our “safe" candles. - the site for YOU!


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