Tools of the Trade
Birth centers usually provide labor tools such as birthing tubs, rocking chairs, and birthing balls because the majority of women who deliver there do so naturally. Since many moms who go to the hospital opt for pain medication, hospitals are less likely to provide balls or tubs. While it's perfectly acceptable to bring your own birthing ball or rocking chair, some hospitals may not be so keen about an inflatable kiddie pool assembled in the delivery room, so get permission ahead of time if you're feeling the urge to submerge.
Setting the Mood
Music, candlelight, and scented lotions—the same relaxation techniques that got you pregnant in the first place are sometimes the things that can help calm your mind and speed labor along. Smith says, "Music is welcome and is a great relaxant," but open flames and smoke are prohibited because delivery rooms are equipped with oxygen masks attached to the walls. Holland says that candles and incense are permitted at her birth center because the oxygen is kept at a safe distance.
If aromatherapy is what you need, certified doula Jeannie Casey of Nashville suggests essential oils. "I always carry peppermint because it makes you happy and energetic. I also use lavender because it's calming and soothing," she says. As someone who has seen plenty of delivery rooms, Casey recommends that parents bring their own portable stereo with their favorite music because not all hospitals provide them.
What about Mom?
When you're in labor, the rules of polite society go out the window, so stop trying to be a good girl and instead focus on the job at hand. Don't apologize for anything you say, and don't feel embarrassed about anything that happens. It's all normal, and the folks who work there won't be offended. Casey says, "As a laboring mother, you don't have the energy to say 'Excuse me, would you please hand me some ice chips.' You just say 'ICE!' If you don't feel like talking or answering questions, let your husband or doula do it."
Never Say Sorry, Just Say Thanks
Although apologizing for anything you say or do during childbirth is unnecessary, Casey recommends bringing or sending a small gratuity gift such as a basket of candy, popcorn, granola bars, or other munchies for the fabulous nurses who helped bring your beautiful baby into the world. She says, "Since nurses do all the work and the doctors get all the credit, we want to thank them."
Don't forget to jot down a quick note telling them what a great job they're doing and how much you appreciate their kindness and professionalism. Your words will undoubtedly lift their spirits and brighten their day. Because after all, thank you notes are the bedrock of fine etiquette!