We went to our first childbirth class on Sunday. Yikes! I hadn't seen videos like that since the sex-ed unit in seventh grade life science, when I came home one day and burst into tears in front of my mother: "They showed us a video of a woman giving birth!"
As manageable as they try to make it sound, labor just doesn't look fun. MD-to-be Andrew did not appreciate the class's anti-medical-establishment bias (every time we were given a fact about how well, say, horses handle birthing with no interventions, Andrew would grumble into my ear, "And what's the mortality rate for birthing horses?"), but I did pick up a thing or two.
I did not know, for instance, that it's okay to eat while you're in labor. During the early, long, less strenuous phase, which is best spent at home, it's positively recommended that you eat a meal and drink lots of water to build up strength for what lies ahead. Grains and pasta are recommended at this stage, just like carbo-loading for a marathon. Even once you're at the hospital, however, little snacks like dried fruit, juice, popsicles, toast, and energy bars are not dangerous and will help you keep your energy up, which might result in a shorter labor.
Some hospitals still forbid snacking and confine you to ice chips (now that sounds satisfying), but like laboring and delivering on your back, that policy is a holdover from the (now quite distant) days when most women were put under general anesthesia so their babies could be delivered with forceps. Today, even if you needed an emergency c-section you would probably not elect to be completely knocked out, so a little fruit juice in your belly would not do you any harm. Nevertheless, advocates of snacking during labor say that it is best to keep snacks small and easy to digest. If something does go wrong and you are put under general anesthetic, it would be best not to have a bucket of fried chicken lingering in your gut.
My favorite pregnancy book, The Pregnancy Book by William and Martha Sears, recommends a homemade Gatorade-type drink they call laborade. I hope I'm able, twelve weeks from now, to take some to the hospital and drink it with their blessing. I'm not the kind of person who would be comfortable breaking a hospital's rules, even if I don't believe they're sound; on the other hand, I am the kind of person who will be extremely unhappy if I haven't had anything to eat or drink for 12 hours and someone offers me a cup of ice chips.
About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1-2 calcium tablets, crushed
Combine all ingredients in a bottle and add enough water to make 1 quart. You can add an additional 8 ounces of water for a milder flavor, or you can flavor this blend with your favorite juice.