My delivery rituals: braids and nightgowns

When I was pregnant with my first I did everything you were supposed to do to feel prepared and ready for the birth. I read the books, I took a class, and I scoured lists of what to pack, to do, to have. I was the first in my circle of local friends to have a child so I had no close contacts to question and no one to guide me really. I prepared for labor like I was studying for an exam, focusing on what I knew, the science/medical side of it. It never occurred to me back then that little things I did would become the comforting rituals of delivery, even when delivery didn’t go as expected.

My mother, who had three children, didn’t like talking about the technical or medical side of birth. She was short on details and I never pushed it, but she did tell me something she did that intrigued me. She said for each of her births she treated herself to a new nightgown and robe set so she didn’t have to wear the hospital gowns. It seemed like a good enough idea so I followed suit.

I don’t wear nightgowns. I am a tank tops and shorts or pants kind of girl. I went to a local department store and bought my first, and only nightgown. It was nothing fancy or special, not even particular stylish but it was suited for the job. Sleeveless so I wouldn’t be hot, not long so it wouldn’t be in the way and had enough buttons that I felt I could nurse in it. I hadn’t yet heard of designers like Hot Mama Gowns and others who make stylish hospital gowns so while it wasn’t exactly stylish, in my bag it went.

I sit here typing this in that same, still not stylish gown. While I have discovered all those trendy and stylish shops I never remember to order until the week before delivery. The frugal me also has hard time spending the money knowing that it will only be worn a few times.

Since that first delivery and nightgown purchase I have developed a few of my own delivery rituals or traditions, things I always do or have on hand for the birth. They provide a comfort and a routine during an uncertain time and give me something to focus on other than my anxiety. They also connect each birth with the last and help me remember and connect the children we’ve lost with those that are here.

One of those rituals is my hair. I have medium to long curly hair. When I had my first I wanted to keep it out of my way, keep it from getting super tangled and look cute in pictures. I wore it in pigtail braids for that first baby and for every one since then, even our losses. It seems like such a little thing, but it’s a ritual of repetition that calms me, grounds me and connects all my babies.

For this most recent birth my hair is longer than it has ever been. When braided in pigtails it’s actually more in the way as they hang down to almost my elbows. As I prepped for this final baby I debated and worried about what I would do. The thought of not wearing braids to my final birth would bring tears to my eyes, and a bit of worry. I was had made myself so superstitious that I needed to wear them.

So for this last baby I took a deep breathe and adapted, something I am sure I will be doing lots of! I braided a smaller braid into my larger side braid. It kept the hair contained and out of the way and I still had two braids. A small little act, somewhat vain, but one that has been an important part of my mothering journey. Two small simple rituals that connect my journey of motherhood to my mothers and connect one birth to the next.

Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do at each of your births?

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