Does what you wear matter when you are in labor? Absolutely! If your goal is to have a confident, healthy, and empowered birth then your choice to wear your own clothes during labor can make a surprising impact on whether or not you achieve that goal. Many women don’t even think about what they will wear during their labor, especially if they are planning to give birth in a hospital. They assume they will be given a standard-issue hospital johnnie to wear, and they don’t consider any other options that are available to them. Here’s why the wearing your own clothes instead of a hospital-issued johnnie when you give birth might be a better choice:
- Uniforms tell a lot about your position in the hospital hierarchy, and the hospital’s johnnie puts you at the lowest rank. Hospitals are like the military, in that uniforms and rank matter. Surgeons outrank specialists, who outrank nurses, who outrank interns, and all of them will call the shots over you as a patient, unless you distinguish yourself in some way. By wearing something other than the uniform of a patient, you retain more of your individuality. That can help you keep your needs at the center of your care.
- Hospital-issued johnnies can make you feel insecure and sick, whereas your own clothes help you feel grounded and confident. When you see a person in a dowdy hospital johnnie what associations come to mind? Do you see a person who is sick, helpless, and needy? Probably. That’s how people, like your caregivers, will treat you, and that’s how you will begin to act once you put on a hospital-issued johnnie. Research has shown that those associations are deeply embedded in our psyches and can influence your actions, making you less empowered, particularly when dealing with someone in a white coat. You can limit those disempowering thoughts during your healthy birth by wearing clothes that make you feel more confident.
- Comfort matters. An important part of a healthy birth is letting your mind go into a deeper state of consciousness so the birthing hormones can freely flow. Fussing with clothing that doesn’t fit properly, leaves your backside exposed, is hard to tie in the back, and even smells unfamiliar can all keep you from getting into that relaxed state of mind. Clothes that fit your body, smell like home, and feel comfortable against your skin enhance your sense of safety and allow you to release your mind from physical distractions and focus inward.
- How your caregiver and the Labor and Delivery department react to your request to wear your own clothes can be a sign of what lies ahead. It’s commonplace for doctors and nurses to let you know that your clothes may get soiled or ruined, which they may. But, if they put up a fight about your desire to wear something that makes you feel more in control of your birth experience, will they respect your wishes about other, more critical decisions while you are giving birth? This could be a warning sign to pay attention to while taking your hospital tour and talking with your doctor or midwife.
- It’s a special day – why not wear something special for the occasion! It will make you feel more positive and will look great in pictures, bringing back happy memories for years to come!
There are comfortable, fashionable options for labor clothing that keep you feeling confident and which remind everyone in the labor room that birth is a normal, healthy process. Having a positive, empowered birth leads to empowered parenting, and to feeling empowered in other parts of your life. This is one case in which clothes really can make the woman.
Michal Klau-Stevens is The Birth Lady. She is the creator of the Mastering Maternity™ system, a program that helps expectant parents confidently approach pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, early parenting, and navigating the maternity healthcare system. She is a maternity consultant, pregnancy coach, consumer expert on maternity care issues, Past President of BirthNetwork National, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and mother. Her website is TheBirthLady.INFO. Find her on Facebook at The Birth Lady page!
Click here to receive a FREE mini-guide by email and to receive more tools and information on mastering maternity.