Before my son was even born, I knew I was not going to be much
of a crunchy, earthy mother. Bring on the formula, the day care, sleeping in a
crib from the get-go! I also rolled my eyes (inwardly) when I read about other women's
birth plans. A "birth plan" to me meant a privileged, hypersensitive woman
being very loud about the fact that she knew
better than the medical professionals who were only reluctantly
present before going off to their golf game, obviously trying to prove that she
was better than all those sheep moms who just went along with toxic,
lazy-people procedures like epidurals and C-sections. Bring on the medical
interventions and pain relief! I would be a 21st-century, go-with-the-flow
That is, of course, until I actually had my son and I realized
that I did have a birth plan all
along—I just didn't know it. My secret birth plan had entailed starting
contractions at home around 40 weeks, laboring in my house for awhile, going to
the hospital, getting an epidural, pushing for a little bit and having a baby,
probably all within a span of 24–36 hours.
Instead, due to high blood pressure, I was sent to triage on a
Wednesday afternoon at 37 weeks, spent a night being monitored, then had a balloon
put inside my cervix for 12 hours to "ripen" it, then received pitocin (and an
epidural, because by that point I was too frightened of what getting my water
broken would feel like), threw up numerous times, developed a fever, was
informed that I might or might not be getting a C-section, eventually pushed
for 45 minutes and then had my son,
on a Friday night.
That's what they should call birth plans: 'birth hopes.'
It was the most traumatic thing that had happened to me. It was scary and
uncomfortable and painful and dramatic and it's worth saying again, scary. It
was birth. Birth has no plan. You may have one, but your baby and body do not.
Now, I am pregnant again and all I want is for my second labor
and delivery to go faster and smoother and less frighteningly than the first.
It's a hope, really. That's what they should call birth plans: 'birth hopes.' Of
course it's smart to be aware of what your choices are in the hospital and to
advocate for yourself, but there is no use in pretending like things can't
change quickly. I had a friend who spent many hours taking Lamaze classes (yes,
they still offer them!) only to realize she couldn't use any of the poses she'd
learned because, due to a sudden drop in her baby's heartrate, she was hooked up
to monitors that prevented her from moving much. She was disappointed that she
couldn't use what she had learned, but not to the extent that she was going to
rip off the monitors and get on all fours.
Things like this happen all the time. Despite science and
medicine and knowledge both new and old, we still have so little control over
how babies are born. This is information that should be shared more. Too many
women feel guilty or disappointed that they didn't get the delivery experience
they dreamed of, but that's like feeling guilty or disappointed that you didn't
get the plane trip you dreamed of. Of course we all want a smooth trip with no
delays or turbulence but—given the option—all we really want is to get there.