How to plan for the big day.
One of the questions I always got asked when I was pregnant was “What’s your birth plan?” At first, my witty answer was always “I plan to give birth.” However, I was asked this question so many times throughout the course of my pregnancy that I started to think I was doing something wrong by not planning out my birth experience. Eventually, every time I saw my midwife, I would ask her how to create said birth plan. She basically laughed me off and said the same thing I always said – I was going to give birth, and it wasn’t necessary to draw up an itinerary for the event.
I wish I had just taken her advice and not tried so hard to plan out my birth experience.
Thanks to birthing and labor classes, my midwife, my doctor, and countless other sources, I was well aware of what was going to happen to my body during labor and birth. I knew about each stage of labor, what it would feel like and how long it should last. I knew about all the different methods of pain management, including the risks associated with each. So, with all this knowledge at my disposal, I made the following birth plan:
- I was going to have a water birth. I had done some research and was told that water births have a lot of benefits. The warm water helps to relax the mother’s body – making contractions a little easier to bear. The baby is met with less of a shock when she makes her big debut (makes sense, seeing as the baby is floating around in amniotic fluid for 9 months). And bonus, I love a nice bath, so I figured the feeling of being in a warm bath would help calm my nerves a bit.
- I was going to give birth at the hospital. My local hospital allows birth pools, provided you have a midwife there with you. We rented a pool about two weeks before my due date. Once my contractions were 5 minutes apart, we would go to the hospital and set up the pool. I would call my midwife and she would meet us there. My mom and fiancé would be in the room with me, anyone else would be either in the waiting room or back at our place hanging out with the dogs.
- For pain management, I would utilize a TENS machine, the warm water in the pool, and nitros oxide (laughing gas). I have a pretty high pain tolerance, so narcotics were going to be an absolute last resort (morphine, fentanyl, etc.). I was absolutely NOT going to be receiving an epidural – the risks were too great in my opinion, and I wouldn’t need it anyways.
- After delivering my baby girl Sophia (vaginally, of course – I was very much against C-sections) Justin and I would pack her up and head home to begin our life as new parents.
Pretty solid plan. My due date comes, and I’m excited. I can’t wait to meet my little girl! Contractions start, and I’m met with my first speed bump. All the contractions I’m feeling are in my back. Back labor was not something I planned for – I had heard it was a lot more painful than regular labor and I didn’t know how to combat that kind of pain. I stayed positive though; I still had the pool to look forward to.
Well, fast forward about 24 hours later and I was not such a happy camper. I was still technically in early labor, but my contractions were so intensely painful that I hadn’t slept for a full two days. I went in to see my midwife. She did a cervical exam and told me I wasn’t even 1 cm dilated. After I broke down in tears she sent me to the hospital, where I broke my first promise to myself: I had a shot of morphine.
The morphine was great – I was high as a kite and I got a few hours of sleep. Sadly, however, it slowed my labor right back down again. The contractions still hurt like a bitch, but they were too irregular for me to even think about checking in at the hospital.
Fast forward to hour 36 or so. Contractions were so painful that I could barely breathe through them, I was completely and utterly exhausted (running on about 3 hours of sleep in just as many days), and I was feeling absolutely defeated. I hate crying in front of people, and it felt like that’s all I was doing. I had no idea how to keep going – early labor is supposed to be the easy part!
Finally, around hour 40, my badass mother put her foot down and insisted I stay at the hospital (up until this point I had been strongly encouraged to stay at home, due to the fact that I was barely dilated at all). I had another shot of morphine, but wasn’t able to sleep. Setting up the birth pool was out of the question. I couldn’t stay still for longer than 2 minutes, let alone sit in a damn pool and “relax.” If you’re not keeping track, that’s now two things that have gone sideways from my birth plan.
So, over the next 12 hours I ended up having a shot of fentanyl and two epidurals. I also farted for a solid 30 seconds in front of my fiancé, mother, and nurse. So yeah, pride, determination, and dignity had all gone out the window alongside my well thought out birth plan.
Can you guess what happened next? Yep. After 55 hours of hard back labor, I had a fricken’ C-section.
Sophia and I both left the operating room in good condition, but we did not go home immediately like I had planned. I spent three days in the hospital after the birth, hobbling around the hallways carrying my pee-bag like a purse.
So to summarize, nothing went the way I thought it would. I devoted so much of my time and energy into making a perfect plan that I didn’t even consider that things might not happen the way I wanted them to. During the whole process, I felt like such a failure for not being strong enough to follow through with my original plan. I spent so much time fretting over what should have been happening that I forgot to appreciate what was happening. My fiancé (who was probably more frightened than I was) never left my side and did everything he could to keep me happy and comfortable. My mother was also there throughout the whole ordeal, and was strong for me when I had no strength left. And best of all, my daughter came into this world healthy as ever, and completely stole my heart.
My advice for soon-to-be moms out there on how to make a birth plan? Here it is: don’t.
Planning meticulously for an event that is largely unpredictable is useless. In my opinion, a birth plan is good for nothing accept disappointment.
That being said, though, I do have some advice on what a new mom should do in preparation for the big day.
First, don’t go it alone. Having somebody there with you makes a world of difference. Pain does really weird things to a person’s emotions. It’s helpful to have someone there who will let you squeeze the crap out of their hand during a contraction, pretend your farts don’t smell like a rotting corpse, and tell you that you look beautiful even though you probably look like that rotting corpse.
Second, understand that it’s going to hurt. A lot. I really do have a high pain tolerance and thought I would be okay without the drugs. Obviously, I was wrong. Do the research on all the pain management options – look into the risks and the side effects. If you decide not to go with certain forms of pain management, don’t feel bad if you change your mind later. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Last but not least, be easy on yourself. Birthing a child is hard, no matter how you do it. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is holding that beautiful baby in your arms – why should it make a difference how you get there?