Pregnancy Calendar – Week 33

Pregnancy Calendar – Week 33


So. Does everyone have their Birth Plan written up yet? Have you typed it? Double-spaced it? Printed up back-up copies and filed one with the county courthouse and gotten one notarized?

Yes, I am a little bit snarky when it comes to the Birth Plan.

Not that I don’t understand and agree with the logic behind a detailed Birth Plan — I’m all for removing the fear from childbirth, for helping mothers feel empowered and in control of their bodies and the entire situation, and for doctors respecting their patients’ desires to go natural or stay upright and out of bed or have immediate post-delivery skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding or whatever the hell they want. All for all of that.

It’s just that I’ve also seen the Birth Plan morph into something terrifyingly inflexible — more like a woman trying to choreograph the birth down to the right song playing on the iPod. These ultra-detailed plans, with their high expectations and hopes for everything going so incredibly perfectly, sometimes seem more like the mother-to-be is trying to obsessively checklist her fears away rather than work through them with her midwife or doctor, or perhaps confront her instincts that her OB is not the sort who will respect even the most basic of her wishes. And even worse, anything that deviates from the Birth Plan will often get classified as failure.

Look, they don’t give out medals in the maternity ward. There’s no I Avoided The Episiotomy wall of fame bulletin board and they don’t put little stickers on the babies’ foreheads to distinguish whose mother had an epidural or not. (Although I do remember seeing a sticker on Noah’s bassinet chart that read “I’m a breastfed boy!”, but somehow I doubt the bottle-fed babies’ stickers featured frowny judgement faces, or anything.)

Obviously, birth choices are personal. And important, to a degree. We all have our preferences and images of how we’d like childbirth to happen — hospital, home, birthing center, water, dolphins, whatever. And you absolutely should voice your wishes and concerns with everyone involved in the experience. But like motherhood, childbirth requires a certain acceptance that you cannot control every aspect of it, and that sometimes you simply must stop and reassess things. Be it your own tolerance for pain or your baby’s well-being. And you need to be able to reassess these things without feeling like you…gag…FAILED. Seriously, THEY DON’T GIVE YOU GRADES.

If you had asked me for a birth plan before my first son was born, I would have probably started AND finished it with the epidural. I was certain I’d want it right away. I did not want to be miserable and in pain. Oh, that and breastfeeding as soon as possible. And I was pretty terrified of c-sections. So…let’s try to avoid one of those.

Then I went into labor and discovered that I could handle the contractions after all, and that I found the whole thing incredibly amazing and empowering. I started thinking of going all the way unmedicated, but changed my mind at the very last minute (9 centimeters), when it was confirmed that the baby was badly positioned (occiput posterior), fairly large (macrosomia) and very, very high up in my abdomen. Lots of pushing in my future. I needed some rest.

So I reversed courses AGAIN and got the epidural after all and fell asleep for a little bit. Then I woke up and pushed and pushed, until alarms started going off and the baby wouldn’t budge any further down the birth canal and his heartrate started to plummet with each contraction. Time to reassess again.

C-section time.

As I breastfed my 9 pound, 15 ounce son for the first time in the recovery area, I did have a few minutes when I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. My childbirth experience was nothing like I had expected or planned for. When I tell the story to other women, it almost sounds like a worst-case scenario to them. But it really wasn’t. It was amazing. I’m completely happy and at peace with how it went and how it ended. I did what I could. I experienced everything I really wanted to, but in the end, it was never about me and what kind of transcendent empowering experience I wanted. It was about a safe delivery of a healthy baby, full stop. And I got that. Oh, yes, I got that.

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