I am a planner. Everybody knows me as such. It’s the primary reason I’m good at my “real” job and why my house appears relatively clean, my kids are clothed, our social calendar is set. When I see disorder or feel overwhelmed, organizing a drawer is soothing. Drafting a to-do list is like a massage for my nerves. Order and sense. Remember those?
Pregnancy, giving birth and becoming a mom were just new “to-do’s” on the list. Projects – albeit on a massive, life-changing scale – for which I would gather information, analyze, and assemble a plan. I gathered heaps of free magazines from my OB’s office. I bought books. My husband and I took a birthing class and a tour of the hospital. Every mama and her husband gave me their advice. According to my data, birth plans were all the rage – ensuring a smooth transition from bovine belly to madonna-like bliss. When I mentioned to my favorite, bow-tie wearing doc that I was going to write a birth plan he advised against it.
What? Now, I was very keen on my fave doc, but that didn’t stop me from questioning his opposition to the advice of magazine editors. In his opinion, a birth plan can set an adversarial tone and especially offend the nurses. (Although he stated that he himself would not be offended.) Upon his urging, I nixed the idea of writing a birth plan and instead touched upon my key concerns with each doctor that could potentially deliver my firstborn. I now understand why birth plans are useless.
The unexpected almost always happens to the expecting. Call it Murphy’s Law or Mother Nature being an expletive. Whatever you call it, it exists like “the force,” but not as helpful. Want proof? Read about my experience in Epidurals and C-Sections Happen to the Best of Us. Having had a first labor that went completely against my every expectation, plan and vision, I knew going into my second labor what would be more important than a birth plan. A well-informed, assertive and questioning advocate. For me, that was my husband.
As first-time parents, we were like deer in headlights as nurses dismissed our questions, acted like all procedures were routine and the doctor (not my favorite) thought she was encouraging me by telling me I wasn’t pushing hard enough, doing enough, I had to give more. By the end of it, I felt like a loser. My poor husband, shell-shocked and nervous, was himself at a loss of what to do to help. I wouldn’t let him touch me or talk to me and it seemed like every time he left the room, a flurry of medical personnel would descend upon me. Because my attention was focused on the pain and my energy completely depleted, I wasn’t able to shout, “HOLD IT. HOLD EVERYTHING!” like I would have wanted to.
Having reflected on this experience, I tried to equip my husband with my wishes for my second labor. I made him understand that he MUST be my voice so that we could have the satisfaction of making well-informed choices because it was likely the pain would leave me incapable of voicing those concerns myself. I told him what I would want and what to question should we be advised to move in directions that we didn’t prefer. He wasn’t going to leave my bedside and he was going to intervene should any negative remarks be made. I equipped him with motivating language to use. In effect, I gave him my birth plan (yes, I actually typed and printed out my birthing preferences for him).
Did my second baby flow from my vagina like water from a cup? No. Was the entire experience smoother, happier and more empowering. Yes. I’m not saying my way is the only way. I’m just saying that having a voice who cares only about you and your concerns is stronger than any piece of paper.
(Mothers-to-be: If you want to play it safe, do it all – write a birth plan, talk to your doctors, and plan on having a bedside advocate.)
Did you have a birth plan? Did it help? Did you have a doula or a partner who rallied for your concerns? I’d love to know how your birthing experiences were similar or different from mine.