Birth is complicated, and it’s so common for your birth plan to changes. But the fact that curveballs are bound to come your way during birth is the biggest reason you NEED a birth plan.
When I was pregnant with my first, I had an extremely detailed birth plan, and that birth plan totally changed. Thrown out the window. But I don’t for one second regret creating it.
I cried during my childbirth, but not because of pain. No, I had been dealing with a lot of pain for about a week. I was crying as I was getting an epidural.
Ever since I saw Ricki Lake’s documentary, The Business of Being Born, I knew I wanted a natural childbirth. I was dead set against birthing in a hospital.
In fact, my number one choice was to birth at home, but if that didn’t work I would go to a birth center that was unattached from a hospital.
Well, needless to say, from the very beginning, it didn’t go quite as planned.
This is my birth story, and I’m going to tell you why I still think it’s important to have a birth plan, even if it doesn’t go as expected.
My Birth Plan
Let me start by telling you my preparations.
I chose my care provider carefully and settled on a local midwifery that had both a freestanding birth center and connections to a hospital so they could accompany me to the hospital if I would need to be transferred in case of an emergency. It seemed like the best of both natural and medical options to fall back on.
I read some of the most influential natural birth books out there. I watched natural birth videos. I hired a doula. I took the Hypnobabies course to help with natural birth. I made a birth plan. I even set up a plan for having my placenta encapsulated.
There is no one else on the planet aside from maybe a doula or midwife who was as prepared as I was for my natural childbirth.
Maybe I would even be one of those lucky women who had an orgasmic birth!
But Birth Plans Change
The problem is… Birth is not math. There’s no magical equation to ensure that it works out perfectly every time. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that at least one thing will not go as planned.
Since birth is the process of bringing a human life into this world it only makes sense that you’re going to be thrown a curveball here and there.
I started having contractions early in the week of November 16.
At around 11 pm they would start and go all night but never get close together or rhythmic and would end when the sun came up. By Thursday I was pretty sure I was in active labor. So I went in to have my midwife check me, and I was 2-3 cm and 100% effaced.
Throughout that and the next night, the contractions would come and go, giving me no more than 15-30 minute stretches of sleep. Oh, and did I mention it was all back labor? Yeah.
My doula worked with me on various techniques to help get the baby into a better position to hopefully speed things up and get the pressure off my back. None of it worked.
Late Friday into early Saturday morning I again had the contractions get pretty close and consistent, 3-5 minutes apart for over an hour. So I called the doula and midwife and we headed to the birth center.
I had progressed to 5-6 cm so we stayed, but guess what… By the time the sun came up, my labor had stopped again.
At this point, I was exhausted from not sleeping all night. So my midwife gave me a sleep aid and sent me home to rest. The hope was my body just needed to recharge to take on the big task of pushing this kid out. So I was able to sleep most of the day, but again the contractions picked up over the night and ended in the morning.
It was now Sunday morning. We made a trip to the hospital just to get hooked up to some monitors and make sure the baby was doing well after all this stress, and yes she was doing great. Again I went home after some discussion about potentially breaking my water if things didn’t progress soon.
I got home. Showered and took another sleep aid, but less than an hour later I woke up to the most intense contractions yet.
My doula came over and we decided to head to the birth center. I had decided that either this was the real deal or I was going to go ahead with the midwife breaking my water because I was totally exhausted.
Luckily we got there, and just when the midwife walked into the room to break my water, it broke on its own!
Managing Discomfort During a Long Labor
Let me pause right here to give a big shoutout to Hypnobabies, a program that teaches moms how to have a pain-free childbirth.
If you don’t know what it is, it’s a self-hypnosis/meditation technique that is used to have comfortable childbirth.
It wasn’t easy and I wasn’t comfortable for every minute of this birthing process because it was so start and stop, but without Hypnobabies, I would have been begging for an epidural on Day 1 instead of being able to naturally progress as far as I did.
Eventually, I did start making progress after my water broke, but once I got to 9cm it stopped again… I felt like I was so close and wasn’t ready to throw in the towel and head to the hospital yet. But after still a few more hours and no more progress, I agreed to go to the hospital for pitocin.
Now that I am a mom of three, I can look back on this first birth and think based on the many birth stories I have heard since, that if I would have held out just a little longer, maybe I would have starting progressing again on my own. But at the time I was a first-time mom and I was less sure of myself and my ability to natural birth a baby.
I think that’s why I chose to get an epidural and pitocin. It felt more certain than continuing to wait, and wait, and wait.
99% of birth is a mindgame. You can handle the discomfort, but the battle you’re really fighting is in your mind because it gets scary at times. That’s why even though my birth didn’t go exactly as I intended, I still totally support having a well though out birth plan because it helps you visualize what might happen so you are as prepared as possible.
It’s also why the Hypnobabies techniques were so helpful. When I was in the zone with them, I felt great physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Choosing a New Plan
Since I wasn’t getting my natural birth center birth and I was a bit afraid of how the pitocin would make me feel, I opted for an epidural.
We got to the hospital by 9pm on Sunday night and had the pitocin and epidural running by 10 pm. It still wasn’t until 5am that I was ready to push.
This kid apparently didn’t want to come out at all.
My uterus must be super cozy. My midwife and I actually discussed the possibility of going to a c-section if I wasn’t ready to push by around 5am, but luckily I was!
The pushing was super hard work, but my daughter came into the world at 6:54 am Monday morning.
Even though the baby and I came through this healthy and happy, it took me a while to really deal with the fact that my birth wasn’t the natural birth I had planned.
I did everything right! But my body and the baby just had other plans.
So, why do I still think it is so important to have a birth plan?
I can now say that I am happy with the decisions I made during my birth because even though it wasn’t my ideal birth, I was well informed. I had thought through all the possibilities beforehand and knew what my options were. I wasn’t really thrown by the change of plans because I had planned for a change of plans as a possibility.
I also had a team and partner I trusted to help me make the decisions, and choosing that team was part of my initial planning when creating a birth plan.
Having a birth plan is so important for women to use as a way to think through all the things that could happen during birth and make a plan for them. The birth plan isn’t just about outlining your ideal birth.
It’s also about deciding when and how you will make hard decisions if they come up, and giving your care providers a clear sense of how you want them to interact with you.
Even if you are having a c-section or a hospital birth with a planned epidural, I still recommend this.
Also, it isn’t just about the birth itself, but the time directly after the birth. It sets up your expectations of how your baby will be handled, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone else deciding what happens to my baby directly after I just did all that work to bring her here (assuming no major emergency).
So I’m going to leave you with a quote because no matter whether you have a birth plan, don’t have a birth plan, had a picture-perfect birth, or it was a hot mess. This really sums up how I would love for all women to approach their birth.
“Women, don’t ever apologize for your behavior or choices during birth. When you OWN your experience and take pride in your journey, you help other women do the same thing. No matter how you did it, you just brought a human being into the world! The world should be kneeling at your feet.” -Lauralyn Curtis
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