The birth plan
I remember when the nurse I was working with sat down and asked me if I had thought about making a birth plan. I think I was four months pregnant at the time. I really hadn’t but thought it would be a good idea to educate myself on my options for choice of birth partner, epidural or no epidural, fetal monitoring or not, etc. Over the next few weeks, I took a birth class and then crafted the ultimate birth plan. Or at least what I thought would be one. I had multiple copies. One was in my planner, one with my mom, one was in the glove box of my car (just in case right?) and one I sent to my doula! I felt so prepared! Boy was I in for a surprise. Essentially everything went totally opposite of the fantasy I had spent months revising. I don’t think I’m alone in this.
The change in plans
I ended up having an emergency Cesarean; my child stopped moving the last 24 hours and once I got to triage at Providence an OB soon stepped into my room in place of my midwife and informed me that I was going to have a C-section birth in the next hour. This is after the hour-long ultrasound beforehand where the tech tried everything to get my baby to move but couldn’t, and the previous hour of fetal monitoring where I was having contractions but my baby’s heart rate wasn’t mirroring mine’s fluctuation. I never even went into traditional labor. It was extremely fast and contemplating it a year later; traumatic, and I’m still working through that grief.
I don’t think I even unfolded one single copy of my birth plan. As the haze of medication wore off the ever-dreaded mom-guilt started to set in. Could I have done something to prevent this? What if I went to the hospital earlier? What if I had eaten better or exercised more during my pregnancy? How could something that I had spent months planning and obsessing over go so wrong? What was wrong with my body? My birth plan was a hoax!
Fast forward a year; my child’s first birthday! I started to really reflect and replay his birth in my head. I explored my mindset during my pregnancy and my feelings of guilt and shame afterward. Then it came to me; what would my reaction have been if I didn’t feel like I had to write a birth plan? Not that I would be any less educated on my options or even not write my preferences down, but what would my level of “mom guilt” be if I didn’t feel like my birth experience could be based solely off of how I planned it.
Retrospectively, I can see that I felt a certain sense of responsibility to sticking to my birth plan in order to give my baby the best start at life. (Whatever that is) I still felt like that was within my scope of control; the seeds of unrealistic self-expectations were sown.
The change in language
I had just given birth to my child; perfect, amazing, beautiful. My body had managed to sustain a life for nine months. I was cut open unexpectedly on an operating table; half my body numb; more petrified and alone than I’ve ever been in my life in order to keep my baby safe as they entered this world. I am a warrior; a birth giver, a single parent. How dare I demean my experience?
I don’t blame my nurse or any practitioner I worked with along the way. I blame the systemic language in place that places unnatural pressure on people that give birth.
Let’s get rid of the language of the birth plan; rather call it “birth preferences “ and empower birthing people to embrace the wildness and unpredictability of their experience. Give ourselves grace and just a little more love. There is no “wrong” or “lesser” way to give birth.