I am a planner – it is not only what I do professionally, but it is the core of my personality. It is no accident that I am due in May and have the summer off for maternity leave – with August being notoriously slower than other months as people enjoy their last days of summer.
So, it should be no surprise I have a fairly set birth “plan.” As they say, “A goal without a plan is just a wish!” In this context, though, I feel my goal of natural childbirth is a combination of both “plan” and “wish.” So much of it is outside of my control.
I plan to birth at a birthing center with my husband, midwife, and doula. I have yet to see a doctor during my pregnancy and if all goes accordingly to plan, will not see a doctor during my pregnancy. The birthing center is practically connected to a hospital so I can easily be rushed over if an emergency arises (I say this because the response of “Your baby could die!” is a strangely common one).
I am fully aware that several things may derail my plan, including 1) if our baby is breach; 2) if I develop a medical condition later in pregnancy that makes me too high risk; or 3) if I just can’t stand the pain and want medical intervention!
What I find surprising is that the least supportive people I come across about my birth plan are women – and women who have given birth! They often look at me like I have six heads and don’t understand why I would even entertain this thought of a natural birth because they only got to “x” centimeters and their pain was so bad they would have killed someone to make it stop. Then the conversation inevitably proceeds to their horror of a birth story and how they just made it out alive – and that was with an epidural! And this is not all women, of course, but enough to put a damper in my excitement over talking about my birth plan. Ina May, the mother of authentic midwifery, eloquently described how discussing terrifying birthing stories is practically a national pastime!
True, I have not yet given birth. True, I have no comprehension of the actual pain I will feel. True, I have no idea the strength that it takes to give birth (let alone naturally). The conversation of my birth plan usually ends on a positive note, “Well if you actually do it, then I will be impressed!” I feel like people talk to me like I have just announced I will attempt to travel to Mars. “Oh sure, Kristin…yeah, yeah, yeah…I’ll believe it when I see it…” THIS IS CHILDBIRTH! The most natural thing next to death. Women all around the world are giving birth naturally at this very moment. Our bodies were made for this. Unfortunately, natural childbirth has become a concept close to having dental work without Novocain. Sure, you can have a cavity filled without it, but why would you want to?
I have several reasons for wanting to birth naturally. I will not get into the state of our hospitals, insurance, and statistics for infant and mother mortality rates. The most compelling reasons are specific to me and no one else. Whatever birth plan a woman chooses, it should be accepted and supported. I try to make no judgments of women who give birth at home, or through a planned c-section, or with the most medicine possible in a hospital. It is the same reason I do not judge woman who choose formula over breastmilk, or go back to work versus staying home. That is their plan and what works for them. This is my plan, because it is what I hope will work for me.
Much of my attraction to a natural birth is that I don’t react to medication like others react. The epidural contains narcotics or opioids, and I do not play nicely with these medications. I have had medical issues in the past that required prescribed narcotics. I simply do not react to narcotics like others do. For example, I didn’t know until I was in the middle of Lasik eye surgery that valium makes me completely speedy! Vicodin, Percocet…forget it…I would rather just take Tylenol. Once I had intravenous Dilaudid, which felt like an on-fire cement truck was traveling through my veins as an elephant sat on my chest. When the tears started streaming down my face and a panic attack set in, the doctors had to flush me with saline to try and dilute the medication and get it out of my system.
I have a very palpable fear of how I will react to an epidural. And I do not want to find out whether that fear is justified in the middle of what should be the most magical moment of my life. I have heard epidural horror stories just like I have heard epidural wonder stories. My sister, for example, had two amazing birthing experiences that included epidurals (and episiotomies – don’t tell her I told you! She is fairly private). My sister would not have changed her birthing experience for anything and thinks of it fondly.
Besides my fear of the epidural and how I will react to it, I have spent the past few years focusing on my health, the food I eat, the products I use, and how to better myself physically and mentally. I have connected to living life as naturally as possible, and what is more natural than childbirth? I am excited to feel so physically connected to the birth, and less fearful of the pain. I think there are many techniques and support systems that help women give birth naturally that are crucial to the process. This is not something I will be able to accomplish alone. I will need my husband to set me straight when I beg for medicine. I will need my doula to assure me that the pain is normal and that I am not dying. I will need my midwife to encourage me to keep going when I think I can’t and every cell in my body is screaming with pain and exhaustion. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. I think it also takes a village to birth a child.
Come May (if all goes accordingly), I will know whether my plan worked out or not. I hope no matter what ends up happening that I am in the moment and embrace the process as it unfolds. If I am told I must have a c-section because my child is breach or in danger, then I hope to embrace that process and not let it ruin my birth experience. I am trying not to be so invested in the outcome that my experience is ruined if it does not go exactly according to plan. I am trying to be open and flexible, while holding on to my wish for natural childbirth.
So, let’s all make a pact. The next time a woman tells you her birth plan, or that she plans to go back to work full time, or that she lets her baby cry it out at night, let’s all just be decent human beings and support that person instead of judging them (either secretly or openly). We are all doing the best we can with what we are given. Even if you don’t think I can handle the pain of natural childbirth, humor me (sans eye roll). Let me live in my dream world while I can. Believe me, if my plan does not work out I will have my own feelings to deal with and certainly do not need any added judgment. Support, support, support. It is all any of us needs. (And a huge thank you to the many people in my life that have been so supportive of my plan. You truly make me believe this is not only the right choice, but possible!)