Birth Plans: Why I'm So Thankful I Didn't Have Them
I’ve had two babies and zero birth plans. I remember, prior to delivering, how people would tell me to get my birth plan together. Why? Because you don’t want it to all go unplanned, they’d say...like it was a disease.
I remember reading pregnancy lit that also stressed the importance of a birth plan...because your doctor might make you do something you don’t want to...because you might find yourself in a situation where you have to make quick decisions...because nurses keep changing shifts....because, because, because! I knew I wanted to try delivering naturally – no C-section, no painkillers, and no epidural. But, guess what? I didn’t have an official birth plan. Wait, I told you that already!
It wasn’t because I was still carrying some naysaying strain back from my rebel youth. It was because well, deliveries just naturally kind of go...unplanned. Take my first one, for instance. I had planned a work meeting in downtown Los Angeles. My baby had planned to see the world two months early instead.
If I had a birth plan in hand, I might have freaked out at that point. But when my water broke, I instead calmly called my ob-gyn and told her I thought the baby was squeezing my bladder. When she told me my baby might have just booked his ticket through the birth canal, I very level-headedly drove myself the thirty minutes it took to my husband’s job and then on to the hospital.
In the delivery room, the doctor said she would inject me with I-don’t-remember-what to try to keep the baby in for weeks, even months...as long as possible. I didn’t question her. I didn’t look it all up on my cell phone. She was my doctor and I chose to trust her.
When her plans still didn’t quite match up with my baby’s plans, birth was imminent. She then injected me with a steroid to try to help increase the chances that my baby would be able to breathe on his own. Again, I nodded. I smiled. But I didn’t Google. I, of course, wanted my baby to breathe.
My baby was born – not exactly according to plan (although he was still natural, no C-section, no painkillers, no epidural) – but a totally healthy, screaming, breathing bundle (albeit a very small bundle) of joy.
During my stay in the hospital, I saw the babies in the NICU. I saw babies in their boxes, with breathing apparatuses. And I was happy I listened to my doctor. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t at all think that those other mothers had done anything wrong. In fact, I wasn’t even thinking about those mothers, or their decisions, or judging them in any way. I was just celebrating my own. I was happy that I stayed calm. And I was happy that I listened to my doctor because everything turned out alright.
During my next pregnancy, I was determined. There was no way baby number two was going to get out of me before term. Not that anything went wrong the first time around. It was just a personal goal.
I carried until term. My water broke. And I went to the hospital.
My plan was to have another quick and easy delivery. The baby’s plan was to just sit tight. So this time around, my doctor wanted to take the opposite approach. Whereas the first time around, she was happy for the baby to stay inside for weeks on end post-amniotic fluid flood waters, this time she wanted him out after 24 hours. Somewhere in the back of mind, I thought it didn’t make sense; there was a discrepancy. But when she wanted to inject me with oxytocin, I again let her.
The rest of the delivery was as natural as can be and the baby was perfectly healthy (so was I).
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about birth plans. I’ve met more than a few mothers who chose not to be induced 24 hours after their water broke – and those who weren’t given the option – many of them ended up with major infections as a result. They weren’t able to breastfeed because of the medication they were taking, and they were hardly able to lift up their babies for the first few weeks.
I can’t speak to what their exact situations were in the delivery room. And I certainly can’t speak for the benefits of a birth plan (since I never had one) – nor do I intend to tell you what to do. But I can’t help but feel that, in my situation, a birth plan would have meant disappointment. It would mean that there were things about my deliveries that did not come out right. It would put me in a state of mind where I distrust my doctor and the hospital staff.
For me, having a doctor who I trust was way more important and valuable than any birth plan ever could be. I’d rather have an intelligent, reliable human being who can react to unexpected situations rather than some chicken scratch that sets a dream delivery in stone. I’d rather be flexible than trying to enforce my ideas in an unpredictable situation. And what could be worse than stressing out over small details in the delivery room when your focus really just needs to be on holding a healthy baby?
Not having a birth plan really worked for me...what about you? Did you have a birth plan or do you plan on having one? Share your delivery room experience and birth plan philosophy!
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