Guest post by Sarah Sperber
I had a birth plan. Actually, being the (self-proclaimed) Type-A organizational genius that I am, I not only had a birth plan but a carefully curated vision for the special and sacred moment of bringing a new baby into the world. I set up a Goddess birthing tent in my bedroom corner, where the birthing tub would go. I ordered specific flowers from the florist to create the perfect aroma and birthing atmosphere. I had the essential oil diffuser ready to roll with lavender, clary sage, and jasmine on hand. I even curated the most amazing playlist of music to help me remain calm during the process and to welcome my bundle of joy into the world. Not only that, but during my nesting phase in the weeks leading up to the big event, I cleaned every square inch of the house, prepped all of the meals for the week following, and did all of the laundry. I. WAS. PRE. PARED. What could go wrong?
Well, let me tell you. In retrospect, I wouldn’t necessarily say anything went, “wrong,” but rather it just didn’t go how I was expecting it to. You see, after four and half days (yes, you read that correctly – after MORE THAN 48 hours) of trying to deliver my daughter naturally, at home in a birthing tub, with a midwife and doula, I found myself in a hospital. There I was, with a fentanyl drip. They literally put me to sleep for a few hours so I would have enough energy to push when it was time. I was woken up by a doctor who was there to give me an epidural.
NO! This isn’t how I wanted it to be! I had a baby delivery plan that had no drugs or chemicals involved. I was supposed to be at home, in a loving and peaceful environment. I am a YOGA MOM! I can DO THIS!
Here’s the thing. And the thing wasn’t an easy pill to swallow then, and even sometimes now: Contrary to popular belief, motherhood isn’t all about you. In fact, it is hardly even halfway about you.
You see, there is this other soul brewing within you that is going to immediately have a mind of its own. This soul, this person, is going to constantly challenge you, test your limits, and push back on any amount of control that you believe you have. (This is going to be an eternal reality that will last long after birth.)
While you may have planned every moment of your labor and birth (as did I), you need to buckle up and prepare to experience the unknown, whether you like it or not. Maybe your birth will go according to plan. But maybe it won’t. And that is more than okay. Your baby may have a plan of his or her own. Your body may have a plan of its own. So, if motherhood isn’t all about you, what is it about? Many things, of course. One main theme you will need to accept is the theme of surrender.
For the rest of your life (and especially for the first five years of your child’s life) you are most likely going to find yourself in all kinds of predicaments. You are going to find that even on your most thoughtfully planned days, you might end up in a Target department store with a screaming infant that needs to nurse right then and there, in the Tupperware aisle. Surrender. (#normalizebreastfeeding). You might end up at a restaurant with an over-tired toddler that is screaming because she skipped her nap, and you are denying her dessert. Surrender. (Other people aren’t there to hear a screaming child and they definitely don’t care that you will have a sugar-high child on your hands an hour from now.) You may get a call at 2am from an anxious pre-teen who wants to be picked up right away from a sleep over because the other girls are picking on her and she is homesick. Surrender. (Trust me, you will one day miss that feeling of being able to make her feel better no matter what.)
You see, your birth plan and birth story are only just the beginning of a challenging, yet beautiful relationship in which you don’t always have complete control. You can only do your best to predict and shape the outcome, but in the end, you are going to have to compromise.
WHAT IS A BIRTH PLAN?
If you are expecting, you are probably doing so with a specific set of expectations. From the beginning of your pregnancy journey, you have likely assembled your team of professionals who will be there in support of your pregnancy, labor, and delivery. There are all kinds of options for birthing (such as a midwife and doula, a home water birth, a hospital birth, a birthing center, a natural birth, a birth with pain relief, an epidural, and literally every combination and hybrid in between).
Every woman is different and every woman (at least in this country) has at least some level of freedom to construct her own birth plan that will fit her specific needs and preferences.
Beyond your birthing team, your labor plan will include details around every aspect of giving birth (i.e. which birthing positions you prefer, whether or not you want an episiotomy, whether or not you prefer a c-section, how long you would like the delivery doctor to wait before clamping and cutting the umbilical cord, etc.). You can literally list your plan and preferences for every single detail of the process.
WHEN YOUR BIRTH PLAN IS DIFFERENT FROM YOUR BIRTH STORY
In all honesty, there are simply some things that you can’t plan for. In my case, my daughter (unbeknownst to me or my midwife and birthing team) had flipped in my belly to be face up. Our spines were rubbing together (which caused excruciating back labor for me). It also caused her to essentially get “stuck” on the way out. After four days of attempting to “unstick” her on my own, it became medically necessary to go to the hospital. I was beginning to run a fever. There is only a certain amount of time that a baby can wait to be born once the mother’s water has broken before both are at risk for infection.
When the fever started to set in, it was time to… you guessed it… surrender.
With a healthy dose of postpartum depression, it was easy to feel like I had failed. It was easy to assume that I had somehow polluted this perfect person in some way, by accepting pain medication and an epidural. For a while, I dwelled on it and beat myself up over it.
Now, four years later, I have come to accept and actually find the humor and irony in the whole experience. Now that I know my daughter and her personality, I can’t believe that I ever thought for a second (nevermind nine months) that her birth was going to be smooth, easy, or how I planned it. Don’t get me wrong. She is absolutely amazing (smart, witty, talented, creative, and all of the things). She is also one of the most outspoken, against the grain, free-thinking people on the planet. (Yes, she is four years old. Lookout, world! We have a brave and bright one coming on up!)
There were telltale signs of who she would be before her birth. I didn’t recognize them at the time, but now they are obvious and uncanny. For example, when I was pregnant, I would finally lay down to sleep at night, after a long day of working. At the very moment I would decide that it was time to sleep, she would (of course) start doing aerobics and kickboxing inside my stomach. I didn’t realize it then, but her big personality was already starting to emerge.
Listen sis, no one is going to give you a medal, trophy, or prize for delivering a baby free from medicine. Even though I was so worried that I had “ruined” the baby by succumbing to the antics of modern medicine, I can tell you without hesitation that the only thing I had ruined was the four days I spent in the worst pain of my life prior to accepting them. I mayyybe ruined my reputation with other judgemental Yoga moms. (Cool, byeeee.) And, not to brag (okay, maybe a little bit), but my daughter has surpassed any and every age-related milestone. She is an athletic savant (who could rock climb, snowboard, and do acrobatics before age 3). Nothing about her was ruined by my birth experience (which took a whopping 55 hours, by the way.)
So, if you find yourself in an unforeseen birthing (or parenting) situation, don’t panic. Surrender. It will probably all make sense later on.
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