I just want to start this out by saying this is not a post for or against home birth or hospital birth, or birth center birth or wherever you happen to give birth… birth. This is just my own personal experience but something that I think if I had known with my first two pregnancies I would have had a lot more peace and spent a lot less time looking at the ceiling in the middle of the night worrying about how birth was going to go and if my wishes and desires were going to be respected or if I was going to look back and hate everything about my birth experience forever and wish I had done things differently. SO please read on but know this isn’t a statement of any experience but my own and this isn’t holding any sort of birth experience as better or worse than any other. This isn’t lessening medical emergencies or saying trauma and bad outcomes don’t happen…. Basically what I am saying is every birth experience is sacred in its own way and I am not trying to overly generalize or lessen anyone’s experience through writing this, this is just my own experience and where I am at.
Even before I found out I was pregnant with Jessamyn (my first birth experience) I strongly wanted a home birth. I had this plan in my head of how it would go, beautiful, natural, no pain medication, amazing bonding, just all the dreamy magical things you hear related to a home birth. When I actually found out I was pregnant I began to look into a home birth and realized our insurance wouldn’t cover it and the cost for us to have a home birth over a hospital birth through our insurance was literally going to be 12 times the cost. I know many people say “you spend money on what is important to you” but for us at the time there was no way we could spend 12 times more to birth at home and so I had to change the plan and embrace the idea of a hospital birth. I was so mad, like seriously so mad I spent that entire pregnancy fighting every prenatal appointment and basically being a jerk to the medical system. Looking back I know I was just scared and felt out of control because I didn’t think I was going to have a good birth experience but I will admit I was way more difficult than I should have been to every doctor at every appointment.
Since I couldn’t have the birth I had been dreaming about my next best option (or so I thought) was to have the most detailed and specific birth plan I could create. I was so sure if I included every single detail of what I wanted down to every inconceivable possibility I would have the dream birth I wanted at the hospital. I did have a doula for my first birth and I think I basically made her memorize the birth plan (which was like three pages long double sided… just kidding but not really). I spent so much time starring at that word document trying to imagine every possibility and decide what I wanted and didn’t want I created more anxiety for myself and definitely wasn’t doing anyone any favors by thinking I could control every possible outcome.
When I actually went to the hospital in labor I remember being so scared they were going to want to do an IV.. yes of all the things to be thinking about through labor my fear was of having an IV and not wanting to labor with that in my arm. I had wanted a completely unmedicated birth and went to the hospital prepared to fight for that. The truth… when we got there the hospital staff were the sweetest, most professional, and just kind people ever and they did per policy insert whatever the beginning set up is for an IV but they also let me wander around and labor how I wanted and gave me a lot of space and it wasn’t the horrible thing I had built it up to be. The next big hurdle for me with my birth plan was that I got stuck at 7cm dilated for hours… hours I am not exaggerating. It was gently suggested that I could get an epidural and I remember feeling so much shame about that and basically asking the doula and my husband to make the decision for me (they didn’t) but I did end up deciding to get an epidural and feeling just like I was a complete failure. The epidural helped and I relaxed and progressed and gave birth and while it did not fit my birth plan at all…. it was beautiful.
With my second birth I went in a good bit more relaxed (still had a birth plan) but that all went out the window when my water broke at home and contractions never started. I am pretty sure on both birth plans I had it somewhere listed that I didn’t want pitocin to be used to help my labor along… yeah pretty sure that was like in bold print somewhere. Well with my second birth I spent 19 hours only having contractions because of Pitocin my body just wasn’t interested in giving birth even though my water broke, I also didn’t have a doula at that birth and had another epidural. Looking back though I see so much beauty in that birth. The nurse who stayed up with me all night while I cried about every single birth related fear I had. The on-call doctor who I hadn’t seen at all that pregnancy but who I saw during prenatal appointments with my first birth (and she remembered me which was so sweet) who was amazing… and so many other things.
So now with my third pregnancy I am again having a hospital birth but this time no birth plan at all. If my first two births taught me anything it is that birth is unpredictable and not something I can ever control. Birth is something our bodies were made to do (and we can definitely be educated and prepare for giving birth) …. but that looks different for everyone and every experience is going to be unique based on well based on the situation and focusing energy on trying to control it or make it a certain way is not something I am going to spend anymore of my time on. I am going into this birth prepared for nothing and everything. Knowing it might be super fast or take days and prepared to listen to my body and my baby and be open to whatever needs to happen. I remember talking to an acquaintance about birth and I said basically my biggest fear was of having a Cesarean section and she looked at me and said “oh I had one and it was no big deal".” And in that moment I felt like a total jerk for saying her birth experience that she liked was my biggest fear, and also challenged to change my fear towards birth and the many many ways we give birth.
This is not to say that I don’t still have fears going into birth but for me personally pretending a birth plan is going to let me control the situation or prevent an outcome I am afraid of was actually hurting my ability to give in to the process of birth and see the beauty in the experience. NO two births will ever look the same… I feel like I need to repeat that… no two births will ever look the same. I have no idea how this third birth will go but I do know I am going to look for little beautiful moments in it. I can’t control when my labor starts, how my body progresses, or how the baby responds to labor but I can look for beautiful moments in it and be present in the process and not feel shame if the way I give birth isn’t to the plan in my head.
So all this to say I don’t have a birth plan, I don’t think one way of giving birth is necessarily better than any other, and I don’t think for me putting pressure on myself to have a certain birth does anything but create anxiety and stress to have my body perform a certain way. I think birth is hard, and intense, and a journey that is so different for everyone and yes can include a lot of fear and trauma and things we wish we could change but I know for me personally going into this birth with fear from others experiences or my past births isn’t going to help me. All I can do is be there and embrace the process and look for beautiful moments in it and know it will probably be hard and totally different from my first two experiences but that is okay and how I give birth doesn’t have to be something I am afraid of or feel shame about.