Giving birth is going to be rough. The anticipation of labor and delivery is already difficult. For us, birth is our point of loss. Concern while the baby was crowning, a quick episiotomy, and an unexpectedly silent baby on my chest were the first moments we knew something was wrong. Facing the end of birth again and hoping for a better outcome feels like a ridiculously hard task.
I started out in denial about having to face any aspect of labor and delivery again. When there was a birth scene on TV, I’d quickly change the channel or leave the room. When providers mentioned birth in the first half of my pregnancy, I’d nod along blankly or ask if we could revisit the topic later on. I wasn’t ready to think about it.
For me, it changed somewhere around the 24-week mark. There was a tiny human in my belly who was thankfully still growing and would need to make her exit at some point. So I started engaging more in how we were going to get her here safely. It was time to begin preparation for the task ahead.
First, I wanted a few different medical opinions on the best plan given our history. The consensus seemed to be delivery between 37 and 39 weeks with the option of a cesarean for mental health reasons. I felt comfortable with those general guidelines, but I needed details. What does induction really look like? What’s the difference between an induction at 37 weeks versus 39 weeks? What’s best for my baby? What’s best for me? Are you sure there’s not a medical reason for me to have a c-section? Are you sure my pelvis isn’t too small?
Clearly, some of these questions are super rational, and some are in the “Please humor me and give me a professional opinion despite it sounding ridiculous” category. Regardless, information was what I needed and once I got it we made a plan. We would induce at a date within the recommended range that will hopefully give baby a great chance of being ready and me a good chance of having a vaginal delivery. The medical plan is in place and it feels like the right choice.
But what about the emotional birth plan?
There are no research based best practices for getting my husband and myself through this birth emotionally. I really wish there were. In the absence of best practices, I started thinking through a PAL birth plan to help us feel some power over the process.
Healthy baby, healthy mama, and anything necessary to achieve those goals are the priority. That’s where my birth plan starts and if a complication comes up, that’s where my birth plan ends. Period.
If baby and I are healthy, I also have a few other preferences heading into birth. I’d like to feel in control and I’d like to feel as much confidence in my ability to birth a living baby as I’m able to feel. For me, an epidural will add to my anxiety as it may make me question my physical ability to push. If baby and I are able to manage the pain of labor, I’d like to avoid an epidural in the same way I did with Arthur.
At first I felt guilty about having preferences about how I give birth.
Isn’t a healthy baby enough? Am I being greedy by asking for more than that? I spent time thinking about it and questioning whether I really had strong feelings about getting an epidural. After some reflection, it turns out that I do have strong feelings and I think that’s OK.
Nobody needs to remind me that birth can be complicated, unpredictable, and tragic, but putting together a best case scenario birth plan is a hopeful action.
Maybe my daughter’s birth won’t be complicated, unpredictable, or tragic. Not only is it possible that she will get here safely, but maybe the way in which she arrives will feel empowering in comparison to the trauma we’ve experienced. Maybe her birth will feel healing.
I don’t think you’ll find me complaining about any aspect of birth after the fact as long as it involves a red-faced, crying infant. But letting myself hope for a positive, empowering experience has been a good thing for my mental health as we get closer to the big day.