Friday, May 20, 2011

The Elusive Ideal Birth

In the comments to yesterday's post, Colleen asked me if I have a birth plan.   Since she is the mother of four and due in July with #5, a birth plan is sort of funny to us because you really can't plan much of anything when it comes to babies.

Unless you are having a scheduled c-section, I guess.  In that case, your plan hopefully includes "go see your anesthesiologist and your surgeon."

Maybe the unexpected nature of childbirth is just God's way of prepping us for the rest of our children's lives.  A mother's motto should be "expect the unexpected."   Well, that and "always pack more diapers than you think you'll need."   (Or maybe that's just my motherly motto? . . .)

I'm not saying that it's foolish to have some kind of idea about what exactly will happen during childbirth;  I am saying that things rarely happen exactly as you think of them.

Just last week, I finally had my pre-registration call with the hospital.  Since I have had three babies there in four years, they were already pretty familiar with my chart.  None of the questions had changed, so I was cruising through on auto-pilot when the nurse asked me, "What is your birth plan?"

Uhhh . . . . come to the hospital and have the baby?  Does that count as a birth plan?

In fact, that's the answer I gave her and she laughed.  She told me that it was a new part of their questionnaire and it needed to be included in my chart.   They wanted to know if I wanted the birthing tub or birthing ball or other accoutrement that they could get ready for me.

But here's the thing:  I really don't know what I'm going to want until I'm there in labor.  I consider each labor a unique set of circumstances and what I wanted for the last baby may not be what I need or want for this baby.

At best, I have a vague idea about how I'd like labor to proceed.  Maybe that sounds dumb, but don't forget what my husband does for a living.  He has seen lots of birth plans blown right out of the water by truly emergency situations.  He has also had to give pep talks to mothers who feel like they've failed because things didn't happen the way they thought.  Feeling like a failure is really no way to spend those fleeting hours and days just after birth.  

I have gone into labor on my own exactly one time, and that was just about 12 years ago.   I have had four induced labors in a row now, with not one of them like the other.   I basically have no idea what to expect, and I don't want to pigeon-hole myself into thinking that this baby will come just like any of his/her siblings.      

My dream labor would not include induction.  Induction is stressful in it's own special way, mostly due to all the immediate intensity.  I'm definitely not saying it's the worst thing to ever happen, it's just not very kind in the timing department.  You go from feeling pretty normal to wanting to hit yourself in the head with a hammer and succumb to sweet oblivion.   Pitocin is hard core and it does not mess around, my friends.

I'd love to start on my due date with contractions 20 minutes apart, gradually growing closer, until my water breaks on its own and then the baby appears with a few pushes.  Doesn't that sound practically idyllic?

This is what has really happened several times in the past:  I leave my due date in the dust.  Since I have the cervix of steel, I go in to the hospital at night for medication to ripen my cervix.  That will usually start some contractions, but my old friend pitocin is always brought in as a reinforcement.  I go from sporadic, mild contractions to killer rib-crushers in less than an hour.  Once my water breaks (or is broken) I have about half an hour before the baby is out.  In Mopsy's case, I had way less than half an hour after my water broke.  I went from 7 to 10 centimeters in 5 minutes.   I was NOT kidding around.

Overall, I'm not unhappy with that scenario.  It's what I know, so there is a certain level of familiarity, and to be honest, I'm most likely looking at another induction.  Of course I worry about all kinds of ridiculous things, but that's also my personality when it's hopped up on hormones.

I have to give all my fears back to God, and pray that He'll give me the grace and strength to handle however this baby decides to come into the world.  It's all I can do in the end. 

So there you go, Colleen.  That is my ideal, convoluted, and absolutely vague birth plan.  As this is most likely my last weekend as a pregnant lady,  I'll be sure to let you know if any of it comes true. 



  1. My dream birth plan always included a really good anesthesiologist, kind nurses, and a healthy baby -- that's it. I don't know if that means I have high or low standards. Hope you have a dream birth!

  2. You're awesome :)

    My ideal birth is basically what happened with my last baby, except I would want oxygen at the end (instead of almost hyperventilating). Maggie's labor story is here:

    if you're interested (or just nosy)!

  3. OK, that "Philip" was really Colleen. He must be signed into his gmail account. Sorry!

  4. Anonymous6:33 PM

    My ideal birth was basically what happened with my little man -- natural and super-super-quick! Progressed throughout the day while doing laundry, watching TV, picking up the Bug, and then going out to dinner! My water didn't break, so we didn't really know how far along I was until I got to the hospital and they said: 9cm, do not pass "go," do not collect any medication, proceed immediately to delivery! Time in the hospital with no needles, tubes, bruises, etc after the birth was virtually a vacation after the looooong and stressful induction with the Bug. I'm hoping for something akin to that feeling for your newest -- you've earned it!


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