As I count down the weeks of my second pregnancy, I find myself reflecting on the delivery of my first child. I am an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and even though Obstetrics is not my specialized field, I’ve seen my fair share of women arrive at the hospital with a laminated birth plan neatly tucked in a 3-ring binder only to have the rug pulled out from under them when the plan changes. Therefore, when my doctor inquired about the birth plan for my firstborn, I was determined to remain flexible and keep it simple.
The Birth Plan
Although I didn’t know what to expect from labor, I was confident in my very basic birth plan – to have an epidural and deliver at the hospital. When colleagues and friends would ask about my plan for an epidural, I would throw in the caveat “…if there is time,” never for a second believing there wouldn’t be time. Who doesn’t have time? I was totally unprepared for the whirlwind of a precipitous labor and the FIVE strange men (three firemen and two paramedics) who showed up in my bathroom to deliver our son!
My labor started with what I thought was a stomach bug in the middle of the night. Soon the back pain came and never went, it just climbed in intensity. I tried timing contractions, but they were sporadic and irregular. At one point I called the hospital, asking if I should head in, but the nurse calmly suggested waiting it out at home, since I was only 37 weeks and nothing “regular” was happening. Despite the nurse’s advice, I had a gut feeling that I was experiencing actual labor, so I woke up my husband and told him we should both shower and get ready to leave for the hospital. I never left the shower.
I typically say my labor lasted around 3, maybe 4 hours; it’s still hard for me to calculate the exact time because it crept in slowly and then took a wicked turn when the baby suddenly dropped and was crowning. Very quickly I felt like a runaway train with only one way off…delivery. By the time the first responders arrived, I was fighting a losing battle to keep the baby in as my body forcefully tried to evict him. Two pushes later and I had a squishy little baby staring back at me, leaving both of us to wonder, “What just happened?!”
The Unexpected Emotions
After spending the last two years telling and retelling the story of my firstborn’s birth, I’ve learned to embrace it and can highlight the humor (for example, they tried to hand my son to my husband before they cut the umbilical cord) while downplaying the scary details. It wasn’t always that way however, and it has taken time for me to own the story rather than hide from it.
In my postpartum hormonal haze, I was traumatized and embarrassed about the manner in which my son came into this world. I spent his first days lamenting about how I had failed as a mother right out of the gate because I couldn’t even make it to the hospital. Thankfully, I had a very supportive and understanding husband who showed me there was nothing to hide from and who taught me about my own strength in his telling of our son’s birth story.
The truth is, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had been planning my son’s birth since the lines on the pee stick changed color. I had to learn to let go of my expectations and embrace the crazy way he was born. No matter how basic or elaborate your birth plan is, it is just that – a plan – that is subject to change. When it changes, it’s okay to grieve the loss of the plan you made and eventually embrace the beauty of the birth you had.