At my first prenatal meeting with clients, I ask every pregnant person the same question, “what is your ideal birth”. Most of the time I get very similar answers,
I want an unmedicated birth with low interventions.
I want a vaginal birth, I don’t care if it’s medicated or not.
I want to labor at home and be allowed to be in control of my birth.
“Great! Let’s talk about how you can achieve that goal”, I say next. And we go over how to time your contractions, how to labor at home, what positions to labor in, birth affirmations, and all the fears and hopes and dreams they have at 36 weeks pregnant. And we’ll talk about contingency plans, when their provider would want them to go into labor on their own by, what do they want to do in case of a cesarean, etc… I leave my meetings feeling connected to my clients and armed with a great plan in place for their birth.
But then I get the call at 1am and everything’s changed. Maybe they can’t cope with contractions anymore and want to scrap the unmedicated plan, maybe they are sick of being pregnant and want to schedule an elective induction before their due date, or maybe their blood pressure wasn’t behaving and instead of leaving their appointment and going home, they’re going to the hospital. So. Many. Things. Can. Change. And lately, I have been at many births where things do not go as planned.
24-hour inductions with a baby that won’t descend where we end up back in the OR
Unmedicated births that turn into medicated births
Fast labors that end up with a vacuum-assisted delivery
VBACs that don’t end up that way
My point is, so few of the births I go to actually look exactly like the one-page birth plan I have my clients come up with prenatally. Sometimes I leave them thinking, “gosh we should have stayed at home longer” or “man if only we had tried this position maybe the baby would have come down”, and “ugh I wish I could have kept her from needing that epidural she didn’t want”. In case you were wondering, I take things very personally and internalize everything.
But then I remember, birth is not about me. Being a doula is not a chance for everyone in the room to see how wonderful I am. It is about giving a new family the best possible birth experience and also helping them have a baby.
We put SO much pressure on pregnant people when it comes to how they give birth. Look around a corner and guess what? Someone is there with their opinion on how you should give birth or some advice on what you should do during labor. Now, I’m all for an educated birth plan and empowering families to have their ideal birth, because I believe it matters to the soul. The way you are treated during birth can affect you for the rest of your life, and the things you experience during labor are permanently written on your heart.
But birth is difficult. It is no simple task bringing a new life into the world. It is the most intricate and delicate process in the world. But it makes you so so strong. Because the first lesson of parenthood comes from giving birth. Surrender. Surrender your pride, your judgments, your plans. Use what you know. Use your gifts. Use your gut. But do not put a perfect picture out on the table and refuse to settle for anything that deviates. Because you will be weaker than you expected as a mother, but you will also find an enduring strength. You may not look the way you want, but it is DIFFICULT to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. There is no perfect anymore. There is only you and your baby.
When writing your birth plan, write out your dreams, your hopes, your fears, and your most beautiful affirmations. But then remove the pride. Remove the thought that having this perfect birth is some moral judgment of yourself and the idea that if things don’t look exactly as you plan them then you have somehow failed or will be less of a mother. Remember, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. And in motherhood, there will be thousands of plans that don’t even see the light of day. But because you tried, because you opened this door and subjected yourself to something that is more difficult than anything you’ve experienced so far, you have already succeeded.
Surrender. It’s going to happen anyway.