“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
It all starts with those 2 magical lines on the pregnancy test revealing the happy news; the dreams and plans for what pregnancy, labor, and motherhood will all be like. You begin to register for your baby shower while figuring out whether you do or do not want delayed cord clamping on your birth plan. It will all go perfectly, right?
Although I do personally believe in birth plans as a way to help you prepare for your birth by knowing your options, I think it’s also important to realize birth plans are just that: a plan, not a guarantee of what actually happens. And dealing with what actually goes down at your birth may be harder than the actual birth itself. If you find yourself in the scenario where your “best laid plans” fell apart, either in small or big ways, at your birth, here are five suggestions on ways to cope:
All of these were steps I took to heal. I gave myself permission to grieve, I began to let go of the “what if’s” and the guilt, and I pursued doula work to try to help other women have happier births, whether or not their birth plan went according to plan. Motherhood is such a blessing but it can be so challenging too. And starting off motherhood with the feeling of failure because your birth plan fell apart is an awful feeling. Find ways to grieve and heal that work for you so you can move past the disappointment and be ready to face all the blessings and challenges motherhood has in store for you.
My first four kids were all born vaginally. I never even allowed consideration for a cesarean. When my OB with my fourth suggested planning for a cesarean with him because, and I quote, “women often have c-sections with their fourth,” I scoffed. Not me. No way. There wasn’t even a section on my birth plans that discussed what I would want in the case of a cesarean. It was beyond my ability to even allow the possibility.
Then I got pregnant with my fifth child. At 32 weeks I mentioned to my friend that she felt like she was kicking her way out of my cervix, to which she replied that sounded like she was breech. What? Breech?! I don’t know why I hadn’t even connected the dots that feet at my cervix and head at my ribs were not where my baby should be!
I began to do everything I could to help convince her she wanted to be head down: every form of an inversion I heard of (legs up the wall, laying head down on my back on a leaning ironing board, on shoulders and knees with my butt in the air…), moxibustion, hot/cold packs, music and flashlights at the bottom of my belly, meditation, gentle affirmations to my baby that she could flip herself… The only thing that I didn’t do (that I regret not doing) was going to a chiropractor.
At 36 weeks, my OB looked me straight in the face with the most frank, non-compassionate voice ever and said, “We’ll just do a c-section then.” I walked to my car and broke down in tears. I did not want a cesarean. I was heartbroken. I had all these dreams of how I would bring my last child into this world and a cesarean was nowhere in them.
At 38 weeks after a failed external version, they scheduled me for a cesarean the next week. I am at least grateful I had time to plan for it, physically and emotionally. I talked to friends with cesareans and asked about their experiences and what I should ask for at mine. I went to my new OB (yes, I switched OBs at 37 weeks because if I had to have a cesarean, I wanted a caring OB who understood I was not happy about it) and talked about options. I asked for:
When the big day came, I was so full of mixed emotions: excited to meet my baby, scared of having surgery. I was blessed with a very sweet anesthesiologist who held my hand as they set everything up and waited for my husband to come in. I was grateful for the things I had asked for and were able to have, but, looking back, there are other things I wish I had known to ask for but was too in the moment on that day to think to ask for them.
These are the 5 things I wish I had asked for before my cesarean:
So for all you expecting moms out there, whether planning or not planning a cesarean, I encourage you to think about what you would want in that scenario, just in case. Find out your hospital and OB’s policies on cesareans. Ask for anything and everything you may think you want and see where they stand. Switch care providers if you don’t feel you will be getting the right environment for your birth. Most of all, know what your options are so you can know what to ask for. I hope my 5 suggestions may be of some help. And I hope most of all, that whether you have a cesarean or not, you’ll be prepared, feel empowered, and feel connected with your birth experience because no matter how your baby enters this world, you birthed that baby. You did it!
Birth Boot Camp Certified Doula (BBCD)