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They tell you to have a birth plan. The books, the doctors, whatever labor & delivery class you wind up at. Some of them might include the disclaimer that birth plans sometimes need to be adjusted. Most of them won’t. If you start reading the mommy boards on Facebook, or some of the pregnancy support boards, you might even read to actually write out your labor plan and hand it out to everyone who will be in the room. It’s important to have a labor plan, important to make sure everyone knows it and is on board. So, what happens when you have to throw out your birth plan? What happens if you didn’t even get to the writing a plan stage? I believe, if you are in the throws of early labor, it’s better to not have a birth plan. Here’s why, and my own birth plan-less story.
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I went into early labor at 22 weeks pregnant. Luckily, my body stopped itself, and I wound up in the hospital on bed rest for several weeks. (This is the short story. For the full story read The day my healthy pregnancy turned into hospital bed rest.) I had time between going into labor the first time and going into labor the day my daughter came. During that time, I tried not to think about labor. My focus was on getting through each day, without going into labor. So, while I had previously come up with some idea of what I wanted for labor, I didn’t write out a full birth plan. This was also easier for me because I basically just wanted a repeat of my first experience giving birth.
So, my basic plan was this: Labor in the tub (off the table because of early labor), no epidural- hopefully natural, but if needed the IV meds would be ok. More than anything, vaginal birth. No c-section. C-Sections scare the life out of me. I have friends who have had several and survived, I was born via c-section and my mom survived. However, for whatever reason, deathly afraid of c-sections over here. No thoughts of “if they can do it, I can do it”, which is how I got through my first labor. Just, “no way, I can’t do it”. To be honest, that’s kind of why I chose no epidural for both of my birth plans too. I mean, it’s a big needle in the back. I’m sorry, I mean spine. No thank you.
So that was my basic birth plan, and as you can see it was mostly based on fear. The tub part was because I love baths, and it really helped first time around.
I had made it through three weeks and three days in the hospital. This included four episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, four Raider’s games, daylight savings time ending, Election Day (luckily I voted early!), veteran’s day, several online sales (I sell LuLaRoe, so I was able to work while cooped up.), a ton of Friends reruns, Black Friday (I work in retail, so it’s an important day), and Thanksgiving. It was not easy being stuck in the hospital through all of that, but it was necessary. Our hope was for me to be there several weeks more.
On the Saturday night after Thanksgving, I started having pains in my back. It wasn’t a throbbing pain, but it was getting stronger. I called my nurse in and after hooking me up to the monitors, she decided to send me to labor & delivery. She didn’t see regular contractions, but there was some activity. Better to be safe than sorry, so off I went.
They gave me magnesium, which has been shown to sometimes prevent brain damage in very pre-term babies. I was strapped to monitors, a catheter inserted (after a fainting episode in the bathroom) and told I couldn’t eat or drink for 12 hours. Hopefully no contractions would clearly show. They had a strict “don’t check the cervix unless certain” rule for me, because they didn’t want to introduce any bacteria into the amniotic sac.
Fifteen hours, hardly any sleep, and some cold hospital food later, I was wheeled back to my room. I had not gone into labor. I did get the catheter taken out, which was a huge relief. Then spent the day sleeping, resting, eating and trying to convince myself I could and would get through another month.
But really this time.
That night, I was watching t.v., and sure enough my back pains were back. This time with a vengeance. This time I was pretty much certain, although was trying to convince myself otherwise. I let the pains get worse for over an hour before I accepted this is probably something I should call the nurse about. I really didn’t want to go through the events of the previous night if it was another false alarm.
Sure enough, we could see clear contractions on the monitor. Again I was wheeled over to L&D. Called my husband when I got there with the news, “this time it’s for real, please come now.”
The contractions were still pretty far apart by the time he got there. The doctor had already checked me and confirmed I was dilating further than I had been. Now it was time to just wait for contractions to get closer and stronger.
I was 25 weeks and 5 days pregnant.
When it’s better to not have a birth plan.
Having a birth plan can be great, to help you feel more prepared and to calm the nerves before your full-term, uncomplicated birth. That’s what I had the first time, and knowing what I wanted (even if it was based in fear) was wonderful and empowering. As empowered as you can be before walking in to something that no one can really explain. (Go ahead, ask someone how to tell the difference between strong Braxton Hicks and actual labor pains…. the answer? “You just know.” Cool, thanks.)
Having a birth plan when you are trying to come to terms with preterm labor, when you are scared and unsure of everything, can be paralyzing. You cannot predict or plan a single thing when it comes to preterm labor, because the labor itself is unpredicted. Full term labor? You know about when it’s happening. Preterm labor? Unexpected, always. Even when you’ve been in the hospital for three weeks.
So going in with a written out plan, probably isn’t going to work. When you are scared and being asked to let go of the thing that was supposed to help calm you, it can truly disorient you. It can also cause added anxiety. I have read some people say it was even traumatic.
I did not go in with a piece of paper full of specific plans. My husband and I hadn’t even talked through what our plan was, although we were pretty much on the same page; a repeat of last time, please.
What we got instead was a strong suggestion to get an epidural. I didn’t have to, but if something were to come up that I needed to be rushed to surgery, it was better to have it. So, I asked questions. I pretended to think over the answers, while I was actually just trying to calm myself and talk myself into it. Then I did what I knew was best, I listened to the doctors. I also listened to my business guru, Brenda Ster (over at Sassy Suite) talking in my head telling me to “do it, scared.” so, I did.
My husband went white while watching me get the epidural, but it really wasn’t so bad from my side. I was terrified to move though, because what if it dislodges or moves and paralyzed me? (None of that is medically accurate, I have no idea if that can actually happen.)
Just in case.
The epidural was just in case, but of course I would be fine. I would continue laboring and Alice would come and someone would bring me coffee and sunflowers. Maybe a rainbow would show up in the delivery room. It was going to be easy because she was tiny. Not like that 9lb 2oz giant I birthed last time.
Then the doctor came in and did an exam. Then the doctor left.
Just a little while later, two doctors came in. They were switching shifts. (My ob/gyn is a group practice.) Also, they just wanted to let me know, it was pretty imperative that I get down for a c-section.
All of the sudden my happy, easy, rainbow labor was an emergency situation. My body had pretty much stopped laboring, but Alice was already on her way out. At any moment my cervix could close around her neck which would then be dangerous for both of us.
Remember that time I told you I was deathly afraid of a c-section? Now they were telling me it was my best option. For me and the baby. So, I did the questions and the thinking (calming/convincing) thing again. Only this time it was cut short by “we really need to get you down to an OR.” That’s when it hit me, this is an actual emergency. So…. ok. What else do you say at that point besides, “ok, yes.” ?
So, about that birth plan.
I had a “birth idea” and it was destroyed. I was able to handle it through a few alterations in thought, and mental pushes. Had I walked in with a thoroughly researched, thought out, written down plan of action, I very well could have come out traumatized. As it was, I had a hard time coming to terms with everything. Having a baby 14 weeks early is not an easy thing to get through.
So, while I agree that creating a birth plan is well worth it, especially in the later months, there is something to be said for keeping that plan as fluid ideas. You cannot predict how labor will go. You can hope, you can visualize, you can focus on manifesting, you can pray, but you cannot be sure.
So, my suggestion to people on bed rest, people with high risk pregnancies, people who aren’t yet in month 8 (the trying to talk yourself out of being scared of labor stage), is to have a plan. A fluid plan. A plan that you have discussed with your partner and your doctor, but one that is not rigid and unmoving. Be ready to adjust. Feel confident in your doctors, and follow their advice if they say it’s for the best. In my experience, good doctors don’t press you to do something unless they really believe its necessary. Since they went to school for this, and i went to google, I’m usually on board with their recommendations.
Overall, be ready for changes.
Did you have a birth plan? Did you chose not to? Were you able to follow it, or did you have to change things up? How did it go? I would love to hear your stories in the comments!
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