Let me preface everything by stating that I feel like I had a stellar birth experience. I seriously *heart* everyone in the labor & delivery ward at my hospital. Most things went according to plan. Healthy boy? Check. Powering through without the epidural? Check.
However, I kind of laugh at all the prep-work and visualizing I put into crafting my ideal birth plan. I kind of pictured my attempt at a “natural” childbirth to be punctuated with the added benefit of capturing me in the height of my natural beauty. Not so much.
Let’s just dive right in with some visuals. I arrived, and was immediately too cold. I asked for an extra gown and put on my fuzzy no-slip socks. Instead of a cute final grand display of my baby bump, I was just the cutest little tent:
I had no intention of dolling-up to go to the hospital. I did, however, buy a cute headband to at least keep my hair in place and reduce the inevitable disheveled look during delivery:
My hospital fashion sense was a lesser point in my grand birth plan. But allow me to walk you through some of the points that I specifically wrote in the birth plan that was handed out to my attending nurses and doctor:
“I would like to bring my own music.”
I had the Pandora station all queued up. It was going to be ambient yoga music. I was going to transport myself back to my prenatal yoga class where I had first tricked myself into thinking natural childbirth would be super easy. As contractions slowly intensified, I barely spoke and eventually coaxed the room into complete silence like a Buddhist monastery. I completely forgot about music. It was so boring. My husband even told me so, and he would know because I specifically stated:
“I’d like my partner to be allowed to stay with me at all times.”
I assure you, my husband only stated how bored he was after an appropriate amount of time when we could truly reflect back on the whole birth experience. I think I initially envisioned him being my coach–fawning over me with great support, adoration, massages, etc. But once it became clear that silence and deep meditation would be my coping mechanisms, it was hard for anyone else to be involved in the process. Hindsight being 20/20, I’ll make sure to write “ample coffee breaks and entertainment for husband” in the next birth plan.
“I’d like to eat lightly if I feel like I need to (mostly popsicles)”
Many blog posts about childbirth found on Pinterest stress making sure your doctor will allow you to eat while in labor and to get a new one if not. Ha! I’m so glad I hadn’t eaten anything, because when I entered the transitional phase of labor, I threw up. After that, I could barely take more than a sip of water at a time. Man, I even prepared a recipe for “Labor-Aide” that I found on Pinterest. For those who are curious, labor-aide is basically homemade Gatorade except it’s somehow better because it was made by my loving soon-to-be-mom hands. Next time I’ll just buy the damn Gatorade. Oh, and the popsicles! I packed those because it was one of those clever alternative Pinterest-y things to pack in your hospital bag. I let my husband eat them instead. He was happy to eat them, so that’s probably a win.
“I’d like to walk and move around as I please”
This was actually a good idea. It was too bad that I severely underestimated the amount of time I would spend in labor, so the walking around, trying different laboring techniques only lasted a couple of hours, tops. I became extremely exhausted. Once they put me in bed to check my vitals, I transitioned and could no longer muster the energy to get up on my feet.
“Please don’t offer me pain medication or epidural unless I request it”
I think about this point a lot. When I was already about 8 centimeters, I was feeling beyond exhausted and afraid of running out of energy to push. I asked my doctor if she thought I could get an epidural just so I could rest. She looked at me and said, “Claire, you’ve really prepped for this and if anyone can do it, I think you can.” At the time, it gave me the boost I needed. Looking back, however, I think it’s more likely that she was BS-ing me because I was already past the point of no return. Luckily the main event wasn’t too far off.
“I would like to try squatting or a hands & knees position for pushing”
Easier said than done. Squatting seemed like such an easy answer to my labor and delivery concerns. It was supposed to provide baby with a quick exit and help prevent tearing on my end. I needed a lot of help getting there, but it ended up only being helpful during labor. It was the position where my water broke (I thought I had peed), and with a little more time in that position, the nurse noticed the tint of meconium (which made it even more important that the baby and I remain closely monitored). In the end, there was no way I had the strength to remain in that position and push a baby out. I did end up tearing in three different spots, so I wonder if it’s worth another gallant try for the next baby.
“I will be vocal about feeling the urge to push”
Once it was showtime, boy was I vocal. “I just wanna push,” I said at 9 centimeters. Shortly afterwards I pushed for two hours. I yelled, screamed, tried to coax the baby out by literally saying out loud, “Come on, come on, come on, please please please!!!” I think everyone in the ward heard me.
“I’d like to AVOID an episiotomy”
Thankfully, I did avoid one, but that almost wasn’t the case. My son barely budged for almost two hours. Everyone in the room was so good about lying to keep me motivated (I’ll ask them to please do the same with the next baby). They kept saying, “Almost! You’re so close, just another big push!” Unbeknownst to me, the doctors were getting the forceps ready, which also meant they might have to cut into me to use them. I felt like giving-up was on the horizon, so I gave it one more try with all I had left and it worked. He was out! Whew! Done.
This is just the nitty gritty of my personal experience. I began with some good ideas, and ended with some that just did not work for me. Natural childbirth wasn’t graceful or pretty. It was rough and there was no professional photographer to capture that I felt more like a victorious warrior woman. In the end, as a stereotypical veteran of childbirth, I’d say all that matters is that baby and I were healthy and safe.