Has your doctor handed you a piece of paper yet called a “ Birth Plan?” Did this piece of paper by any chance send warm and fuzzies down your body about the possibility for a perfect birth? Do you believe in a perfect birth? If you’re not sure, here’s a clue…Do you sometimes catch yourself thinking:
“I know other women have tough labors, but that won’t be me!”
Ladies, ladies, ladies…stop! The doctor hopefully picked up on your glazed over eyes and dreamy expression, and sternly reminded you that a Birth Plan is only theoretical, and that the actual birth can turn out quite differently than expected.
If you nodded politely as if you understood, but secretly you poo-pooed the doctor’s words, as your eager little hands made their way to the golden piece of paper---
--then watch out, Mama! You are being hypnotized by the fantasy birth this little piece of paper presents!!
Beware of the mental power the Birth Plan has over you! You need to know that labor is simply way too unpredictable to even begin dreaming up a solid “plan.” By filling out that little piece of paper, you are simply setting yourself up for almost certain disappointment!
What exactly is a Birth Plan, anyway?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, a Birth Plan is “a simple, clear, one-page statement of your preferences for the birth of your child.”This means considering a whole range of things for your birth, for example:
- -who you want by your side.
- -what positions you’d like to use in labor.
- -whether you’d like to use a bath or shower for relaxation.
- -what you’d like to do for pain relief.
And so on. The thing to remember is that the Birth Plan is just that…a “plan”, and we know what Murphy’s Law does with those things!
Your birth really might not turn out exactly as you hoped, for medical reasons or an iota of other reasons. So Mama, try not to cling to the “perfect birth.” Take it from me, it doesn’t exist. All that matters is that everything ends with you and your baby being safe and healthy!
Go ahead and fill out a Birth Plan if you wish. But just to keep you dreamers grounded, let’s look at:
8 Things That Women Dream Up For Their Birth Plan That Can Go Pear Shaped During Actual Labor:
8 I Don’t Want Any Pain Intervention During Labor
Let’s face it, labor pain stories are legendary, and that’s why it scares the crap out of us (literally—I mean, many of us do poop on the table, ladies).
We feel somewhat reassured in the knowledge that we have options today to cope with the pain—everything from an epidural, to laughing gas, to actual drugs!-- but at the same time, we cling to the fact that women have been having babies for millennia, since the cave mamas before us, who had zero pain management . So we think, “I should be able to do it too!”
Our decision on pain management is further confused by the varying stories from our friends and family members. We’ve all heard the extremes, ranging from stories that feel like urban legends…you know the one, where the girl never even knew she was pregnant, then one day she felt like she needed to do a poop, and out came the baby-- practically into the toilet!
Then there’s the opposite end of the pain spectrum, where there’s always a story from a friend or maybe a great Aunt who was in agonizing pain for 36—hell, maybe it was even 48 hours--because she had no choice but to do it naturally, and by God, the pain almost killed her!! ( BTW, is that supposed to be encouraging, Auntie Em??).
The fact is, medical researchers have shown that:
-The pain in labor that every woman experiences is very individual.
In other words you really might have one Mama calmly filing her nails during the entire experience, until the baby seems to just fall out into the doctors hands (for the record, I hate that b****!).
And in the next room you’ll have the Mama who’s in so much agony that she’s screaming, contorting, and bed shaking to a degree that makes the docs and nurses feel like they’re in a scene out of the Exorcist.
Just What is All That Damn Pain About, Anyway?
While you’re not sure now just how much you’ll be white knuckling it through each contraction, it can be helpful to remember what all of that pain is about. Don’t worry about where you fall on the pain spectrum, because it all amounts to the same thing--your wonderful body is working its butt off to successfully deliver your new baby!
Your uterus is a muscular organ, and with every contraction, it is squeezing like Arnold Schwarzenegger pumping iron to get that beautiful little baby of yours pushed out into the world!
All that squeezing is hard work, and also the primary cause of birth pain—just picture Arnie’s contorted face when he’s pumping iron-- eyes tightly shut, veins bulging out in the face and neck, teeth clenched in agony—yep, that’s the same look on the face of a birthing Mama! So you should feel proud to know that when you’re having a baby, your body turns you into the Terminator!!
“Hasta la Vista, Baby!” he says to pain!
Excuse Me, Baby…You’re Sitting on My Tailbone!
There are other factors that can contribute to your pain experience as well. And whether or not you fill out a Birth Plan, most of these are out of your control. For example:
- -The position of your baby within your pelvis.
The position of the baby can definitely increase discomfort for some women in labor. A baby whose back is positioned along the Mama’s back, for example, can cause added pressure and pain to the back and tailbone region. Well, sorry, Birth Plan, we can’t tell where the baby’s gonna’ be kicking it on the day!
- -(Baby can in fact change position like a break-dancer several times between the time that you write the plan and the day of the birth.
- -The size of your baby, and how much pressure that weight is putting on your perineum and tailbone
The bigger your baby gets during pregnancy, the heavier a load your pelvis has to endure. And we sure can’t know how big that little slugger’s gonna’ be several weeks before the event when we’re filling out our Birth Plan.
Baby can gain up to a pound a week in overdue situations…gasp!).
Warning: You might just give birth to Babyzilla!!
With so many things out of your control during labor, it really is best to remain flexible on pain management. After all, as my doc said to me after delivering my second child, which ended in epidural intervention in spite of many futile, agonizing hours trying without: “Now you know…next time, you take the epidural! You wouldn’t get a filling in your tooth without pain medication, would you?!!”
Amen to that!
7 I Don’t Want To Have Pitocin
Pitocin sure has got a roastin’! A lot of expectant mothers have heard bad stuff about Pitocin, because it has been associated with more intense, painful contractions. That’s’ why this request appears on a lot of birth plans.
What exactly is the stuff anyway?
-Pitocin is a medication that mimics our body’s own hormone, oxytocin, which is responsible for getting our contractions going.
-It is sometimes used to induce labor, when you’re either way overdue or there’s a medical problem.
But even if you stated in your Birth Plan that you don’t want to use Pitocin, your doctor might just recommend it for you and your baby’s safety—say when your baby’s two weeks overdue and beginning to resemble a giant hard boiled egg! Talk about scrambling up the birth plan again.
You Could Try Acupuncture To Get Labor going
I personally tried to avoid Pitocin when my third baby was a week overdue and induction was staring me in the eye. I had been induced for the birth of my son, and had found that labor to be very fast and painful—I really didn’t want to go through that again if I could avoid it! So my midwife recommended the use of an acupuncturist. She told me that many women have reported their labors starting within 48 hours of visiting an acupuncturist.
I didn’t know what to expect—but little did I know the lady would try sticking what looked like knitting needles right into my giant baby bump!
“There’s nothing to worry about, the needle only penetrates the skin!” she said.
“You Want To Stick Those Needles Where?!”
Let me tell you, there is nothing more counter-instinctive than allowing someone to poke needles into your nine and a half month pregnant belly. The inner Mama-Bear in me growled “no way!” leaving the poor acupuncturist trying to figure out where else to poke her damn needles. She ended up going for my wrists and ankles. Hell, I didn’t care at that point, feeling proud that I had protected my baby belly! I even took a nap on the jabber’s table while she treated me like a pincushion.
And guess what—those crazy needles just might have worked, ‘cause the next day my labor started!
6 I Want to use Massage, and Relaxation Techniques
Yep. These are real options that can help women through labor! That’s right, it has been proven that along with gentle massage from your birthing partner, and relaxation therapy such as breathing techniques that can be learned in prenatal classes-- some women are able to sail through their contractions and deliver their little babes all natural. If you’re one of the lucky ones, these tried and tested techniques really can help to ease the discomfort of labor.
For the rest of us, these options are nothing but a serious distraction and a pain in the ass! Seriously, massage? During the most painful parts of labor, my husband could barely utter a single word to me without being savagely snapped at, let alone get his hands on me! I’m sure he instinctively knew that touching me at these points might lead to dismemberment.
Some prenatal classes will encourage you to use meditation and visualization to get you through your pain. But try as I might to “visualize myself holding my baby in my arms,” as they had instructed me to do, or “to picture myself throwing pebbles down by a peaceful beach” somewhere--all I could really visualize was throwing myself out of the window if I had to put up with the pain much longer (really—I did picture that.)
The prenatal classes also focused on specialized breathing techniques, in which you time your breathing according to the length of the contractions to help you mentally focus yourself through each one. This also proved totally futile for me. All the huffing and puffing is supposed to be timed just so, but every time my poor desperate hubby reminded me of this as I lay on the floor in a heap breathing erratically like a wounded water buffalo, he was once again assaulted with my inner “Big Bad Wolf!”
The Warrior Mama
Sure, we all have the annoying friend or acquaintance who thinks she’s some kind of “Warrior Woman” because she was able to birth an 11-pound baby with about 2 hours of labor followed by one or two pushes, thanks to massage and deep breathing. Good for her! But to this girl, anyone who needs pain control beyond a little back rub and a TENS machine is a failure. She will sermonize the importance of birthing naturally, and work as hard as she can to convince you that giving birth any other way is going to minimize your birth experience, might even affect the bond between you and your newborn baby. She will try to put you down for even considering pain management. She will cause you to have anxiety.
“I was a beast in my labor!”
(Trust me…she’s just a beast)
Ladies, I’d like to personally smack this girl for messing with expectant mother’s heads! Remember again, that everyone’s body is totally individual, and that includes the nerves and the way the body experiences pain and how the body will respond and react to labor.
So don’t worry about this Birth Plan item going belly up. If you need more than a backrub and meditation to get you through your labor pains, then guess what--you’re just being human. Your birth experience will be just as sweet as self-proclaimed “Warrior Woman” once you’re holding your beautiful new baby in your arms! Plus, her baby’s ugly (kidding!).
5 I Want to Use the Bathtub or Shower
Using a bathtub or shower has actually proven to soothe and calm some women in the midst of labor contractions. Hot and cold packs can also be quite soothing when correctly applied to the sight of all those intensely tightening muscles. Again, who are these women, and why wasn’t I one of them???!!
Sadly for me, trying the bathtub ended up being one of the single grossest things I’ve ever experienced in my life. I was in a ton of pain, but my cervix wasn’t dilated enough to request the epidural. The nurse suggested I try a nice soothing hot bath to help relax me. I would have walked across hot coals at that point if she told me that would have helped! A bath sure sounded unlikely to help with my pain, but I was desperate for anything to work.
Well, possibly a minute after entering the tub, I vomited in the water. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even remove myself quickly. There I was, stewing in the barfy bath water, quite literally. It was all I could do to get myself out of the tub, with my poor traumatized hubby’s assistance, to climb into the shower to attempt to clean off my body. And standing upright in the shower in the throes of full contractions? Let’s just stay I didn’t stay in long enough to feel adequately cleansed. I spent the rest of my labor feeling like I smelled of barf. Nice.
-So try as you might to order this one up on your Birth Plan, be prepared to be stewed --and screwed-- all at once! Eeeewww.
4 I Want My Own Clothing During Labor
Of course no one really wants to experience the indignity of one of those dreaded backless hospital gowns. I just don’t get it. In this day in age, can they really not design something that is less humiliating for patients?
Nothing can make you feel more like a piece of cattle than walking around in a hospital in one of these numbers. And that’s precisely how hospital gowns make you feel; like a number. They strip you of any dignity you could possibly have in one fell swoop. If you’ve ever tried tying one of these suckers up to cover your butt, you know that it’s almost impossible to do it successfully.
Now try tying it up with your giant baby bump stretching the material to its limits…it ain’t happening!
To make matters worse, the nurses might make you walk up and down the very public hospital corridors to help push the labor along, all the while with your butt threatening to burst out from behind the hideous curtain they call a gown (often pukey green or a homely, washed out baby blue). I saw more than one Mama who didn’t even bother trying to hide their butts anymore! (Hats off to you, Babes,or should I say, “gowns off to you”!)
Add to this your bare legs (almost certainly unshaven), and your swollen ankles and puffy feet planted in the Crocs you’ve maybe chosen as your labor footwear…and you have left yourself with about as much dignity as a cow being marched into the slaughterhouse.
So again, having your own night gown kind of makes sense to me. Some researchers even say that having anything personal with you that can remind you of home can help you through the labor experience- that includes your own clothing. No wonder some ladies choose home births!
Just remember that at sometime during the labor, you’re probably going to get your garment covered in amniotic fluid and a general bloody mess past the point of recovery. When it comes time to throw that piece of clothing into the garbage, wouldn’t you rather pitch the hideous, dreaded hospital gown than your own nightgown?
Or perhaps it won’t matter anyway if you’re like a friend of mine who found clothing all too encumbering in birth. Somehow during her labor she felt the need to frantically strip herself down to her bare booty, birthing in nothing but that groovy pair of pink Crocs she really did choose for her labor! I wonder if she put that one down on her Birth Plan!
3 I Want to Have My Choice of Music Playing
Many women have reported feeling much calmer during labor while having the music of their choice playing in the background. I guess it’s kind of like seeing Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps with headphones listening to music on his i-pod just before a swim. He’s getting himself psyched up, choosing his fave tunes to get himself into the mental zone to cope with the physical challenge ahead.
I feel in awe of any woman who can psych herself up for labor in this manner, or use music to visualize herself through the panicky, painful moments of labor.
The only music playing during my labor was in my head-- “Another One Bites the Dust,” or perhaps “The End” by Jim Morrison and The Doors. Seriously, I was a bit of a self-pitying sap in all 3 of my labors, and I think music of any kind would have just agitated me. But I do truly take my hat off to those women who can use music as a diversion or inspiration during their labor. These women deserve to have Freddy Mercury belting out “We Are the Champions!”
If music is on your Birth Plan and it can actually help you, more power to you, Mama. But on the other hand, if you suddenly find your choice of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” song switching in your mind to the theme song from “Jaws,” don’t say I didn’t warn you!
2 I Want the Baby’s Father to Assist with Cutting the Cord
Lots of expectant parents might put this one down on their birth plan in the hopes that Dad can have some tangible role to play in the delivery room. The idea is that letting Dad cut the umbilical cord at birth might help him to feel more connected with his newborn baby.
Let’s face it, there’s a point here. There are some lucky men out there who got to coach and support their wives through labor from start to finish, giving them a sense of pride and accomplishment at having played a real role in the birth.
But up to this point, lots of other Dads will be feeling defeated and useless, reeling from hours and hours of distress, possibly even being screamed at and verbally abused by relentless drill sergeants who just hours before had resembled their wives!
Now that he’s watched the final bloody episode of the ordeal play itself out before his very eyes (possibly even the full frontal variety, if the brave fella’ got talked into taking it in from that view!), surely nothing will relieve any trauma he feels more than having the opportunity to snip the wobbly cord that really does look like some surreal giant marbled blue-and- white rubber coil when exposed under the hospital lights. Right? Erm…
-Beware, ‘cause the fainting husband in the delivery room is no myth!
But don’t worry, if your baby’s Daddy is squeamish, you could always consider a more recent, non-traditional trend, which involves hubby not cutting the cord—in fact no one cutting the cord at all! There’s actually a whacky trend out there called “umbilical nonseverance” which involves leaving the cord attached until it drops off naturally.
Say what??! Really. Apparently if the cord is not cut within an hour of birth, it will naturally close off all by itself at the umbilicus (where your belly button ends up). After this, the cord and placenta (still attached) will fall off anywhere between 2 and 10 days later.
Supporters of this idea, also called a lotus birth, say that some super nutrients found in the stem cells of the placenta and umbilical cord can give the baby an even better boost of immunity. If you’re really considering this (you wacky granola muncher!) then just please be sure to discuss everything very carefully with your doctor.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) warns that there is a risk of infection to the placents (which really quickly becomes dead tissue) that can spread to the baby. Apparently the number one concern is keeping the site of the umbilicus well cleansed to prevent infection--And I thought it would be wondering if your child was in for a definite “outie” belly button!
Hey, at least while you’re waiting for the 2 to 10 days for all that extra gear to drop off, you can have lots of fun showing everyone your baby’s very own built in bagpipe!
1 I Want the Baby Put Straight to My Breast After Birth
Studies have shown that breastfeeding the baby immediately after birth is one of the quickest ways to develop the bond between mother and baby. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy newborns "be placed and remain in direct skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately after delivery until the first feeding is accomplished."
I have to speak up here and say that I’m sure all of this is true…but man oh man, is there anything more cruel than trying to get a brand new mother who feels like she’s just single handedly taken on every fighter in the UFC to now try her chops at breastfeeding for the first time?!
Having the nurse awkwardly twist my nipple to get the colostrum flowing and then tug at my boob in an effort to get it into my beautiful new baby’s mouth really did make me feel like a cow being milked.
Still, it is a wondrous thing to experience what us brand new Moms will do for our babies, right from the get go. Because as much as it might feel like adding insult to injury--right after we give birth so many of us really do want to give immediate breastfeeding a try.
So much so, that we will even allow nurses to hold our boob like a baby bottle-- as if it were never even attached to our bodies. Dignity, be damned!
And let me tell you, once that brand new little baby latches on, laying on you, skin to skin, suckling your body’s own milk from your breast for the very first time--you really will suddenly forget everything that came before it, no matter how traumatic it may have been, and no matter how much you veered from your Birth Plan. And that is truly nature’s beautiful miracle!