I love hearing about people’s birth plans/stories.
It’s not just something I have liked since being pregnant, though admittedly my interest has increased with a date looming over my head when I too will go through The Event. I am just fascinated by the crazy ways that tiny humans come into the world and the myriad and diverse opinions that women have over the right and best way to round out a pregnancy.
Because if you want pregnant women to get really opinionated, you should ask them about about their birth plans. (Or, you know, their favorite item on the McDonald’s breakfast menu, but that’s another post for another time. #mcgriddleforever)
There are people who are practically professional at being pregnant. They know stats, they read books, they have researched birth in every detail, and they are the most fascinating ever. I like to be around those people, since I read one book, attended one class, watched some Call the Midwife, and then frantically popped in a DVD of breathing techniques someone sent me the other night when friends were over who were a day past their own due date and we realized that none of us had ANY CLUE about how you were supposed to do that pregnant breathing thing. I like to be around the pro-preggos, because they drop little bits of knowledge that I glean like a ravenous little chipmunk, tucking into my chubby cheeks.
Recently I thought that maybe I should make a “birth plan,” you know, like think through some things I want for this birth, beyond the detailed perusal I performed of the hospital cafeteria on my last visit. Of course, the very idea of a birth plan is the most ridiculous of modern luxuries, as pregnancy and childbirth were intimately tied to a good chance that you and/or your offspring might die until relatively recently, and your options were limited. Did Ma Ingalls have a birth plan beyond “tell Pa to put down that darn fiddle and go fetch a woman to help?” Probably not.
But now! Now we have options and decisions and OH SO MANY very loudly voiced opinions. There are those who believe that natural birth, either in the luxury of a birthing center or your home is the ONLY way to go, and they will detail for you the multitudes of injustices that doctors will inflict on you in those vile hospitals, ripping a babe from your entrails to rush out on their shift. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who condemn the crunchy crowd as backward and ignorant, longing to be hooked up to machines and coddled through the process. Both sides have an arsenal of anecdotal horror stories to strengthen this argument, and I know because I have fallen prey to it too- even if I am not a pro-preggo. Battle lines are drawn and fought over birth plans.
And then of course, there are the babies, all those unborn bundles of joy, that really give zero cares about any birth plan that might be carefully typed up and discussed in advance, ready to roll in and ruin all the best laid preparations. I have had friends who planned on medicating themselves into oblivion, only to have rapid advancing labor that forced them to go naturally, and friends who wanted to be as granola as possible and eventually had to have c-sections.
Yet all these unplanned plans ended in babies.
There is something that really bothers me about the modern birthing process. I will get on Facebook or wherever and see that someone has had a baby (YAY!) and a caption will detail how this woman was a STRONG AND MIGHTY CHAMPION because she did the whole thing with no medication, laboring in full awareness of her pain for days on end before having a child.
There is nothing wrong with that.
But there is also nothing wrong with the mother who chose something different, or who didn’t have the freedom to make the choice. These women are not one bit less “strong” than the woman who chose a more painful route. I can promise you that all women probably made the choice that they thought best for their baby, and isn’t that what makes someone a strong mother? I have watched women feel like failures when they find they have to deviate from their birth plans, and that is ridiculous. When did we develop such a sense of entitlement about our right to choose our “birth experience” that we started subtly shaming others who welcome children differently? When did we start ranking the strength of women who come out with the same end goal?
So let me just set the record straight.
To the mother who labored for 3 days in her living room before having a completely unmedicated birth in a tub- you are a champion.
To the mother who induced and promptly had an epidural inserted – you are a champion.
To the mother who walked into a C-section and had doctors remove a baby from her body without pushing once – you are a champion.
To the mother who spent years waiting and sending paperwork and writing checks before holding a baby in her arms whom she never held in her womb – you are a champion.
To the mother who fosters, who loves children that still ask when they get to go back to their “real” mom – you are a champion.
To the woman who shows up at baby showers with a lump in her throat, wishing that she was sitting there and opening tiny onesies and swaddle blankets, who takes meals to new moms and listens to friends gush about feeling those first kicks – you are a champion.
Because I’m pretty sure that the impressive part about being a mother doesn’t come from how your children enter the world, but what you do afterwards. Strong mothering is a lifetime thing, one that can’t be ranked or planned.
So here it is, my 3 step birth plan:
- Ignore the fear that people like to thrust on you before birth. Reject any attempt at birth shaming because babies can come into this world by all sorts of ways and they can all be awesome.
- Have a baby. Do what needs to be done, taking to heart the advice of talented and capable people around me.Hold loosely to what I want in the interest of what I might need.
- Find a way to acquire a McDonalds breakfast sandwich as soon after delivering as humanly possible.
Yes, I paid attention in the one class we did, and yes, I have thought about some ideal scenarios. There is absolutely nothing wrong with researching and preparing, especially if you want a non-hospital birth that involves setting up logistics. But having a baby is about giving up the ability to live in a world of best-laid plans and ideal scenarios. Might as well start early with an open mind and humble heart, ready to greet our baby however he decides on entering this world.