I had very little knowledge about the ins and outs of pregnancy when I became pregnant with my first child. I started to read the “What To Expect” books as soon as I got a positive test, and I remember stopping when I got to the section on creating a birth plan. Even though I’d never had a baby, I knew that having a rigid, detailed birth plan was unrealistic – there are far too many variables for a birth to go exactly the way anyone wants. Still, I saw the merits to stating in advance some of the things one did or did not want (drugs, people in the room, labor positions, etc), and I planned to make my preferences known. When I was placed on hospital bed rest, I started to joke that my birth plan was “Whatever you say, doctor.” My situation was pretty dire (my water broke at 19 weeks), and I only wanted a healthy baby. I didn’t care one bit about how that was achieved.
My first delivery was about as far from the ideal birth experience as you can get. I had an emergency c-section in my 28th week because I started passing huge clots of blood. I saw my daughter for literally two seconds before she was whisked to the NICU, and then rushed via ambulance to another hospital. I checked myself out of the hospital against medical advice so I could be by her side. Not once during the 68 days she was in the NICU, or in seventeen months she was alive, or in the four plus years since she died, did I ever think, “Man, I was really cheated out of the birth experience.”
I’ve since given birth two more times, also by c-section, and I’ve never felt like I didn’t have a true birth experience. My babies grew in my body, and they came out of my body. They may have all come out the emergency exit, but that doesn’t make what I went through to birth them any less valid. I am proud of what I accomplished, and while I obviously wish I could have carried my oldest daughter longer, I kept her in for nine weeks longer than everyone said I could.
I expected to give birth vaginally, but when I needed that emergency c-section to save my baby (and myself) I dropped that expectation and moved on to the new plan. And when I was told that the emergency c-section would prevent me from ever giving birth vaginally, I shrugged my shoulders and moved on to the new plan. And when I found out that my health conditions meant I would need a lot of medical intervention when pregnant, I said, “Alright!” and moved on to the new plan. For me, pregnancy had one goal only: having a healthy baby. I wasn’t doing it for the experience. I was doing it to bring my babies into the world.
On some of the pregnancy boards I frequent, I see post after post from women who are despondent over their demolished birth plans. I admit that my perspective is shaded by miscarriage and the death of my daughter, but I just don’t understand being depressed over something that resulted in a healthy baby (I completely understand being upset over botched deliveries, injuries, and unnecessary complications). I ask this genuinely: why do some women get so upset when their birth doesn’t go “according to plan?”