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When Birth Goes According to Plans (or Not) | Plan Your Best Birth (part 1 of 3)

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mother and newborn baby

A life-altering experience

Childbirth is a defining moment for a woman – the tangible kick-off to your motherhood endeavor. As important as pregnancy is, birth is where the rubber hits the road and it all becomes very, very real.

Many mothers find that beyond the physicality of birth, there is a mental and emotional (and even spiritual) aspect to childbirth that sets the tone for the beginning of your journey as a mom. It’s hard to articulate, but those experiences most profound to us – such as childbirth – change us in ways that aren’t always easy to identify or comprehend.

And just as the experience of childbirth is incredibly important for moms, I personally believe that how a baby is brought into the world also matters for the baby – the physical aspects as well as the surrounding atmosphere (the emotional and spiritual climate).

I would never say there is one way to have a wonderful birth. What’s ideal to one woman might sound terrible to the next. (And of course, there are always the unforeseen medical issues and emergencies that none of us count on.) But with some time and research and thought, you can give yourself and your baby a better chance of having a beautiful birth experience for you both.

An unplanned cesarean birth (c-section)

I’ll be the first to admit that birth doesn’t always go according to plans.

Although I knew it in theory, the lesson hit home when I had my first son.

I had labored at home for twelve hours before arriving at the birthing center when my contractions were around 2-3 minutes apart. Shortly after arrival my midwife discovered that Levi was breech.

Since no doctor in our hospital would deliver a breech baby vaginally at that point, I said good-bye to the natural birth I had hoped for and said hello to the operating theater where I’d undergo an “emergency” cesarean birth (c-section).

Despite a few waves of sadness as I grappled with the unexpected, I was very much at peace throughout the whole process, and welcomed our son with immense joy and excitement.

Although it was a good experience overall, I did have to work through the emotions of disappointment and unmet expectations, both in the moment and even more-so during the weeks and months that followed.

There were certainly a few things that I would have preferred were done differently had I been a little more educated and/or prepared in the event of an unplanned cesarean.

A planned VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean)

I knew with my second pregnancy that I wanted to try again for natural childbirth, and it was important to me to plan for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I did copious amounts of research and spent far more time preparing for this birth mentally and emotionally than my last.

Obviously birth doesn’t always go according to “plans”, but when it does, it’s amazing…

The all-natural VBAC birth of my second son, Judah, was a defining moment in my life. It was the birth I had hoped for in nearly every way – beautiful, rich, redeeming, rewarding, difficult, excruciating, exhilarating, celebratory, and amazing. (And perhaps a million other adjectives!)

In both of my births, my little boys were the stars and I was the leading lady. It’s just that in one I also got to be the director.

I’m so glad that I took the time to understand what I was headed into, know my options, make my own decisions, and be actively involved in shaping my own birth experience and Judah’s debut.

I’m convinced that all of my preparation (researching, praying, deciding, planning, and being my own best advocate) was a major factor in achieving the all-natural VBAC birth I desired. It would be naïve to think that it was the sole reason for being able to pull off the birth I wanted, but I absolutely know it was a key to my success.

Being empowered to start motherhood off well

Giving birth in this way does not make me any more of a mother, or give me any “right” to poise myself as an expert, but I do believe my positive birth experience contributed to a healthier transition for all of us. And that is the main reason that I’m passionate about this subject.

I want all women to be empowered to start motherhood off well, and I want all babies to reap the benefit of the best possible opening scene to the story of their lives.

Although I don’t think childbirth should (or can) be micromanaged, I do think it should be researched, prayed about, planned for, and enjoyed as much as possible.

Dear friends, today I’ve shared some of my own birth experience and history as to why I think this is an important subject. My next two posts in this short “Plan Your Best Birth” series will be 4 Reasons to Write a Birth Plan (even if things don’t always go according to plans anyway) and How to Organize and Write a Birth Plan. I hope you’ll find these posts helpful for your own motherhood journey. For those of you who’ve already had children – did you “plan” your births? Why or why not? What did you lean?

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8 Comments

  • Reply 4 Reasons to write a birth plan | Plan your best birth series 31 May 2012 at 9:06 am

    […] posts: Plan Your Best Birth (part 1) and How to Write a Birth Plan (coming later this […]

  • Reply Raia 31 May 2012 at 9:14 am

    I planned the birth of my first daughter. We, my husband, myself and a team of midwives, planned a homebirth. I planned because I wanted to be prepared (as much as I could anyway) for what might happen. Feeling prepared helped me trust my body, the midwives with me and my husband to help my daughter in to the world safely. For me, knowledge is reassuring, I felt safer knowing about what may or may not happen during child birth. I think that one of the most important things a woman has to feel during labor is safe. And a plan, with lots of contingincies for dealing with situations that can arise and trained professionals I trusted made me feel safe.

  • Reply How to organize and write a birth plan | Plan your best birth part 3 2 June 2012 at 10:21 pm

    […] would recognize, but I actually prefer to use the term birth preferences. I know all too well that birth doesn’t always go according to plans, but I believe that it’s crucial to think through your plan (preferences!) […]

  • Reply Rachel J. 5 June 2012 at 7:12 am

    I wanted a natural birth with my first, but my water broke and things didn’t progress quickly enough (and they were worried about infection), so I ended up on Pitocin. I couldn’t handle those contractions and accepted pain medication, and basically the entire experience was just a whole lot more stressful than it should have been, for various reasons.

    BUT I got the most amazing, perfect natural birth the second time around, and I can absolutely relate to your feelings. It was the beautiful experience I had wanted…I can’t even describe how incredible.

    Being prepared was definitely instrumental in both scenarios – for the birth that held the unexpected and the birth that went perfectly. You make some great points, and I agree that knowledge as well as mental/emotional preparation are so important!
    Rachel J. recently posted..Am I Doing This Right?My Profile

  • Reply 35+ Resources and Encouragement for New Moms 31 October 2013 at 3:54 pm

    […] When Birth Goes According to Plans (or Not) […]

  • Reply LaundryGirl 27 January 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Hi Adriel,
    I’ve just stumbled upon your blog and am slowly making my way through your posts from the very beginning. This is my first comment 🙂

    I had no birth plan for my first pregnancy, all I knew was I wanted an epidural. I had a perfect pregnancy, up until 32 weeks when my placenta abrupted in the middle of having dinner in the city. Luckily we were close to a hospital! I was admitted for monitoring and was told that the baby was OK and would be here by the end of the week. Early the next morning, her heart rate dropped and I was being rushed in for an emergency csection! Which is was put to sleep for, as there was no time for anything else and I guess the baby was in distress.

    My daughter spent 5 weeks in the hospital, she is now a very happy and healthy 15 month old.

    It wasn’t having a caesarean that got me all emotional, it was the fact that I was put to sleep and didn’t see my daughter right after she was born (we had kept her gender a surprise so I didn’t even know what I had until much later), that her Daddy wasn’t in the room with me holding my hand, supporting me.

    Now I am pregnant again and have the option of a caesarean or a VBAC and have pros and cons to both regarding the emotional/mental side. I am no longer with the Daddy (same Dad) which makes me sad itself. I would love a VBAC, to be able to have that wonderful experience of doing what my body is designed to do, but wonder if I will feel guilty for not birthing my daughter the same way even though the situation was out of my hands. I am such a sentimental person that even the thought of having an incredible vaginal delivery without the Daddy there breaks my heart. Things are so bad between us at the moment that he doesn’t even know about this pregnancy.

    Anyway, I am strong, I have to be. In the end the decision may even be made for me again. I don’t think I’ll have a birth plan again, other than having an epidural, but we’ll see what happens – I have another 19 weeks (fingers crossed) to think about it.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts xo

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