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When Your Birth Plan Does Not Follow Course

Childbirth can take several unexpected turns, but you don't have to be alone through all the unanticipated changes.

This past week, my best friend gave birth to her first child — a boy — five weeks early.

She had some suspicions she would go early and had already been on bed rest for a week when her water broke. My little dude and I are going to meet the new arrival at the end of the month, and I cannot wait to get my newborn baby fix.

When I was pregnant, every single website and pregnancy prep book said the same thing, "Make a birth plan."

Who would you call? What would you bring? How would you like medications if you were using them? Basically, please list your ideal plan ... right?

What the books and websites didn’t tell me was that things rarely go as planned.

My vision of a perfect birth was one that came naturally with minimal medical interference. We knew we would have our son at a hospital, the one my doctor was based out of. We took the tour beforehand, and the nurse that gave us our tour would be our postpartum nurse.

That isn’t exactly how it went down, though. By Christmas, I hit the 38-week mark — and I was miserable.

I don’t work from Christmas Eve until the day after New Year’s Day, and the days crawled by. I would sit on the couch or I would drive to Bayshore Mall or Target and walk. And walk. Hoping to get something moving. Finally, by the first week of January, I had had enough and I begged my doctor to induce me. 

It was January 5 when my husband and I drove to the hospital and expected to have our sweet little boy.

Again, that isn’t exactly what happened. To spare you all the details, I was in labor for 38 hours before our son was born via emergency cesarean section — something I had never thought would happen to me. I literally skipped over that chapter in the pregnancy books because I was so sure I would walk in, pop out the kid and leave.

Our son was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for tests — I only got to touch his face before he was taken away from me until later the next day.

The rest of the hospital stay, almost a week for all of us, plus the following weeks at home, were consumed with a deep regret about everything that had happened.

I blamed myself, for being so selfish, for forcing our son to come when he wasn’t ready. I struggled with all of the pain I was in and emotions I was going through and I couldn’t find anywhere to turn. Everyone said, "But he is here now and everything will be okay."

It seemed like no one understood.

One place I turned to was an online mom’s forum, there are many out there offered through websites such as Babycenter and What To Expect. I posted how I was feeling and in a matter of minutes, there were many other women who were ready to reach out to a stranger and help me work through what I was dealing with.

An additional resource I found was The International Cesaraen Awareness Network. This site gave me a way to connect with other women who underwent similar situations, as well as pointed me to places to look for more information, such as books and counselors.

Another thing that ICAN gave me was confidence, confidence that my next pregnancy and childbirth would be different. I know now what went wrong, and what I can do to prevent it — if there is a next time.

Most importantly, it took time to heal the wounds of our birth experience. Something that really helped me was writing it all down: getting out all of the emotions and having it out in my own words gave me something tangible to hold onto. This allowed me to put it away and attempt to move on.

Women out there have to know that they aren’t alone. Childbirth has been happening for quite some time now, and there are instances when it doesn’t go as planned, but you have to remember that you didn’t do anything wrong.

Having a plan doesn’t mean that is how it is going to happen.

It means that you will remember to call your mom and pack your special hospital nightgown. Babies, much like life, cannot be planned.

Kristi Gilbert July 27, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Wow! What an ordeal! Glad to see you have such a beautiful baby boy, despite the nightmare birth process. :)
Maggie Wright July 27, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Ashley, we plan on having a doula assuming we have another child. I have learned so much since our son was born. I am glad to hear that you had such a great experience for your third!
Kate M August 17, 2011 at 06:33 PM
"[W]hen it doesn’t go as planned...you have to remember that you didn’t do anything wrong." Thank you for this statement. In the minute since I read it, it's already offered healing to me. I should just put my birth story somewhere online so I can link to it without having to re-write about how horrible the whole thing was (to sum it up, the Head OB later admitted to me that they had me on suicide watch because NOTHING went as I had hoped, not that I was stuck on details, but it was the antithesis of everything I had hoped for), but it's almost 2 years later and I still have a hard time coming to terms with the whole experience. I'm thankful for the two wonderful girls that I've been blessed with, even if their birth still causes aches in my heart. Thank you for sharing your story and your wisdom. PS Although I've heard about ICAN since well before my girls were born, I just started looking at their site today, and that's where I found this link.
Kate M August 17, 2011 at 06:51 PM
PPS I should also make clear that I wasn't suicidal at all, they just had that expectation because of what all happened.
Maggie Wright August 19, 2011 at 03:52 AM
Kate, Knowing that someone got something out of this makes me so happy. That is why I wrote it because I know there are other women out there who have experienced the emotional distress I have. I love my son but I feel like I was robbed, I am not the same person and almost in a bad way. I am always here if you need someone! (you can click on my name to email me). Give those girls a big hug tonight!! PS-I wouldn't be surprised to hear I was put on watch too, I was beyond devastated that week I was in the hospital.

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