When I was pregnant with my first baby, I knew what a birth plan was. I knew what went into one and that many women have them. In theory.
When I was pregnant with my first, I was a busy graduate student attending classes, trying to get through my practicum placement that required me to do psychological testing with college students and write up reports, study for my comprehensive exams, and get through a daily pile of class readings. To say I didn’t have much time to enjoy pregnancy is an understatement. There were times when I almost forgot! Until, you know, ligament pains, nausea, headaches, and the Braxton Hicks hit.
I knew I needed a birth plan. In theory. The truth is, I forgot. It didn’t actually occur to me to write one until I was 30-something weeks along and my doctor asked if I had a plan. I told her I wanted an epidural. Pain and I are not even acquaintances. I would have to think about the rest.
I never did.
A few weeks later, I was in the hospital in pre-term labor. Scared? Yes. Unprepared? Absolutely. In denial? Most definitely.
Birth plan? Whoops. Well, I was supposed to have about 5 more weeks!
In the end, not having a birth plan made me less anxious. I barely had a hospital bag packed, so definitely wouldn’t have had any lovely items that might have been listed on my plan. I had just taken the hospital tour a few weeks before and only really remembered where to go and not what equipment and other birthing paraphernalia they offered. I had no concrete idea of how I wanted to give birth. I had recently learned I had passed my exams and was dreaming about my career in psychology instead of having a baby.
Not having a plan meant I didn’t have to worry about making sure I had everything I wanted with me. I’m the kind of person who normally needs to know every step of what I’m about to do, so not having a plan meant I wasn’t taking up brain space with the details of a plan.
In the end, I was exhausted from spending about 2.5 days in labor and getting almost no sleep before my son finally arrived that, when they asked for my birth plan, all I said was, “Get the baby out.”
I didn’t care how they did it or what they had to do. I was exhausted, already sleep deprived, and in the worst pain of my life before I got the epidural and after it stopped working. I just wanted to be done, to have the baby out. If I had a plan, I probably would have been freaking out and driving everyone up the wall (I can be a little particular).
Not having a birth plan made me less anxious. I literally had nothing but getting the baby out to think about. I figured birth is birth. It’ll be whatever it needs to be to ensure a safe delivery of a healthy child. And when that child is born early, that really takes up more mental space. I spent more time worrying about his lung development than how to get him out.
When it came time to having a second baby, I took the same route: whatever it took to ensure the safe delivery of a healthy child. As I entered the last month, odds were good I was having a second late pre-term baby. My daughter did not disappoint.
This time around, I had less on my plate, but had a toddler who had never been separated from mom and dad to think about. He is my rainbow baby, my absolute joy. I spent more time worrying about him than the baby.
I was glad I took the same route, glad I didn’t put any thought into a birth plan. I was able to enjoy those last months of having an only child, got to relax into my pregnancy and really pay attention to what it feels like, and really enjoy naptime.
For many women, having a birth plan is the way to go. For me, I would have fretted and worried more. I wouldn’t have been as relaxed the second time around. I wouldn’t have trusted the medical professionals who deliver babies all day, every day. Of course, there are horror stories, and I met one. But I got lucky.
In the end, I safely delivered two healthy pre-term babies who make me laugh and constantly chase around my last marble before it gets lost. Not having a birth plan meant the medical professionals could do whatever it took to bring my children into the world and freed up my mental space to worry about what comes next: caring for and raising them.
Perhaps instead of a birth plan, having a raising kids plan should take center stage. After all, 18+ years of raising a child is a whole lot longer than labor, though the intensity of labor sometimes has me questioning that.