“Oh, you want to have a C-section? Why?”
“Oh, you’re using a doula… is your husband away?”
“Oh, you’re getting an epidural… well, whatever you think you need to do.”
“Oh, you want to do this naturally? Do you have something you need to prove?”
So what’s your birth plan? Let me just put this out there now… it doesn’t matter what it is. You will be judged.
With my singleton pregnancy 4 years ago, I took the hospital’s birthing class in hopes of “taking control” of my birthing experience. I watched the videos, learned the breathing techniques, and… languished in the icy stares of the other moms when I said the first line in my birth plan is “get the epidural.” Here I thought this was a medically safe part of the birthing process intended to alleviate pain. I apparently was “misinformed”. According to some unspoken rule, getting an epidural means you’re weak. Who knew? Nobody in those classes knew how I struggled with pain induced nausea. They didn’t know that my greatest fear in giving birth was that the pain would make me so sick to my stomach that I would basically miss the birth of my baby because I was hanging over a bedpan. I got the epidural, and I still felt strong. I labored nearly pain free for 10 hours and gave birth to a beautifully healthy baby girl.
So when I got pregnant with twins, I immediately started fretting about the birthing plan. It had been a few years and the new trend among friends was to get a doula. What the heck was a doula? I had people at church who knew I was pregnant giving me business cards for friends of friends who offered doula services. After doing a little research, I decided this wasn’t a service I needed. I had an awesome support team in my family and friends. But what a great service for someone who needs another hand to hold or a stronger voice. It just wasn’t for me. I skipped the birthing classes because my “give me the drugs” mantra hadn’t changed and I called my doctor. I wanted to talk.
Twin pregnancies call for a lot of planning. There are a lot of decisions to make and a lot of risk and reward with those decisions. So this is the birth plan I came up with. I told my OB, “I want the medically safest birth possible, with pain alleviation as a secondary goal.” That’s it. Let’s shoot for a vaginal birth to avoid the recovery time associated with a major surgery, but if a C-section is the best medical decision at the time, let’s do it… no argument, no disappointment. If I am progressing in a satisfactory way, let’s have the epidural. If not, I’ll do what I have to do to birth these babies. After they’re out, ideally, I want to hold them – nurse them – get them on my skin. But if something isn’t right, take them away and keep them safe, Doc. Together, we decided to be a team… my doctor and I. And I couldn’t have felt more empowered.
I went into active labor at 10 pm. When I arrived at the hospital I was 4 cm dilated and contracting regularly 4 minutes apart. They asked if I wanted the epidural and I said yes. After only a few short hours of comfortable labor in the birthing suite I had dilated to nearly 8 cm. I remember the nurse coming in to place a catheter because I had had trouble urinating and that’s where everything gets blurry. I remember feeling faint and then everything went black. I woke up to a room full of people, a lot of scrambling around, and those dreaded words, “I can’t get a heartbeat for Baby B.” My doctor, in a matter-of-fact-no-nonsense voice said, “I think we need to get you to the OR and perform an emergency c-section.” OK. Let’s do it. I was just waking up from a black-out and should have been freaking out. But I wasn’t. We had decided to do what was medically safest and that’s what was happening. So I was OK. I was OK as I was pushed at a high rate of speed down the hall on a stretcher. I was OK as I watched doctors and nurses throwing on gowns and hats as they ran. I was OK as I was wheeled in alone and told my husband would be joining me as soon as he could. I was OK.
They got me hooked up and put the baby monitors back on my belly. And the doc said, let’s give it a minute and see where everybody’s at. Miraculously, everyone’s heart was registering just fine on the monitor. She checked me and said, “Would you like to push?” Wait… I thought I was having a c-section? But now everything looked fine and I was getting ready to push these babies out! She asked me to test push… I did. I’ll never forget the, “Woah! Woah! Woah!” that came next. I thought something was terribly wrong but she continued, “Let me put on my gloves… these girls are coming out!” Less than 10 minutes later both of my beautiful babies were taking their first breaths. Baby A was struggling a bit so I only glimpsed her from across the room. Baby B was bundled and brought right over to me. They were here. They were safe. It was no longer about me… actually… it never was.
When I realized that my birth plan needed to be less about me and more about my babies… I think I finally understood what it is to be a mother. Motherhood isn’t about taking control, feeling empowered, or even always getting to do things the way you want. It’s the exact opposite. Babies hijack our lives and in so doing, hijack our hearts. So, if you find yourself expecting one, two, six babies… keep these three simple things in mind when you’re writing your birth plan.
Trust your doctor.
If you can’t, get a new one. Of all the docs in my practice, I was bummed when I learned who was on call when I went into labor. She wasn’t my favorite… she wasn’t all lovey-dovey at your bedside. But she knew what I wanted and she made life saving decisions without a moment’s hesitation. She kept me and my babies safe. I look back and I am so thankful it was her. She was ready to cut me open to save my babies… and then when they were fine, she was ready to wait it out to save me from surgery. My trust in her was the greatest source of peace during my birthing process.
Put your babies first.
I understand that you have an ideal plan in your head of how you would like things to go down… but the heartbreak and disappointment that awaits you if even the slightest thing goes wrong can be debilitating… not to mention it could endanger your child if you’re unwilling to let go of your ideals.
Know when to fight.
You ARE the mom and these are your kids. You have the most to gain and the most to lose in this moment. But don’t let the fight become about you. Fight when its FOR your babies, not for your comfort. Fight when its FOR safety, not for principle. Too often we get confused about what we are fighting for. The fight should be for the safety and protection of our kids, not for an ideal or principle in how we think the birthing process should go.
Enjoying the birthing process is secondary to being able to have healthy, happy children to take home when it’s all said and done. The most selfless thing we can do for our children is sacrifice our ideal birth for their safety and health. It doesn’t mean we sign away our rights on the dotted line, but rather we raise the flag of flexibility and refuse to wallow in anger and disappointment when things don’t go exactly as we wanted.
Meghan Weber is a former career woman, turned stay at home mom, to 3 beautiful little girls; daughters Karli, age 4 – Laurel and Lindyn, age 15 months. She is the co-chair of the Philanthropy Committee for her local mothers of multiples club, CAMOM (Columbia Area Mothers of Multiples), and a returning writer to Twiniversity.