When I was pregnant with my first baby I really, really, really wanted a natural birth. I had it all planned out. I was going to go to a local birthing center where their focus was on natural births and maybe have a water birth or something really chill and amazing. This all sounded very “hippy dippy” to my family because everyone I knew and everyone in my family just went to the hospital and got the epidural and went home with a sweet healthy baby. It was very hard to explain why I had this very detailed plan I was dead set on.
In order to make this work and ensure flawless execution, I hired experts to teach me how to get it all done. First things first I felt the most important thing was to find the best coach possible and so I interviewed 7 or more different Doulas. Just in case you aren’t familiar with the word Doula, below is the true definition of these superhuman women
a woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born.
After finding the perfect fit for my husband and me in a Doula, it was time to read, read, read and take class after class after class. I was working full time at the time, so this meant my weekends and nights were pretty busy, but with a husband also working full time and getting an advanced degree I needed something to occupy my time anyway. I read every book I could get my hands on about having a natural birth while at the same time refusing to read books I deemed to be the scariest book of all time: What to Expect When You are Expecting. What the Expect In the First Year…that sort of thing. I can’t honestly remember the exact logic behind this but I think it had something to do with not wanting to hear anyone else’s stories in fear that they might come true for me. That sounds about right, so let’s go with that.
I took 2 separate 6-week natural childbirth classes that met weekly. Both amazing and super far away from where I lived. Both sent me home with homework, and mantras to craft and vision boards to make and art sculptures and all sorts of things that were beyond my normal scope of day-to-day life but that I felt necessary to see my dream of a natural birth realized. I was also adamant about my plan to feed my baby. I planned to nurse exclusively for as long as the baby wanted to nurse and then followed her lead to child-led weaning. That meant that I took 3 separate breastfeeding classes. I should probably interject here that I am a “planner” by nature. I very rarely do anything without looking into the options and putting together a plan. Quick example to get you into my brain: If you say you want to try a new restaurant for lunch next week, I will have already looked up the menu online and know what I will order before I even wake up the day we are scheduled to meet up
Another tactic I used was whenever hearing any of my dear friends birth stories I would internally do the equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and hollering “La la la la la la la la la la”. Nice right? Again I think this was because I was afraid to hear others stories that didn’t align with my vision.
I also had a 3” D-ring binder with everything I needed for the actual day. It included things like my laminated mantras to read to myself or to have my husband read in case I am knee deep in actual labor. 4 copies of my birth plan just in case we ended up being transferred to the hospital with complications. My snack and packing list, a ton of essential oil recipes, my 8-hr long playlist of songs broken down by each stage in the process of labor etc. etc. etc.
So ladies, if you aren’t seeing a pattern here, let me spell it out for you. I HAD A PLAN FOR MY FIRST-BORN’S BIRTH and I was leaving zero wiggle room to make sure that plan became realized.
My daughter was due 1/19/11 and around the first of the year, my husband was out of town on a work trip so I was staying with my parents just in case. That night after I took a lovely bath and went to crawl into bed I felt my daughter do something crazy inside my belly. I can’t only describe it as it felt like she was trying to get out through my belly button. It was scary but not painful and I was glad I had a follow up with my midwife the next morning. It turned out that my little girl and flipped herself over into a breach position from the regular heads down that she had always been. At the birthing center that next morning they tried unsuccessfully to perform a light form of a Breach Version.
An external cephalic version, or “version”, is a procedure used to turn the baby a breech position or side-lying (transverse) position into a head-down (vertex) position before labor begins. When successful, version makes it possible for you to try a vaginal birth.
This was not successful and I was told the best thing to do was to go back to my chiropractor every day to try and get the baby flipped back around and if that didn’t work go into the hospital to have a more aggressive form of a Version. I did both of those options. Went to the chiropractor daily and went to see a lovely Man who had performed many Versions in town successfully and would be monitoring the baby to make sure she was doing ok during all this craziness.
He too was unsuccessful that it still ranks to-date as the most painful/scariest thing I have ever been through. Not only that but the version that put my little one at risk. She didn’t do well doing the procedure and he refused to try a third time for concern for the outcome. So at 37 weeks, I was officially released from the Birthing Center and told to go find an OBGYN who could perform a C-section. That sounds harsh like the Center just ditched me but they were just following the US laws.
If you didn’t know, in the US if your baby is breached it is against the law to labor naturally. You have to go to Canada for that apparently. In my 3” binder I had zero notes about how to have a baby in Canada so I guess we were left with only one option, the one option I had ZERO clues about. The most unnatural of all births I supposed, the planned C-section.
One quick note, should this happen to you be prepared to have some very awkward conversations with OBGYNs and their staffs. Because it is rare that at 37 weeks some random girl comes out of the woodwork asking for a C-Section who you have never seen in your life. I had to explain over and over again that I had been getting prenatal care and that I was not in any way homeless or destitute I just had planned for things to get very, very differently.
I’ll never forget the day I met the sweet OBGYN who would put me on the schedule for the surgery. She walked into the room where I sat, defeated and alone (hubby still out of town) and she hugs me and says in the very most sincere way “I’m so sorry you are here, but I’m so grateful we can help you.” And with that kind gesture, I dropped all my fears and plans and decided it was time to turn things over to this sweet woman who would help me plan the birth of my baby in an altogether different way than I had ever imagined. The next thing she said after a much needed long hug, was “Ok missy let’s find you a fun birthday for this baby girl.” and so we picked 1-11-11 as the day of the birth of my sweet baby girl. And the doctor on call that day (who to this day I have only seen once) still made sure to start my 6-hour playlist in the operating room and play it nice and loud even if we only heard about 10 minutes of it.
And you know what? It was fine. It was lovely actually. I wasn’t scared because it wasn’t scary. It wasn’t cold and sterile or any less life-changing that having the birth dream I had hoped for. And most of all it taught me the greatest life lesson of my adult life….You cannot plan for everything. Life throws you curve balls and the best planning you can do is plan to adapt.
Looking back I would change very little about the entire process. I learned so much and expanded my knowledge about so many things planning for a natural birth. I would, however, spend a few more hours planning for actually taking home a baby because I had zero plans or notes on that and I flailed around at home for months.
One quick fun sidebar before I let you go. That sweet, sweet Ob who hugged me and gave my daughter her fun birthday, was the very same Doctor that gave me my VBAC with my son 3 years later. And with that birth, I came in with not one extra stitch of paper from my crazy 3” notebook but did, however, bring a sweet Doula who helped me get to the place where I could have my son. And God bless that sweet man, whats-his-name for the epidural that I begged for around 9 ½ Centimeters dilated and minutes from birth. Who knew right?
Oh and that baby girl born 1-11-11 absolutely refused to breastfeed one darn time and is now 7 and has a sweet little mind of her own and loves to hear the story about how she flipped herself around in my tummy so that her face could be closer to my heart.