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Today I’m opening up my blog to friend, fellow blogger, and “stand in the gap” friend Jessica Hoover. Jessica is a doula with a heart for moms whose births don’t go to plan. She’s here today to share a bit about her births and how to best form a birth plan.
I gave birth naturally to my daughter in a hospital.
That wasn’t the plan.
I gave birth by an emergency c-section to my son.
That wasn’t the plan.
I’m a birth doula and I have watched more births not go according to plan than picture perfect. That is why, when I sit down with a couple and they ask me what should be in their birth plan, I make them write out the most ideal version of their baby’s birth. I want them to put pen to paper and write out every detail they have in their head. Everything from a fast and easy labor, perfect mood lighting and music, immediate skin to skin and a flawless latch all while their birth photographer captures each and every beautiful moment.
Then I tell them to tear the paper up.
Cue the confused looks and gasping. I’m the one who is supposed to encourage them toward the perfect birth, right? Wrong. Do I want the expectant parents to have everything they envision? Absolutely. What I want more for my new mothers and fathers is for them to recognize the unexpectedness of all this expecting.
A large problem is our expectations and reality often rub up against each other in unfortunate ways when it comes to birth. A baby is post-date and the care provider is ready to sign the eviction notice and get an induction started. A long labor results in exhaustion and a c-section becomes a welcomed relief. Thousands of scenarios can throw a wrench into a birth plan.
Take my personal experience for example. Both of children managed to put their arm above their head during labor. My daughter was born hand first, like Super Woman, after a whopping 15 hours stuck at 9 centimeters. The length of the labor required me to move from the serene free standing birth center I dreamed of birthing in to the sterile, medicalized halls of a nearby hospital. My son’s birth was very different. He managed to slip his arm way over his head similar to his sister except even further. My fantastic doctor tried to reduce the arm and the cord prolapsed into the birth canal requiring a very quick and scary emergency cesarean.
I’m writing this just 5 months after the birth of my son. The wound, quite literally, is still pretty fresh. My birth plan for both my daughter and my son were the same. The only difference had to do with the setting of the birth which required certain factors to be taken into account (birth center vs. hospital).
The reason that the birth plans were so similar is because I managed to keep my birth plan in line with reasonable expectations for myself and my children’s birth. There were very few absolutes in my birth plan. I always gave the caveat that I was willing to be flexible as long as I was able to make an informed decision on anything being done to myself or my baby. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t focused on meeting the ideals of my plan; it simply means I was living with the reality of the what-ifs of life.
This brings me to another VERY important point. Choose your practitioner wisely. Yes, our healthcare system is expensive and often difficult to navigate. One good thing I see about the consumer healthcare system is our ability to shop around for a doctor we like. If there is something about your midwife or doctor that does not sit well with you then find someone else! We get to make that choice. The best way to stick with your birth plan is to find a care provider who also wants to stick to your birth plan.
The question now becomes, will I have a VBAC? Quite frankly, I don’t know. We live in a rural area and my amazing doctor is unable to practice VBACs because of the rules of her privileged hospital- it is small and unable to handle complicated emergencies without transfers.
What I do know is I will put everything in place to have a successful VBAC if I do decide to do it: a healthy and active pregnancy, a supportive team including a like-minded physician and doula, and a loosely held birth plan.
A successful birth has everything to do with the baby in your arms and very little to do with a list of ideals written on paper. After six years working as a doula and two less than ideal births of my own, I finally believe it. The birth you didn’t envision can still be the birth you were meant to have.
Photos by Sarah Siak- www.sarahsiakphotography.com
Jessica Leigh Hoover is a wife, mama, writer and believer that grace is the biggest kind of brave. She lives in the hills of North Carolina with her 2 wild kiddos and engineer husband. She loves sweet tea, British accents and piles of good books. You can find her penning words on her blog, chatting on Twitter or sharing a bit of community on Facebook.