Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's What Wednesday: Birth Planning-Part Four

A plan, but not my own
A Guest Post By Tiffany Gallagher

When I found out I was pregnant with who turned out to be my son, Isaac, I was eager to interview and hire a homebirth midwife as soon as possible. My daughter, Eleanor, was born at the hospital a few blocks from our home, delivered into the hands of a CNM, and it was an experience I was eager to supplant with a better version. The third midwife we interviewed turned out to be The One; she was young, relatively hip (for a midwife), and very trusting of the process of birth.

I did my duty of creating a birth plan for my first pregnancy. No, I do not want an epidural. Yes, I do want to be able to eat during labor. No, I do not want fetal monitoring. The usual. The CNM was open and encouraging of all of it. That is, until things didn't quite go to her plan of what a pregnancy should look like. The last few weeks of my pregnancy were spent in a state of constant anxiety over urine protels, blood pressure, and bedrest. Eventually, I was induced, and as the IV went into my arm, my birth plan went out the window, every last bit of it. (Out the window with the exception of eating; maybe they wisely deduced that I'd be even angrier if they didn't feed me.) It was if the hospital staff felt it I did not deserve to have preferences once I set foot into their medical stream.

My plan for my homebirth was that I didn't have one. At least, I didn't set one down on paper. I had planned, in the looser sense, to have two doulas around, one who had been at my daughter's birth, and a friend of mine who attends births occasionally. I wanted to surround myself with a caring tribe of women who would encourage and nurture me. After all, having been induced, I had no idea what labor would bring for me. I was scared of it lasting days, and scared of feeling contractions that were not prompted by synthetic chemicals. Yes, a tribe was what I needed, and a birth tub (because doesn't a water birth look so calm and relaxing?), and a whole list of supplies, and Emergen-C. As far as our daughter goes, she could stay with her grandma, or another friend of ours.

Okay, so I guess that was sort of a plan.

A proud father and his son moments after birth.
The rug was never the same again.
As it turns out, only one thing went according to "plan," and that was that I ended up giving birth to Isaac while on all fours, hanging off the side of the couch, just as I had imagined myself someday giving birth a very long time ago, long before babies were even a possibility for me. I didn't expect a labor that lasted two hours from start to finish, if we're not counting the very mild contractions I had before going to bed the night before. I didn't expect my water to break with an audible "pop" while I was playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook, having woken up after just a few hours of sleep thanks to my pregnancy-induced insomnia. I hadn't expected to be the woman who, calling to her husband that her water had broken, had a husband who bolted out of bed with alarm, reaching for his clothes. (I have never seen my husband move quite so quickly before or since.)

By the time I downed some Emergen-C, contractions were hitting me with full force. My husband was frantically filling up the birth tub while I paced, first elated, then serious, then swearing (but rememberingth at the book about the Bradley Method I read told me it was exactly what would happen). My midwife arrived, but I wanted nothing to do with her. "Do NOT touch me," I growled. She helped me onto the soft bed, which was agony. I howled. I pushed away hands and told my husband, "Do NOT call anyone. Leave.Me.Alone. Stop filling up the &$(@#  birth tub, I'm not going to make it in there!"

Even if I had planned to be the angriest laboring woman on Earth, wanting absolute solitude and quiet, I hadn't planned on the fear that overtook me when I knew it was time to push. I announced to my midwife that I had to, and told her that I needed her. I needed her to touch me and tell me it would be okay, which she did, and my son was quickly ejected into the world.

"Ejected" is such a good way to describe it because that is precisely how he came. Reading about the fetal ejection reflex while writing my birth story, I was struck at how, when left to its own devices, the body (usually) knows just what to do. The total lack of intervention (despite, I must note, having high blood pressure at the end of this pregnancy as I did at the end of my first) made for a birth that followed a plan totally not of my own making, but of nature's. I am humbled and awed to have been able to experience it, to feel the most primal urges and sensations that female mammals throughout time have felt, and to know that no matter what I dreamed or decided, it was written in my genes that this was how birth would be for me.

The Gallagher family resides on a small plot of land deep in the suburbs of Minneapolis, where they pretend they are pioneers and work on converting to Judaism. Tiffany blogs at Sowing the Suburbs and Oy Betcha! , and is also a postpartum doula and Certified Lactation Counselor sometimes known as The Boob Geek.

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  1. So what are you "planning" to do for the next one?

  2. WOW - I am not familiar with all the things about Emergen-C and midwives vs hospital care...but this has got me thinking...Just like Joella's blog about my future and when I can and do have kids. This was a great post. :)


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