I love to learn new things. Anything really. Ranging from the completely superfluous skill (writing backwards and mirrored, faux tap) to something that I can utilise every day (tech stuff, mediation, faux tap). So naturally, when presented with the completely new world of pregnancy and an impending labour, I did my research. To me, knowledge is comforting, it makes me feel in control and worded up in an often unknown landscape.
Look, I didn’t overdo things (no magazines, a few great books and I may have stalked a bogan baby online forum), but I asked a lot of questions and read-up on what spoke to us heading into this new adventure. My husband Adam and I had strong ideas about giving the natural labour sans pain relief a go, and as our hospital offered a water-birth and I am a lover of all bodies of water – that had me at hello.
A Birth Plan was talked about from the very beginning, and it was around the time we were writing it up that I realised that a plan was all what it was. And we know what happens to the best laid plans. What I’d be taking into that birthing suite was a plan of attack, and during my pregnancy I’d read about and met people who were taking in Birth Ideals. This is about as pointless as writing a business plan and incorporating daily flowers in the foyer as part of your indicators of success.
One of our main points in the Birth Plan was (in addition to a water birth, as little intervention as possible and a big bouncy ball) was “get baby out safely”. I know enough women who have given birth to understand the absolute luck of the draw when it comes to following a Birth Plan. This is where knowledge comes into play for me. I knew exactly what I wanted to when it came to a birth ideal, but when it came to the plan, I also found out what my options were should the baby take the decisions out of my hands and throw some us some curve balls. What would happen “if”? And knowing all of this didn’t scare me; if anything I felt it further equipped me to approach the labour with confidence and positivity.
In one of our birthing and labour classes the hospital provided, the midwife went around the room of first-time parents-to-be and asked three questions: What were their names? What week were they in? What reference materials had they accessed?
I would say that about 80% of a rather large group said they’d avoided reading too much so they didn’t scare themselves. Holy crap – THAT is my version of a nightmare. I can understand that to some people ignorance in this arena may appear to be bliss, but let me tell you, after going through labour myself I could not imagine entering that situation knowing the bare minimum. The biggest challenge you will face in labour is fear, and although this may not ring true for everyone – when you don’t know what’s happening and why and you’re experiencing pain like you’ve never experienced – fear will increase this tenfold.
A great resource for me was a book called “Birth Journeys: Positive Birth Stories to Encourage and Inspire”, compiled and edited by Leonie MacDonald. It may look a little hippie-esque from the front (nude pregnant women in a lovely strategically-draped scarf). It is full of positive birthing stories from Australian women, ranging from full natural home-births to high-risk caesarian sections. It reinforced that whatever way your labour goes, regardless of your Birth Plan, it can be a positive experience and not one to be judged by – either by others or yourself.
This meant that when my Birth Plan was quickly thrown out the window thanks to a combination of body, environment and baby – I knew what the options were, why they were there and when they would kick in. This meant that although I was disappointed I didn’t get my intervention-free waterbirth, I had such a positive birthing experience that it didn’t matter. It felt like the ultimate outcome was just a part of the journey to meet August. Whether he arrived via the official exit or the stage door – my experience was not lessened by its diversion from the planned path.