Planning the Unplannable

When your birth plan doesn't go to plan
When your birth plan doesn’t go to plan

As a first time mum, I thought a LOT about my birth plan.  It’s something I heard a lot about when reading baby books and watching movies.  I kept waiting and waiting for my midwife to talk to me about my birth plan.  There was a section in my maternity notes for it, so I assumed we would write it at one of my maternity appointments. I was so excited to write it!  I had an idea in my head about what I wanted and exactly how my birth was going to go.

However, there was no mention of the birth plan until my ante-natal class when I was 8 months pregnant.  And when it was mentioned, it was basically said that no birth ever goes to plan, so birth plans are pointless.  I was so disappointed to hear this.  I thought writing a birth plan was going to be a big part of my pregnancy – deciding exactly when and where and how I was going to have my baby (ok, maybe not “when” as he would come when he was ready!)  As a PA, I’m a natural planner, everything I do is planned down to the minute!  When we went on holiday to New York, I did an (awesome) itinerary, planning every day almost to the minute – my brother in law joked that I hadn’t planned our toilet breaks (we would be having too much fun for that!!).

So to not have a birth plan?! No, not an option for me.  I needed to have it written down, so I could prepare myself, and also prepare my husband.  After our ante-natal class, I sat down with Craig and we went through exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t want.

I wanted to have the baby at my local midwife-led birthing unit.  There were no doctors here, just midwives, and I felt that this would allow me to have my natural, relaxing birth with no intervention.  I’d met a lot of the midwives at my maternity appointments and ante-natal classes, and they were all so lovely, so I was really looking forward to having my baby there.

I was absolutely desperate for a water birth.  I wanted to get in that pool, relax and birth my baby in my own time, using water as a natural pain relief.  I’d read so much about how calming a water birth was, and had spoken to many people who had experienced one and said how they thought it had meant their labours were quicker, calmer and less painful.

I didn’t want to be induced.  I knew that I was within my rights to refuse induction, and although it would mean that I’d probably have to attend hospital for daily monitoring, I wanted as few interventions as I could.

I was adamant I didn’t want an epidural – I’d done my research, and I didn’t want to be tied to the bed, not able to move around, and I’d also read the drug could make baby sleepy, and impact on breastfeeding afterwards.  It just wasn’t something I wanted, so I felt I needed to have this written down so when I was in so much pain and screaming for drugs, my husband and midwife knew what it was I really wanted and stuck to it.  I really wasn’t keen on having gas and air, I thought it would make me feel sick, so I wanted to try for as long as possible without it and see how I got on.

I was also really keen to have delayed clamping of the cord.  I had heard a little about it, but didn’t really understand it and the benefits until I went to my ante-natal class.  For those who haven’t heard of this, it is where you delay cutting the umbilical cord until all the blood has gone from the placenta to the baby.  Sometimes this is done after the placenta has been delivered.  This can take only a couple of minutes, but the baby will get up to 30% more blood by doing this.  The benefits of this are huge, so it’s definitely something worth researching.

I wanted skin-to-skin contact straight away, and we wanted to experience what is known as “the golden hour” as a family, where we were left alone, just me, my husband and our baby, to bond and get to know each other straight away.

So my birth plan wasn’t very in depth, or long, or demanding!  Just a few simple things we wanted.

However, as you will know from reading my birth story, even the best laid plans can go amiss.  I had planned for everything, I knew everything I wanted and what I didn’t want, but unfortunately in labour you can’t always have what you want.

I had to be induced.

Because I had suspected pre-eclampsia, I had to be admitted to hospital straight away and the decision was made for me to be induced as I was already 8 days overdue.  Although I had initially decided to refuse induction, because of the health implications, I felt I couldn’t do this and had to do what was safest for me and my baby.  I wasn’t given any other options by the hospital, and because I was a worried first time mum, I did as I was told.

I didn’t get to have my baby at the midwife led birthing unit.

Because I was being induced, I had to go to the main hospital and wasn’t allowed to be at the midwife led birthing unit. I was so upset when I was told this, and I felt this was the first in a long line of things I wasn’t going to be allowed with my labour (I was right!!).

I didn’t get to have a water birth.

Again, because of the induction, I wasn’t allowed a water birth because myself and the baby had to be monitored, and I had to have frequent internal examinations to assess my progress.  Even now, I’m upset I didn’t get a water birth.  I’d been looking forward to it so much (yes, really!) and felt my control over my labour was ever so slowly slipping away.

I gave in and had gas and air.

Now, to many this won’t seem like a bad thing.  I’ll admit now, I LOVED the gas and air!  I held out for as long as I could in order for me to have as natural a birth as I could, but after over 30 hours in labour with no pain relief, I couldn’t do it anymore.  But, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and I don’t know why I felt like I’d be a failure for having pain relief – it’s really not a bad thing.  I would absolutely have it again if I needed to, but I’m glad I waited as long as I did because I think if I’d had it any earlier, I wouldn’t have coped so well with the stronger contractions once I was on the drip.  It did make me feel drunk, and a little out of it, which I don’t like now I think back, as I can’t remember a lot of my labour, but that could also be down to the fact I was so sleep deprived!

I didn’t get to have delayed cord clamping.

Because I had to have a caesarean, I wasn’t allowed delayed cord clamping.  The baby had to be out and cut straight away so they could check him over, and then deliver the placenta.  Although disappointed, I could understand this decision completely.

I didn’t get to have skin-to-skin straight away or experience the golden hour.

Again, I was upset not to have this contact straight away as it was very important to establish breastfeeding, and get that initial bond.  Because I was still being stitched up, I couldn’t have him placed on my chest.  I was lucky that once he was weighed, cleaned and wrapped up, I was able to hold him though, as I’ve heard of other mums who weren’t allowed to do this.  I was also able to hold him as I was wheeled into recovery.  We kind of got our golden hour once we were in recovery, as although I was exhausted and still under the influence of gas and air and the spinal block, we had our little moment with our baby boy.  The midwife took photos of us, and the recovery nurse helped me to latch Alfie on, and he took his first feed.  I don’t think I could appreciate this as much as I should have because of my spaced out state, but the fact he latched straight away, and fed for at least half an hour was brilliant.

The only part of my birth plan that I was able to stick to was not having an epidural.  Even after almost 3 days of labour, I didn’t have an epidural.  Obviously I had to have a spinal block for the caesarean, but I don’t think anyone can refuse pain relief for that!!!!

So, on paper, my birth was a disaster!  It was long, it was drawn out, it was traumatic, it was different, it didn’t go to plan.  Does that matter?  At first, I said no, no it didn’t matter at all, all that mattered was my baby got here safely.  I was completely at peace with my labour, with everything that went wrong, and all the things I didn’t get.

Now?  Now, I’m conflicted again.  I know deep down I had to have the emergency caesarean for the health of me and my child.  But I still can’t help but feel…sad that I didn’t get the birth I wanted.  Not disappointed, as I know it wasn’t my fault.  Just sad.

In hindsight, I wish I’d done more research about induction, about caesareans, about labouring when you can’t move around freely.  Would it have mattered? I think so.  I think I would have been more prepared and could have altered my birth plan.

But, even though this labour didn’t go to plan, it doesn’t mean my next labour won’t.  Or the one after that.  Or the one after that (ha, only kidding, there won’t be four labours!!)  Will I make a birth plan for my next baby?  Absolutely.  Even though only one thing was followed from my birth plan, I would still do another one every time.  Hopefully at least one will go to plan!

*p.s sorry for the lack of photos, I don’t have many for this post!*

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12 thoughts on “Planning the Unplannable

  1. It really makes me feel sad that you feel sad about it all. You did what was best for you both at the time, and if I was talking about switching from breastfeeding to formula, your advice would be that that’s exactly what I did too, so don’t beat yourself up. I was the opposite, I made a very vague birth plan because I just didn’t think it would be stuck to. I didn’t get my water birth either because my waters broke, so even though I had a relatively natural birth with just gas and air, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. In the end, I was mostly pleased that they stuck to the delayed cord clamping, Mr Lighty cutting the cord and also Mr Lighty telling me what sex the baby was. I would highly recommend the NCT for taking women through all their options including induction, pain relief and c-sections xxx

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    1. I know it’s silly I feel sad, but even though I do feel like that, I do know it was the best decision. So glad to hear the NCT discuss induction and c-sections with you – in our NHS class we were told not to have an induction and that c-sections were so rare, it wasn’t worth discussing! At the time I was of the belief that positive mental attitude would get me my natural birth so I didn’t worry about anything else! But I am glad I had a birth plan, as I think if I hadn’t been induced, I would have followed it to the letter (it’s the planner in me, I have to have a plan!)

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      1. It’s not silly, you can’t help how you feel. I was surprised how thorough the NCT were, as traditionally they have a reputation about being all about the natural, but that wasn’t the case with our classes at all. Also, our teacher told us, it doesn’t matter if you have a completely natural birth, no pain relief, every drug going or a c-section, there are no medals given out for one type of birth or the other xxx

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      2. So true that you don’t get a medal for giving birth (you totally should though, bet it’s harder than running a marathon and you get a medal for that!!) The thing I dislike the most is the negative words associated with my birth – I had a FAILED induction because I FAILED to dilated. I also hate the term natural birth – because does that mean then I had an unnatural birth?! I can definitely see why people get down about caesareans when they’re not often spoken about in a positive light. Just writing that actually has shown me that I should be more positive about my birth because there’s nothing to be ashamed about!

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      3. Ah I know what you mean. There are so many things though in motherhood that can make us feel like we’re failing, when actually we are doing a bloody good job! You did amazingly well, you had possible pre-eclampsia, you had no time to prepare for being admitted to the hospital , you went along with what was best for Alfie even though it wasn’t really what you wanted, you went through hours and hours of labour, then had major surgery, then you had to recover from major surgery with a baby to look after; if that’s not something to be proud of, I don’t know what is!! Xxx

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  2. Not having the birth you planned can end up giving you some unexpected bitter emotions, I know. I hope you get some of the things you want next time around!. I always have to be induced as I am diabetic in pregnancy but they have been positive experiences for me both times. #justanotherlinky

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    1. It is, I think part of the problem is as a first time mum, you don’t k ow what to expect, so kind of do as you’re told. Next time I’m certainly more informed so am hoping I can keep more in control.

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  3. I can totally relate with this. My first birth didn’t go to plan and I was rushed with blue lights to a larger hospital to go into theatre. So with my second I was told I had to be at a larger hospital but I was able to try fit a water birth. That didn’t happen. I now know there really is no planning for birth. Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky xx

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    1. I am hoping for a water birth with my next, but I’ll likely be high risk. I was trying to research what I can and can’t do after a emcs but actually found it’s too soon and has made me super emotional about it. So I’m going to wait until I’m actually pregnant before making any decisions! Thanks for reading 🙂

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  4. I didn’t have a birth plan for my first (and only, so far). We lived three hours from the nearest major hospital, or had the option of birthing at a local maternity unit if there were no complications and I was able to manage without pain relief. Because our baby was prem we were sent to the big hospital and he ended up being born on the side of the road on the way there. There were lots of things I’d do differently in hindsight to ensure he’d been born in a safer environment, but having a birth plan wouldn’t have changed how things worked out. I likely won’t bother to do one with no. 2 either (fingers crossed on that!), I just don’t really think it’s something you can plan for. It’s terrific that you were so well-educated during your pregnancy and confidently knew what you wanted, I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t work out as you hoped. It’s a shame that those feelings of disappointment crept in after the initial relief and happiness of bringing your baby safely into the world. I still believe that if mother and baby manage the miracle of childbirth together then that’s a job well-done, regardless of the specifics 🙂

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