Fantasy vs. Reality: Plan for the Unexpected Birth

by Amy Braman

Every girl imagines her first kiss, her wedding day and what it will feel like to have a baby. In our minds, we visualize these experiences and strive to turn our long held fantasies into realities. These are cherished visions that belong to us and us alone. We plan for these milestones years in advance, adjusting details as we grow and experience life, yet remain true to our ideal. These are the opening words to my birth plan:

"My husband and I are excited about the birth of our first child, whose gender is unknown to us. To summarize our vision for our birth experience would be to describe it as "spa like." It is our wish to have a natural childbirth, meaning, a birth experience free of medical and/or chemical intervention. My ideal birth experience would be a home birth, however, with this being our first child and knowing that unexpected complications could arise, we have chosen to deliver at this hospital to ensure the safety of our child should unforeseen complications arise. Medical and chemical interventions would be considered as a last resort after all other natural interventions have been exhausted."

From the beginning, I only wanted the best for our baby and that included a natural birth, no pain medications of any kind. I wanted to experience my first pregnancy and birth fully, with all my senses. It was very important to me. My birth plan was specific and went on to include items such as dim lights, ambient candles, no unnecessary interruptions, the ability to move freely during labor, use of the labor tub as well as the massage and aroma therapy rooms. Regarding medical intervention, my birth plan went on to read,

"Unless fetal distress is evident, I do not wish to be induced; If chemical induction becomes necessary, we ask that pitocin be used as a last resort and a Cesarean will only be considered if advised by sound medical evidence...."

Since this was my first pregnancy, we opted for an Adventist Health System hospital that offered a birth center and supported natural births and every wish on my birth plan, except for the candles in our room. We felt this hospital was a good compromise. Immediate access to medical assistance, if necessary, yet complete willingness to abide by our wishes. I could not have asked for a more competent medical staff than theirs.

I was thrilled to learn that our hospital staffed a certified nurse midwife. After my doctor closed her practice mid-way through my pregnancy, I immediately transferred to her for the remainder of my care.

Our pain management technique of choice was Hypnobirthing, The Mongan Method™. For nearly six months my husband and I trained and prepared our minds, and I my body, for a beautiful, stress-free and relaxed natural birth. I am a planner. My bags were packed weeks ahead of time and I imagined the moment when I would tell my husband, "I think we need to go to the hospital." I knew the route there and how long it should take to arrive.

I was one of the so-called "lucky ones." I gloried in a symptom-free pregnancy, much to the envy of others. I did not suffer from morning sickness, fatigue, backaches, leg cramps or any of the other discomforts of pregnancy.

Sitting in the window seats of our coffee shop, I told a friend our plans for a natural birth. Three months prior, she had given birth to a lovely baby girl and now her four-year-old was a big brother. Her plans were to have a natural vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). She was not as adamant as I was about enduring labor without pain relief though, and opted for an epidural at 8cm dilated. She had learned with her first born that no matter how thoroughly you plan for birth, your plans might suddenly change. Her son's shoulder was stuck. He could not progress through the birth canal and she ended up in an emergency c-section.

She explained how she blamed herself for a period of time even though she knew it was not her fault and not within her control. She had so desired a natural birth that she felt a bit of failure as a new mom who could not bring her son into the world naturally. Inside, I pitied her for missing out on a beautiful birth experience like I would soon have.