The Ugly Truth Behind Birth Plans

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During your first pregnancy, you have so many ideals in your head.  You read every pregnancy-related article, you strategically put together your birth plan, and you make lists of what you are going to do and what you are not going to do during pregnancy, labor and delivery.  I was no exception.

I bought all of the pregnancy week-by-week books, I took a Bradley Method course, and I watched every baby documentary I could find.  Slowly, I began formulating my ideals.  I desired to have an all-natural birth, because I thought that was the only correct option.  I was going to have a water birth at a birthing center, I was not going to have interventions of any sort, and I was not going to entertain the thought of pain relief because that is surely of the devil.

During those 9 months (more like 10), I proudly defended my choices to any and all who questioned them.  Some called me a hippie, and I took it as a complement.  As absurd as this sounds, I thought I was better than all of my other pregnant friends because I was going the all-natural route.  I judged every woman who went to the hospital for their labor and delivery, and I most certainly judged every woman who boasted about their epidural plans.  Believe you me; I was in for a rude awakening.

When I finally went into labor, absolutely nothing went according to my birth plan.  After laboring through two nights, and 10 hours after my water broke, my midwife made the call to transfer me to the hospital.  I burst into tears, feeling defeated and like an utter failure.  I had traded my cozy birthing center environment for a hospital room, and I had to chuck all of my  plans out the door.  My little one’s birth was no longer about my wants, but about her and getting her out in the quickest and safest way possible.

The thing I’ve learned about ideals is that we formulate them from our perfect-world scenarios.  We generally have no true experience when we create them, and so they simply exist as fantasies, that then fail in practicality.  What ideals inevitably do, is set you up for failure.  And that is certainly what my ideals did for me.

Eventually, I gave birth to a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby girl, who couldn’t have cared less how she entered the world.  She was just happy to be in it.  And the truth of it all is, regardless of whether  I was in the warm, homey environment of a birthing center, or in the hustle and bustle of a hospital, my daughter would have had the same outcome; which was joining an unconditionally loving and happy family.

I realize now that I had no idea what pregnancy or labor and delivery was like.  Even though it was good for me to have a birth plan, once I made the mistake of turning my birth plan into my birth ideals, I set myself up for failure.  I then became a rigid machine, unwilling to accept any deterrent from my projected path.  The reason why I felt so defeated is because of me and only me.  My body did not fail me, I did.  I forgot the age old wisdom that life does not always go my way.

Now, over a year later, I find myself in the same position; I am pregnant.  But, I refuse to fall victim to ideals this time around, because I want to set myself up for success.  I also refuse to judge other’s birth plans, because every woman deserves the right to choose what works best for them.  But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through all of this is that my children’s births are but a blink of an eye in comparison to the rest of their lives.  I should focus more on how my children live, rather than be fixated on how they are born.  So, from this pregnancy on, I am choosing to allow myself the freedom to plan whatever birth best suites my family, and also the freedom to divert from that plan when needed without fear of judgment or feeling defeated.

 

Guest Post-How I’m going to Have It All

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A few years ago as I was preparing to get married, I had a conversation with my grandmother.  Amid the discussions of wedding flowers, invitations, color schemes, and bridesmaids’ dresses, she offered me a golden nugget of advice.  She said “Theresa, I really believe that you can have it all.  In your life, you can absolutely have it all; you just can’t have it all at once.”

By nature, I’m a busy person.  I thrive off of a full schedule and lots of activity.  My husband once joked that I only have two settings: “on” and “off.”  This temperament coupled with a Type A personality got me through college and grad school by 23 and has made me very successful in my career as a technical project manager.  I have been known to rush in the door from work, whip up a home-cooked dinner, then shove it in my face while running out the door to teach acting lessons at our church.  The next night you may find me taking my dog to an agility class; then throwing a dinner party over the weekend.

But my entire world was turned upside down on July 23, 2013 when the doctors first handed me the sweetest, most handsome baby boy I had ever seen.  I instantly knew that life would never be the same; that I would never be the same.  These last 6 months have been an interesting see-saw as I have tried to shift priorities and learn a little about balance.

With that in mind, I have declared 2014 the year of the “no.”  Over the holidays, my husband and I made a conscious decision to drastically reduce our commitments this year.  I quit a number of my volunteer obligations, I’ve started saying no to outings and coffee dates with friends, and we aren’t hosting as many events at our house.  I’m focusing this year on two areas: my family and my job.  I’m forcing everything else to take a back seat.  Does this mean I intend to become a hermit and never go out again with my friends or say no to every volunteer opportunity?  Of course not.  I’m just making a conscious effort to not say “yes” to an invitation until I’ve had the opportunity to weigh the cost.

You see, what I’ve come to realize is that in saying “yes” to absolutely everything, I wasn’t really “doing it all.”  In fact, by constantly agreeing to more commitments I was actually taking away my own power of choice.  I was losing control of my time and I had less energy to  focus on the things that really mattered to me.  And every time I said “yes” to something, I was already saying “no” to something else, I just wasn’t aware of it.  So I’m reversing the cycle.  I’m saying “no” to everything first so that I have the power to say “yes” when I really want to.

The beauty of this new philosophy of mine is that I think it really will let me have it all: a beautiful family, a successful career, rewarding volunteer opportunities, and a great network of close friends.  Maybe I will finally get to run that half marathon I have always wanted to finish.  Or write a book (hey, with my busy schedule I was just happy to read one every so often).

In my lifetime, I have every intention of having it all.  But I am recognizing the wisdom in my grandmother’s words more and more each day.  If I really want to have all of those things, then I have to begin to focus on each of them in their own season.  My son will only be young once.  He will only have his first laugh once.  He will only take his first bite of food, his first steps, his first word once.  These are moments I can never get back, and there is no way I am going to miss them.  By saying “no” to so many other things, I am able to say “yes” to him more.  I am able to say “yes” to an evening snuggle before bed.  I am able to say “yes” to sitting on the couch and listening to my husband read him a story.  I am able to say “yes” to making all his baby food.  I am able to say “yes” to playing on the floor for 2 hours on a Saturday morning.

But don’t think for one second that I am saying “no” forever.  I will come back to my volunteer hours.  I’ll be back asking for promotions.  I will soon be tackling projects around our house again.  That’s the beauty of life.  We go through so many seasons in the course of a lifetime and I’m coming to realize that today’s “no” can still be tomorrow’s “yes.”  Sacrifices aren’t necessarily made forever.  During the course of a lifetime we can have it all.

So please forgive me if I say “no” the next time you want to meet for coffee.  Forgive me if I’m not at church every single Sunday.  Forgive me if I disappointed you when I quit volunteering for your organization.  This is my year of the “no.”  Because I have every intention of having it all, I just know I can’t have it all at once.