During pregnancy with my first child, I read everything I could get my hands on regarding pregnancy and childbirth. I took a twelve week natural childbirth class and befriended Doulas and other women who had home births. I practiced relaxation and made a plan with my then husband. I THOUGHT I would want to be touched, massaged, caressed, held and verbally encouraged throughout the process of labor and childbirth. So, naturally that is what I planned for. Little did I know, Nature had a different plan.
I didn't know I was going to want that.
Imagine my surprise when I heard myself utter the words, "Don't touch me," to my husband during labor. Imagine HIS surprise when I had been so clear as to explain to him what I wanted during labor - he was simply following orders! So, he went to plan B, which was to encourage me with loving words and tell me what a great job I was doing, only to get a response from me like, "Stop talking," although I'm pretty sure I didn't say it so nicely.
But then, when he began to walk away to leave me alone, not knowing what else to do, I stopped him saying, "Don't go anywhere!" Somehow, I wanted to be surrounded by people to know I wasn't alone, but I needed to be fully independent in thought and action to accomplish the task before me.
Surprises aren't reserved for the process of childbirth.
The most predictable thing about childbirth is its unpredictability, but it's also not the only thing that will surprise you. Sometimes you can surprise yourself. MANY women surprise themselves with their own strength. "I can't believe I did it!" "I didn't think I could do it with/without an epidural!" Many spouses surprise themselves when they show more emotion than expected or pass out during some part of the labor and birth process. Later, in parenthood, I was VERY surprised about, well, everything.
I didn't know I was going to want to be left alone, or that the "childbirth method" I'd studied and practiced wasn't going to work for me (although parts of it did). But, when I think about it, those three phrases are pretty much how I deal with many other things in my life. I like to be independent and free from distractions when I need to focus to accomplish a task, but I also don't like to be alone. As I type this blog, I'm sitting in a busy and noise-filled coffee shop full of people with whom I am not interacting and I am completely at peace and focused on the task of writing this blog post.
So, there are two lessons here: first that I had to adapt to a situation for which I hadn't planned, and secondly that my personality was a driving factor in how I approached an unknown situation.
Knowing yourself, your needs and how you are "hard-wired" is an integral part of understanding and planning for how you will approach the task of childbirth. There are many things that can, may, and will happen in the process of labor and delivery, so there is still incredible value in learning about pregnancy, labor and birth. But the truth is some, none or all of those things could happen. Making a birth plan has less to do with having a plan and more to do with planning for your birth.
The only true constant in the childbirth process is YOU. Regardless of what happens, you can become an expert in yourself: how you work, think, adapt, respond to situations and what will be best for you to accomplish any new task set before you. What do you like? What do you need? Control? Answers? Companionship? Respect? Security?
You can learn about birth and your body. You can learn about your options and evidence-based care. Trust me - I wouldn't have included these topics in my books and childbirth preparation program if I didn't find them valuable. But I would venture to say that learning about yourself might be the very key that unlocks the most satisfying birth experience and give you the confidence needed to get what you really want.
Written by Missy David, the Honeybee Mama