I spent some time at around week 36 of pregnancy writing up my birth ‘plan’. It involved birth being as natural as possible, preferably in water, with minimal pain relief using my hypnobirthing to keep calm, and the most important thing was that my husband be allowed to be the one to tell me the sex of our baby. I dutifully printed out several copies to hand to the midwives at the midwife-led Birthing Centre at our local hospital.
I haven’t even given birth yet (yes, I am indeed more than a week overdue now!) and my birth ‘plan’ is already obsolete. Now, maybe it’s just me, but when things don’t go to plan it tends to panic me a little. In everyday life I can cope, when it comes to something as significant as the birth of my first child, the plan being torn up and chucked out of the window has scared the living daylights out of me. For 9 months I felt like I was prepared and ready and I was excited for labour to start. Now I am absolutely bloody terrified, because right now, there isn’t really a plan at all!
It seems utterly stupid to say it, but if I had thought of that document that I carefully printed out and put in my maternity notes as birth ‘preferences’ or even birth ‘wishes’, i.e. what I would want in an ideal world, it would have been much less of an emotional upheaval to leave them behind. No ‘plan’ would have been abandoned, it would just be that my preferences weren’t going to be possible. It would somehow have lessened the expectation of the ‘plan’ being what would actually happen, and thus also the disappointment when it didn’t. Because, let’s face it, very few births go exactly to plan – it’s one of the few things in life you really cannot predict the course of, even if you’re a mum of four and on your fifth baby, there’s no guarantee you’ll have a birth exactly like the previous four on your fifth attempt. Childbirth is seriously unpredictable, so why are we asked to ‘plan’ it?!
If you’re wondering why I’ve already had to abandon my birth ‘plan’ before even going into labour, let me explain what has happened in the past couple of weeks. At 38 weeks I had a couple of episodes of reduced movement, where I didn’t feel Pipsqueak move as much as usual. These days, due to the fact this can be an indicator the baby is in trouble, they urge you to go to the Maternity Assessment Centre for monitoring so they can check everything is fine. It is a myth that babies’ movements slow the closer you get to labour, because they are ‘getting ready to be born’ or have ‘run out of room’ – you should always get checked out straight away if you are worried. At 39 weeks I had another incident, so they booked me in for a scan to check everything was okay. The good news was, all looked absolutely fine. In other news, my baby is a giant. At early 39 weeks, Pipsqueak was apparently weighing in at 9lbs 4, with a predicted birth weight (at 40 weeks) of almost 10lbs! Given that I am small, this worried the midwives and the consultant, who were concerned a natural birth may not be possible. They also said they would not want me to go beyond 41 weeks because of the potential size at that point. (Yes, you will recall I am already beyond that!) I would also have to go to the labour ward at the bigger hospital nearly an hour away, rather than our local one only 20 minutes away, which has meant all my appointments have also been there and I have spent far too much time driving to appointments and back in the last few weeks.
At this point I was quite surprised because all the way through Pipsqueak had actually been measuring (through my stomach) as slightly smaller than average, so I wasn’t really sure what to say. I let myself sit and listen to all the numerous risks that delivering such a large baby could bring, and the fear set in a little. The midwife examined me and determined my cervix was still not ready, and I was at least a week or more from going into labour naturally. I decided that as I was not yet at my due date, I would wait and see, especially as I had heard that these scans were quite unreliable and potentially huge babies had come out at 7lbs or even smaller! However, later that week Pipsqueak went very quiet again, and I went in for more monitoring. They said Pipsqueak needed to come out asap, and booked me a consultant appointment to talk about it – 6 days later!
The consultant’s first suggestion was induction asap, but I had heard so many horror stories of induction taking two or three days, then labour two or three days, and then an emergency caesarean at the end of it, because induction increases the risk of medical interventions by up to 50%. I really wanted to avoid all that, and the ensuing difficult recovery from the operation because of being so exhausted, and so I decided to give my body more time, and booked in for an induction at the last possible moment, when I would be 12 days overdue. The consultant suggested I consider an elective caesarean right away, but since I was thinking about the birth ‘plan’ and my hopes of a natural birth, I was adamant it wasn’t really an option for me. I so wish I could go back in time and ask to discuss that option at that point, but hindsight is great, right?
When I got home, I started reading about elective caesareans, and spoke to some friends and asked on Instagram for people’s experiences (and received the most wonderful and helpful comments), and began to think that perhaps an elective would be a better idea after all, so I texted my midwife and asked to see her on Monday to discuss it. I hadn’t realised she would not be able to book me in for one, or I would have tried to get a consultant appointment at that point. She agreed that it would be the better option for me than induction, especially given the reduced movements and the fact that by that point I was getting seriously uncomfortable (not to mention really fed up of the messages asking “Still no baby?” – I mean, I am delighted friends are excited about it, and touched they care, but it is literally the worst question to ask an overdue pregnant woman! It would be fine if I had to field 1 or 2 a day, but it is more like 15 or 20 at this point and I am also a bit of a state emotionally, so it has started to get a bit frustrating), so she asked for an urgent consultant appointment for me. I was given one 5 days later (!), at 41 weeks exactly. The consultant immediately agreed I could have an elective caesarean and proceeded to book me into the next available slot – a week later! I would be one day off 42 weeks. So much for it being urgent the baby was born before 42 weeks!
So here I am, waiting for my elective caesarean, whilst also desperately hoping to go into labour spontaneously in the meantime, but now being equally terrified of both options. My birth ‘plan’ now is that there isn’t really one, and my birth preferences have been downgraded so much they are just that both baby and I come through it healthy and the pain isn’t too horrendous. Hardly high hopes for this magical event in my life, and I am quite angry that I have been made to feel that things are very likely to be difficult and yet it doesn’t feel like much of an effort has really been made to try to mitigate that by having me seen quickly or booked in urgently. I suppose after all this, calling them my birth preferences wouldn’t really have helped a huge amount, but it might have made me feel less like my hopes and expectations were being trampled upon. I already feel like I have failed somehow for not going into labour before the 42 week cut-off point, but at the same time I am trying to trust my body that it knows it can birth the baby it is growing, and it will do so when the time is right. I just hope that is before the date the consultants have decided is the right time for me on Wednesday. I did not imagine that once I had decided on the elective caesarean I would still be spending a week on this emotional rollercoaster – over-analysing every little twinge and being utterly paranoid about how much the baby is moving – if they had booked me in the following day I think I could have coped just fine, but I am a worrier by nature, and all this extra thinking time is torture.
Who knows what will happen now and what kind of a birth I will eventually have? I just know that by the end of next Wednesday, by some means or another, Pipsqueak will finally be here. I cannot wait.