I got talking to another mother today about "birthing plans." This concept never fails to make me laugh, despite the fact that it's a serious and important topic for expectant mothers to address. Something about planning for that madness just amuses me.
At any rate, I was thinking about it, and I think that birthing plans are actually really important for birthmothers. If you think about it, that time--birth, and a short time following--are the culmination of the entire process. Firstly, because birth itself is a culmination of nine months of pregnancy, and secondly because this is the time the baby and the birthmother have to meet each other. Every placement is different. But this time is indeed the birthmother's.
I don't think I really thought a WHOLE lot about my birthing plan before I had my son, but there were definitely things that I wanted to have happen. First, I wanted Jen there. This was the birth of her son, too, and it was important for me to have her there. Later I also decided I wanted my mom there. They both lived three hours away from me, so part of the process was getting them to where I was. And that turned out to be part of the fun.
I wanted a natural birth. I guess it's because I'm stubborn. I can't really explain the why of it, except that women were made to have babies, and I wanted to have mine the way God intended for it to happen. I wanted catharsis through the pains of birth. I suppose I felt the pain would somehow cleanse me of all the pain I had endured through my pregnancy.
I also decided to take my baby home for three days after he was born. Now, this wouldn't work for some people. But it's what I wanted. I wanted that time to meet my son, to spend time with him, to let my parents spend time with him. I wanted him to know that I loved him before I placed him with his family.
Realistically, everything went according to my plan, even if my birthing plan in no way encompassed the enormity of my son's birth. When the labor pains began and I knew they were for real, I called my parents. My mother--who'd been stressing herself silly for weeks--was in the car even before we hung up. And actually, Jen and her husband called me even before I had the chance to call them. I was sitting in church, exulting in the regular contractions, and when I got out I had a voicemail. I went into labor on my due date, and they were calling to check how I was doing. I called them back and told them it was time. I'm not entirely sure that Jen believed me at first. But eventually I convinced them that it was time to come down.
When everybody arrived, I was so overjoyed. Actually, we have pictures of me making a snow angel in my front yard. I was SO happy. It still wasn't time to go to the hospital, so I joined them at my parents hotel and we played Settlers of Catan and Racko through the evening. It was getting late and everybody was tired, so they decided to go to bed. But no sooner had I laid down then I decided I definitely wasn't going to be sleeping--so we went to the hospital.
I was still high. I walked loops around the maternity wing with Jen and my mom while Joe and my dad took naps. I called my social worker, and I called the birthfather. When the contractions got too intense, I got to enjoy the jacuzzi tub in my room. I tell you--if you're going to have a natural birth, have a jacuzzi tub. Seriously.
By the time I got out of the jacuzzi time, it was almost time to push. My midwife arrived--she was upset that I hadn't called her earlier to help! But we got ready, and started pushing.
Yeah, it hurt. Not gonna lie. But when my son was born, I wept with pain and joy and relief and a million other emotions all at once. Jen admitted to me that she had peeked as he came out, and I just laughed. "That's what you're here for, silly," is what I told her.
Friends came to visit us in the hospital. I called one of my professors and asked her to spread the word that I'd be out of classes for a week. Jen and Joe brought me flowers and Ben & Jerry's. And then I took my son home to my parents' house for three days, just as I had planned.
I wouldn't have done it any other way. Those three days gave me a chance to meet my son, and to heal just a bit before placement three days after he was born. We held placement in my home. We exchanged gifts. We signed papers. I changed his diaper one more time, and then sent him home with his parents.
I spent a few more days at my parents', and then I returned to school. It was good for me to keep busy, that helped me to process and to heal. Everyone heals differently.
I think that it's important for birthmothers--for ALL mothers--to prepare in advance, to know how they want things to happen. That way, when the insanity of childbirth takes place, at least part of life will be in order. And with that stability, we can move forward with life.