Plan vs. Reality

(Originally written August 23, 3012)

Before giving birth I didn’t really know what to expect.  I had ideas of what type of birth I wanted and about what labor would be like but all those were just ideas.  At about 30 weeks I spent hours typing up my “ideal” birth plan.  My plan was filled with things like not having an IV, waiting to get an epidural until I needed it because the pain was unbearable, not having an internal monitor, etc. etc. I thought my labor would start in the middle of the night, probably while Bry was on the night shift, with my water breaking on my way to the bathroom.  Or I’d start having contractions that were clearly labor and would send me to the hospital in no time because I’d know for sure they were real.  However, reality was far from those “ideas”.

For me, labor started at noon when I was 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant.  My contractions presented namely as back labor (read: intense back pain with cramping around the front).  They’d last anywhere from 40 to 60 seconds and come every 2-5 minutes.  We were told in our birth classes that we were in active labor and to proceed to the hospital when our contractions were regularly coming 5-1-1 (5 minutes apart or less, 1 minute or more in length for at least an hour).  Clearly, that magical scenario didn’t work for me.  Even after 3.5 hours of regular contractions, I was unsure if this was the real thing. I’d had Braxton hicks throughout the past few weeks of pregnancy and some would last up to an hour and would feel almost identical to what would be real active labor for me.  I was so scared that when real labor hit, I was actually experiencing more BH and I’d end up on my way to the hospital just to have them stop before being admitted.

As for that “plan” I had written? I never bothered to even remove it from our hospital bag.  Everything happened so quickly and I put full faith in my birth team.  These were people who were there to support us and to make sure that Jackson came into this world as healthy as possible.  They were trained professionals and they knew with experience what needed to be done better than I did. With that said, not once did I feel pressured into something I didn’t want (aside from the brief c-section scare).

I went into labor wanting to hold off on an epidural until I truly needed one.  At 5cm dilated I was still able to hum my way through my contractions and get through them with relatively little pain as Bry massaged my feet and put pressure between my thumb and pointer finger to allow me to concentrate on something else.  However, an epidural was necessary for our little man to regulate his heart rate and in the end for it to be possible for me to have a natural birth.  Bry and I spent 6 weeks in birth classes learning birthing techniques I was sure I’d utilize.  Counter pressure, massages, hot showers, etc.  In reality they were never utilized.  I couldn’t feel massages once I had my epidural and I wasn’t in any pain where I’d need them.  I wasn’t allowed to leave my bed once the epi went in not that I wanted or needed to anyway. 

I thought an epidural would surely slow labor, as I’d been told it usually does.  As a first time mom I thought I’d certainly spend hours after being admitted laboring away in bed.  However, 7 hours after being admitted our son was born despite the epidural, despite being a first time mom and without the need for meds to interfere with my contractions (until the last hour).  I made it from 5cm to 8cm in the span of 3 hours on my own (well, with little man’s help).

I thought I’d spend at least a couple hours in the pushing stage of labor. I laughed as the nurses joked I’d be a good pusher and have the baby out in no time.  And yet in 6 minutes and 3 pushes, Jackson slid right out.

I thought I’d be in pain, that time would inch by but instead it flew.  It feels like a dream and looking back it seems so surreal that just 5 days ago we were in a delivery room awaiting our son’s arrival.  I feels like an out of body experience almost and I contribute a lot of my ability to go outside myself during the difficult times (epidural, c-section scare, pushing) to get through labor and delivery as easily as possible to an amazing husband, prenatal yoga, the thought and visualization of our incredible baby boy and sleep deprivation.  Had I visualized baby’s head crowning I assure you that stage of pregnancy would have taken MUCH longer.

I assumed I’d be moaning and well, miserable, during labor especially in the latter parts.  However, I smiled, laughed and cracked jokes the entire time.  I even laughed and joked in between pushes! Our doctor’s last words before she left us for the night (remember she stayed on an extra hour after her shift ended to deliver Jackson so we wouldn’t have to switch doctor’s at the last minute—SO incredibly thankful!! She was amazing) “Thank you for smiling through the whole thing.”  I have to say no matter how much pressure was there, scares occurred or pain might have been present, I always had that thought of Jackson in the forefront of my mind and with that visualization, nothing else in the world mattered.

I have to take a moment here to say that I was truly blessed with an incredible support team at Holy Cross. From start to finish they were amazing, supportive and made us feel well taken care of and at ease despite everything.  But as blessed as I was for my birth team at HC, the team I brought with me was who truly made the experience so incredible and one I smiled through and look back at with nothing but happiness and a knowledge that it was absolutely perfect for us.  Bryan was supportive through everything, from trying to labor at home more to attempting our hand at going to labor and delivery to see if we were actually in labor, to spending all night after only 3 hours of sleep following a night shift sitting by my bed massaging my hand, talking to me and listening to me rattle off about random thoughts as we waited in each hour increment.  He was truly incredible from start to finish, making me never feel alone and truly listening to my wishes and reiterating them to our birth team when needed. He’s been a fantastic husband and he’s already quickly become such an amazing daddy. 

And finally, last but certainly not least, my little boy who really went through this journey with me from start to finish.  Thank you for dropping and engaging, for coming down so far on your own, for regulating your heart rate and for listening to mommy when she told you it was a slip and slide and thus, sliding right out.  Thank you for being you and for completing my world.

In the end no plan mattered. No preconceived notion of how that day would go. And I’ve learned more and more with each passing day that that continues to hold true. The most important thing at the end of the day is that your little one is healthy and happy.



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