I thought I had a flexible birth plan. The only thing inflexible was I did NOT want to have a C-section. No disrespect to the C-section mamas out there, stick with me and I’ll explain.
Anything but a C-Section
I’m one of 5 kids and my mom is a superhuman. As if being a devoted mom to 5 kids doesn’t make you a superhuman, she gave birth vaginally every time and 4 out of the 5 with no drugs. When I got pregnant, I decided the safest thing for both me and baby sounded like the most natural thing: natural labor and delivery with minimal interventions. How hard could that be?
I thought, if my mom could labor and deliver 4 babies naturally, I can give this a shot. I am woman, hear me roar (read: present day me rolling my eyes at my pregnant, naive self).
What’s Blood Pressure, Anyway?
But when I went in for an appointment at 40 weeks and 3 days, my blood pressure was through the roof. They took it 3 different times to be sure, and it kept coming up 160/100. There were also trace amounts of protein in my urine, and I’d noticed my feet protesting a bit harder each time I tried to get a pair of shoes on lately.
Even after all the research I’d done, in that moment I didn’t understand what all that meant. My OB told me she consulted with another doctor in the practice and they agreed, I should go over to the hospital because we needed to induce that night. She explained that I was bordering on preeclampsia. Uhh … what?
“Let’s go have a baby,” I called my husband.
To cut to the chase: I was induced and made it all the way to 10cm without an epidural. Yay me? Not really. I didn’t do a single thing I learned in Lamaze except breathe … but the nitrous oxide helped.
After what felt like a lifetime of pushing (both with and without an epidural), I popped blood vessels all over my face and in my eyes. It wasn’t happening; this kid was not budging. The one thing I’d wanted so desperately to avoid was happening: they prepared me for C-section.
Finally, our sweet, stubborn baby girl came into the world by C-section and was chunky and healthy as could be, albeit with a funny shaped head from being stuck in the birth canal. I, like her, was in and out of consciousness from exhaustion.
It Shouldn’t Be All About Baby
Now that some time has passed, and the raging postpartum hormones have been tamed, I realize it doesn’t really matter … though if you’d said that to me in the weeks following, I may have lost it.
Pregnant mamas and even their caretakers focus so much on their unborn babies that sometimes they fail to focus on themselves. There are apps for fetal development by the day and week, unhelpfully comparing your baby to obscure fruits and vegetables you’ve never heard of, but fewer options and education about mom’s development and health. I had focused so much on learning about the birthing process that I was uneducated about my own body and signs that things could be headed in a bad direction.
My Plea to Pregnant Moms: Take Care of Yourself
It wasn’t until I read this article, about Lauren Bloomstein, a neonatal nurse who died following the birth of her daughter due to preeclampsia, that I got a shocking wake up call. My blood pressure at my last OBGYN appointment was as high as hers, which killed her.
Sixty percent of maternal deaths in the U.S. are preventable. These deaths span ethnic groups and economic statuses, and dot a map of the entire U.S. While infant mortality has fallen to its lowest, maternal mortality in our country has been increasing since 2000.
Mamas, educate yourselves on maternal health, and never put a birth plan first if it compromises your ability to be a mother to that baby. Ask as many questions of your OBGYN about how YOU are doing during pregnancy as you do about your baby.
Birth Planning: Expect the Unexpected
But know, you can do it. It’s possible to power through the pain if that’s what you want to do. It’s possible to get an epidural even when you’re 10 cm dilated, so don’t ever think it’s too late to ask for it. And, it’s possible to survive a C-section even if it’s the scariest thing in the world to you.
There are going to be a lot of things that don’t go the way you dreamed about during your delivery, even if it’s overall smooth and safe. Through my unexpected induction and C-section, I learned the only birth planning worth doing is to expect the unexpected.