The Tiniest Capen

planning for birth

So, at week 20 I’m firmly past reading about What Pregnancy Is Like and into reading about What Birth May Be Like (which will be followed by What An Infant Is Like). Not surprisingly, a friend of mine who’s a few months ahead of me is talking online about birth plans. She and I have a similar perspective on the women who freak out when birth doesn’t go as planned. I just don’t understand it.

I do understand wanting it to go a certain way: we all have medical wishes, desires for our own experience, demands about our own autonomy, expectations of respect and care, and reasonable requirements for what we’ll consider a “successful” birth. But when I hear that people are deeply depressed because it didn’t go as planned… I wonder. I wonder what they thought they were in control of.

I’m not in control of when the baby comes.

I’m not in control of how long early labor lasts.

Or when my water breaks.

Or when transition hits.

Or when it’s time to push.

Or for how long.

Or if it works or doesn’t work.

Or if the baby gets stuck somewhere in the process.

Or if I need a c-section.

Or if there are other unexpected complications that require medical intervention.

I can be in control of how I approach all those potentialities, and my own learning, and my own desires and education, and my conversations with my doctor and my husband, and our approach to induction and pain management and specific requests about procedures, and the choices I make at the hospital. I cannot control how the circumstances play out. There’s a baby and a whole lot of biology involved, and I don’t control those.

All we can choose is how we react to what life throws at us — before, during, and after.


  1. Mary Carmen

    Dude, I firmly believe it is not about us, it’s about the baby. I think we’ve been conditioned to think childbirth is all about us, but really it is about getting a healthy child into the world. I can make the most specific, detailed birth plan ever, but I’d toss it in a second if need be. I don’t get wanting to control the situation so much. I also don’t really get thinking and planning about it in such great detail. I am dead serious when I say that I’ve really only thought about the hospital and childbirth experience as a means to get my daughter. It is such a blip in my mind.

    I guess I understand being upset if it does not go how you planned. I don’t really understand getting upset when there is the need for an intervention and you have a healthy baby. I know hormones are all over the place and there are tons of feelings, but…I don’t know. This is so not something that is on my mind. Maybe I’m too used to doctors and hospitals and modern medicine.

  2. H

    It totally is about the baby, always. I was still completely unprepared for how I felt after having an unplanned c-section w/#1. I didn’t feel like I was hurried into it at all, I was grateful we got out of labor OK, all was well – until I got home and started to feel… sad. I guess? I don’t really remember now. I remember being surprised that I cared, because I had a “successful labor=healthy baby” mind set. Maybe I’m just a terrible patient. I don’t like hospitals, and c-sections mean you have to stay there longer, and the pain meds they gave me made me hallucinate. I guess my first delivery was just a really bad trip?

    Anyway. Please DO have a birth plan and print it and keep it in your shoulder bag from about week 35 on, in case you end up in triage 3 weeks early, and your husband is still parking the car when your nurse wants to know what your plan is for pain management because you’re waaaay far dilated and she wants you off her hands and in a delivery room. All I had to do was say “in my bag” and point in between contractions. Smartest thing I ever did, and second delivery was a like party with really *good* drugs and no hangover.

    Plan for the best case, but don’t be surprised if you feel doubtful about how things actually go down. And if you do feel depressed, I know you’ll talk to your doc, right? And get help? Because PPD is a real thing.

  3. Meredith

    Thank you! In Vermont I heard from a lot of women who were obsessed with the “birth experience” and I kept thinking “is this really all about you?” It’s a painful experience and in the end, if you have a healthy baby, it *was* a good birth experience. I had a birth plan and followed about 75% of it because I listened to my own body at the time. I was lucky though in that I had no one pressuring me to do anything. I heard so many voices when I was pregnant telling me that anything medical that happened in birth was bad. You’re not weak or a bad mom if you need drugs to get labor going or if you need drugs to get through labor or if you need surgical intervention. You’re also not superhuman if you don’t need any of that. In the end, if you have a healthy baby, it’s all good.

    That said, I had wicked PPD which had nothing to do with my birth experience and I agree with H that the best thing you can do is seek help early rather than trying to muscle through it (like I did). It’s amazing how motherhood, hormones, and societal expectations can screw with your head.

  4. (I’m 10 weeks behind you, Jenica!) You can’t separate yourself from the baby. A good birth experience for you means that your baby is healthier and happier. My son had an unplanned c-section which, for his circumstances, was the healthiest birth that he could have had. There are things that could have made this procedure better for my family. For the next birth, I hope to have my husband in the same room as the birth, I hope to be conscious, and I hope to have a chance to bond with the baby in the first days of his/her life rather than trying to fool the hospital that I was sufficiently healed so I could travel to another city to find my baby. It is an alien experience to wake up 5 hours after your son is born and to be told that, somehow, your 9 month pregnancy is at an end and this small being is, though you didn’t witness it come out of you, yours. I will not fault a mother for the feelings that arise from this. The disconnect, the second-guessing, and the sense of loss. P.S. My son and I have recovered from his birth and I am thankful for everyone (whom I never met) involved in getting him to me.


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