Coming To Terms With The Birth You Didn't Plan
Tranquil sounds of the ocean, preferably of the whale variety progressively increasing in sound and frequency with each contraction. Lovers; calling out to one another from afar through the sound of the deep underwater as the rest of the pod dance around in the space between, backing singers to their sweet melody. The pair would recognise each other in even the most crowded spots. Their bond is unbreakable, their song a thing of beauty and perfect harmony.
I feel the water over my swollen tummy, a blanket of comfort to help shield the pain as I sway in time with waves. The familiar weight of Carl’s hands rubbing the weight of the last month of heavy pregnancy from my shoulders is a welcome distraction. I suddenly have the urge to roll onto my front, arse resting in view above the surface of the pool.
His eyes meet mine as I tense up with another oncoming pain, about to cry out involuntarily. But Carl places a finger over my lips and begins to join the song, humming along in time and urging me with eye contact alone to do this same.
He gives me a look almost as if to say ‘that’s it, you’ve got this’.
Encouraged by the support I relax into the contraction.
‘Mmmmmmmmmm, mmmmmmmwwwwa, mwarhhhhh, MWARRHHH‘.
We become the whale lovers from the CD as they reunite and swim around one another with grace. But lying solo in the pool is taking away from the realism a little and it’s hard to rely on my imagination with this excruciating pain so I send signals to Carl and he joins me in the water.
We sway and mwarhhhhh.
Before I know it I’m pushing and out slides our perfect little baby boy in what feels like no time at all. The third member to our pod, breaking free through the surface in a splash of glory as we huddle together in absolute contentment.
The labour was so zen and peaceful, so natural and beautiful that the midwives need not intervene until the time came to cut the cord and do their checks.
I step out of the water and slip out of my floaty maternity dress like a goddess, hair a little messy in that way that looks good anyways. My vagina feels fine, great even and perfectly in tact. I’m handed back my baby and he latches on, the three of us just savouring this picture perfect moment together before we skip into the sunset and head back home to start our journey.
Believe it or not, that was not how it went for us although that was pretty much what I envisioned when I wrote out my birth plan. I was absolutely convinced it was going to go like that to the last detail. (I even dreamt it did, bare bum splashing around above the water- the works!)
I know you might be wondering what on God’s green Earth is wrong with me and it’s best not to ask to be honest. Me and Carl have this little whale thing we’ve always done and it kind of just went from there. But whether people found my plan weird or not, its what I wanted.
It’s what I had my heart set on.
To some women, a plan is a really important part of the process, for those who are about to do this all for the first time in particular. Even though we know deep down there’s a strong possibility it will get pushed to one side and pan out differently, it’s a reassuring thing to have in place throughout the uncertainty that comes with pregnancy.
So yes, my wishes may sound a little out there and eccentric and maybe I shouldn’t have gotten so tied up on that one episode of One Born Every Minute where the couple pretty much meditate the baby out alone in the birthing pool but the fact remains that I really, like really really desperately wanted a water birth.
There were many reasons for this, a few being: I’ve always been a water baby and that’s never changed, I have a huge fear of hospitals and thought being in a pool rather than a hospital bed would help to relax me a little and the general concept as a whole just really appealed to me and I wanted it to be a part of the biggest moment of my life.
I was told so many times not to get my hopes up but I couldn’t help it and they elevated even further when the time came to go into hospital and the midwife told me I would be next in line for the pool. Lack of availability was one of the main things I was told to expect so I thought everything was going in my favour. If you’ve read my birth story then you’ll be a little familiar of what happened afterwards and the fact I did nor get my water birth.
In short, my contractions slowed right down when we went into our room to wait for the pool room and I ended up having to be induced with the hormone drip- everything and more I didn’t want. I was restricted to the bed on my back unable to move and the pains were right there in my lower back. The only relief was to push myself down towards the bottom of the bed but that was making baby’s heartbeat drop meaning if I didn’t force myself to stay stationary there was a good chance they’d rush me for an emergency section.
I was so exhausted I ended up having help in the form of a Kiwi-assisted birth and a lovely tear that needed stitching.
I’ve talked about my labour so much but what I haven’t spoke about a lot is how robbed I felt afterwards. Not only did I feel robbed of my water birth but also of my power and ability to push on my own. It wasn’t necessarily something I felt straight away because I was so wrapped up in my baby and healing but when it hit me it really affected me and I didn’t expect it at all.
I would even go as far as to describe the feeling as grief. I honestly think I was and still am grieving for the birth I didn’t get and that’s a big thing to have to deal with especially coupled with everything else on your plate in the postpartum weeks.
I actually didn’t discuss this with Carl until recently because I genuinely thought it might sound ridiculous but when I brought it up he completely understood every word I said and it’s helped me heal a little more.
When a woman is told it’s time to write their birth plan to some it’s like writing a dream on a page. Having a baby is that dream and labour is such a key aspect of it so maybe it should be just as important of a stage in the process following the birth itself; something that’s discussed more be it positive or negative because I’m sure many like me are dealing with these feelings.
I thank my lucky stars that I had a safe delivery and me and my boy are happy and healthy not to mention the fact that I narrowly avoided a c-section but I’ll always wonder what if?
I do plan to have more children and will keep my fingers crossed that I will be able to experience my water birth (whale CD and all.. not sorry) but next time around my expectations won’t be as high and I will be prepared not only for changes in my plan but of the consequences I may face emotionally should they occur.