As my belly grows outward in a craze of outlandish horizontalness, here are the top two questions coming at me this month
1) What's your "birth plan?" 2) Have you considered a homebirth, or at least the help of a doula?
Which lead me to WTF Part Deux.
* * *
First - and it's not so much of a WTF but just a general musing: the broader question of the birth plan.
Birth plan? What's that? Is that like...a developed-country phenomenon?
OH YEAH - I remember now!
Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to close your eyes for a minute and journey into the past with me, back to when we were all pregnant that first, wondrous, innocent time. Back when plans mattered, fairytale dreams came true. Are you following?
Like me, you may have been asked to fill out a "birth plan" in your first trimester - a sheet of official-looking paper filled with fun questions, completed by you and returned to your doctor. How did you want your labor and delivery to unfold, it asked. Who did you want in the room? Did you want music in the background? Pain drugs or au natural? What labor-positions struck your fancy? How did you want your baby handled afterward? Like a child asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, you conferred seriously with your partner and checked off answers, painting a dreamy portrait of baby-delivery day like bright oil paints on canvas.
Ahhhhhhh...weren't those the good'ol days? I remember them so fondly for knocked-uppages #1, 2, and even 3. Early 2006, and again in 2007, and even in 2009: sitting Kevin down so we could discuss this most serious subject, pressing in my answers with black pen like a responsible pre-mom, and dutifully returning my answers to the clinic.
Fast-forward to the present. I vaguely recall the nurse handing me a blank birth-plan form for this pregnancy, only for it to get tossed into trash can on my way out the door. Here's my one-sentence birth plan, I tell people when they ask (and they DO ask with astounding frequency): get my ass to the hospital when the time is right, and push out a living baby.
That's it. That's my birth plan.
I don't blame people for asking. These days, it's a normal thing to inquire about, I guess. I just wish I had something juicier to say, a list of big dreams for something greater and more noble, some stronger convictions and passions, something to show that I've really done my research and thought hard about this. Years ago, I did - I swear.
But some of you old-timers might recall this post a while back, in which I relayed my take-home message from that week's visit to a shrink: "What ARE plans anyway? They're things we make up inside our heads to give us the illusion that we're in control."
Losing a pregnancy is never a part of the plan. Right? Right. So, having your plans get burned over and over again eventually takes its toll on your psyche, this smart shrink-lady told me. I guess that's part of my personal toll: I don't make plans anymore.
At least not birth plans.
* * *
Next, the much more WTF question of homebirth - or, shall I say, what K and I have been calling the Homebirth-Amway-Salespeople (HAS): WTF is UP with that?
Before I go any further, let me say this: I happen to know that a very large handful of fine, intelligent folks reading this are homebirth enthusiasts. Which is to say: they had a plan to deliver their babies at home with the help of a midwife, and that's what they did (or tried to, anyway). I respect that. It's all good. Go homebirth. Go midwifery.
The homebirth question is similar to the birth-plan question, but with an Amway salesperson element that makes me feel like a small insect who inadvertently invited predatory company into my home.
Let me explain how this conversation usually unfolds. It starts with a fairly innocent question, a girlfriend or female who has either gone the natural-childbirth route or plans to - but has certainly researched its benefits extensively.
Her: "Where are you planning on having your baby?"
Me: "At a hospital."
Her: "Oh." Long pause. Already, I'm sensing that I've given the wrong answer, that I uttered "hospital" too quickly and self-assuredly, possibly indicating that I've not considered other options. It's as though I just told an Amway sales rep that no, I've never tried their whatever-the-fuck-they-sell, and they now have this meatball of opportunity hovering before their eyes.
Her, continuing: "Are you going with just regular doctor or a midwife? Some hospitals have midwifery programs."
Me: "Regular doctor."
There's an even longer pause, and now I know for sure where this conversation is headed, my earlier hunch confirmed. A subtle shift in said female's demeanor, a change in the tenor of her voice to someone who now knows more than I do, and who senses a glorious chance to enlighten me, un-saved heathen that I am! Again, like an insect cringing and scurrying beneath her sympathetic scrutiny, I've proven myself part of the naive mainstream masses that have not yet learned of the soul-saving glories of midwifery, of the homebirth experience, of bloodying one's own linoleum floor, of hypnotizing oneself with fantasy images of hot naked men as a way to numb the pain instead of using drugs.
Here it comes...
Her: "Have you considered going the non-traditional route? Group Health has a great midwifery program! I can send you some links, some articles. You really should read them! There are so many great ways to give birth other than in a hospital with an epidural in your spine..."
And the conversation sort of fizzles there, because by that point I've shut down. I mean, I sort of pretend to carry on in conversation, talking and not talking, smiling and not smiling, but my brain has gone elsewhere - because the person I'm conversing with has just morphed from friend-on-equal-footing into a Homebirth Amway Salesperson in a blue suit and tie, standing at my doorstep with a clipboard in arm. And suddenly I'm too busy to talk, with WTF's swirling around inside my head.
WTF is UP with the homebirth salespeople, and W(hy)TF do does it matter to them how I choose to deliver this child? In what way does my personal choice of baby-delivery affect anyone else's life besides mine, my husband's, and my baby's? WTF is up with anyone believing in something - a religion, a product, anything - so righteously and rigidly that they feel compelled to convert others into following their so-called enlightened path?
My friend Jen explained it like this: "...but a lot of women don't know they HAVE other options besides just a routine hospital delivery." Maybe true - but so what? Let'em find out on their own! Let'em read about it, ask about it, think about it like the smart people they probably are. If I were out killing my neighbors everytime I was in a bad mood, then yeah - I could see people pulling me aside to suggest alternate ways to deal with negative emotion. But it's not as though hospital-delivery causes mass death and destruction (do they?), and therefore ought to be stopped.
As I said: if you have a midwife, awesome. If you don't, awesome. If you give birth on a Grayhound bus, awesome. At home, awesome. In a hospital, awesome.
* * *
Which leads to my final note to Dear Public.
Thanks for checking in, for being concerned about my and baby's well-being, for giving advice on how you feel things ought to be done, for wanting to know about my plan.
Just know that childbirth for a KuKd momma is psychologically complicated, and there's a reason for every choice we make. Do not be alarmed by the sinister terms "hospital delivery" and "no birth plan," as these do not necessarily equate to "poor ignorant woman who needs to be saved in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord of Homebirth Wonderfulness." Relax: things will be okay.
You lose a lot of luxuries when your only experience with birth is death - and that includes the luxury of pondering ten different fairytale-ideal birth plans, of doing anything that seems inherently risky. For some of us, that risky thing might be homebirth, or getting a midwife involved. For others, it might be something else entirely. Your focus becomes on survival of the baby, survival of your family - and yes - that might mean, and in my case it certainly means, surrounding oneself with doctors and nurses and machines and fluorescent lighting when that baby is ready to come out. It means - or might mean - getting more ultrasounds than you ever thought prudent or possible.
Knowing now how little control you really have, how irrelevant your former plans and ideals have become, you now cling to the things that seem the most certain - the things that you know. And those things are oftentimes the conventional things that, to you, seem bad or outdated or unenlightened.
But, like I said: relax. Everything will be okay. Let me have the things I think I need, and don't stress yourself out with the homebirth-and/or-midwife salespitch. It's best, I think, to let a KuKd momma believe what she believes, let her do what she and KuKd-daddy-o have agreed is the surest path to a positive outcome, and trust that they - like you - has the baby's best interest in mind.
* * *
Oh, and as far as my birth plan goes - I did tell the doctor I wanted no less than Britney Spears blasting in the background, and a bacon-wrapped steak dinner with a large cold glass of Alaskan Amber Ale for my first post-delivery hospital meal. She chuckled and said she'd look into it.