During one of our first snow storms in Vancouver, Andrew and I were exploring the joys of navigating rear-wheel drive vehicles on icy hills. This was going smashingly well for us, as you might imagine. I still remember the helpful people who honked their horns as we slid sideways back down the hill: "Ah, Thank you for that reminder. We should straighten-out and go forward; we were just waiting for you to recommend it."
At one point, shortly before we abandoned our car and searched out the safety of a friend's couch, we were stuck behind a stranded, tire-spinning minivan filled with Korean women. Andrew left our car and went to assist these women by letting some air out of their tires and suggesting that they stop gunning the engine. As they rolled down the window to greet him, he said, "Well ladies, what's the plan?" "We have no plan!" they chorused plaintively.
All that to say, I'm feeling more like those women from the snow storm, than the confident, in-control, over-planner whose pose I usually assume. Birth plans and planning are not for the faint of heart. Have you considered that there are about a billion different scenarios to account for and each little factor can have some lasting effect on your child or your body? Well if you haven't, then you and I probably haven't been reading the same books on childbirth.
A small side note: My father said I'm "strangely obsessed" because I'm reading and learning and forming opinions about my birth. He never did any of this, he assures me. His caution is hard to take seriously though, since he also thinks mom is "strangely obsessed" with "weird ideas" like "being a grandmother" or "retiring." You have to love him.
But back to the birth plan. I have been trolling the internet for a sample plan from which to work and get ideas. There are a lot of options, but interestingly not one that I feel easily fits our situation and preferences. It tempts me to become obsessive (my dad hasn't seen anything yet) and start a plan that has sub-plans and multiple endings, like a choose your own adventure book. Just when I think I'm the most incredibly picky woman to give birth on the planet, I realize that I don't even have a preference for some things. How am I supposed to know what exact position I want to be in when the baby comes? What water temperature will I prefer?
Thanks to my God-son Roberto's arrival, I do know that even the best laid plans must be set aside to account for what comes. I know that the most important goal of all is to work to ensure the health of me and my baby. I know that being flexible, relaxed and open will enable me to make the right choices and surround myself with people who will support and augment that. But a small part of me thinks: I could just write up that 40-page thesis on how I want to give birth which takes into account nearly all imaginable factors. Can you picture it? "Turn to page 16 for preferences involving smells and acceptable lighting options."
For those who have not considered the intricacies of birth plans you may be blissfully unaware that a great deal of effort can be spent researching and preferring various interventions or aspects of birth. Most birthing plans spell out what pain relief options a mother would prefer: massages, ice, drugs, no drugs, what kind of drugs, what dosages of drugs (see how these things grow complicated). Essentially, the reason I see the birth plan as being most useful is that it provides people with a concrete reference of the expectations that I'm bringing into this situation. This can be incredibly useful. How often do miscommunications, hurt feelings, disagreements, and even fights erupt because we are unaware of our own or of another's expectations?
On this occasion, I think it advantageous to let Andrew and my midwife and anyone else involved know that I expect to labour and birth at home. I expect to be allowed to walk if I want to walk, to eat if I want to eat. I don't expect to be cut open; if it comes to that, I think it's important that the doctors and nurses know. If we were always so clear in listing our expectations, we could save ourselves some trouble.
It might be useful for me to know that Andrew might expect the house to be shining clean and dinner to be on the table. I'm not saying that this expectation will be met, but if I know of his expectation then I might better understand and handle the situation. "A quick guide to my expectations of the experience: a birth plan." That's what I'm hoping to provide for the midwife, for me and for anyone else who may happen to find themselves at our birth.