Tuesday, June 1, 2010

the best laid plans

I've been thinking a lot lately about plans. This is mostly because I'm quickly approaching the halfway mark of this pregnancy, and realizing that, while I have lots of information in my head about infertility, and now a fairly decent amount about pregnancy, I have virtually no information about giving birth. (I'm a one-step-at-time kind of girl.) I happen to know several women who have recently given birth, or who are about to, and so the topic of 'birth plans' has been in the air lately.

There's still a big part of me that hardly realizes I'm pregnant, much less that I will actually be giving birth at some point. But that's probably a post for another day.

I know three women who have recently had children. Each of them had a fairly detailed birth plan. Each of them fully intended to have a drug-free childbirth experience. One of them did so, but after a 47-hour labor; the other two ended up with emergency c-sections. All three, particularly the two who had c-sections, have expressed great disappointment and sadness about their birth experiences (while also, make no mistake, taking great joy in their children).

So I've been thinking about those stories. And about plans in general. Because I had a plan too, once upon a time. The plan went something like this:
  • meet man of dreams sometime in mid-20's.
  • after year-long courtship, marry man of dreams at about age 27. Maybe 28.
  • be blissfully married for one or two years.
  • have first child at age 29. Maybe 30.
  • have second child at age 33.
  • potential third child (not own idea, but perhaps man of dreams will want three) 3 years later. Surely finished with having children by age 36. Surely.
  • man of dreams gets vasectomy.
  • live happily ever after.
My actual life went something like this:
  • finish college, go to grad school. Finish that at age 26, having met absolutely no dreamy men, except for one, who would have been disastrous husband. But who was fun to kiss for a short time.
  • take first job in small-ish city where female pastors are unheard of and everyone assumes I am a nun. Not good for dating possibilities.
  • date one guy for a year. Allow him to lead me on until he moves away. Bastard.
  • finally meet man of dreams at benefit luncheon at age 31. Bit late.
  • marry after one year. Now age 32.
  • be married for requisite year. Quite blissful, actually.
  • try to get pregnant for four years.
  • get pregnant at age 37. Behind schedule. And unlikely to have another, at this point.
So much for plans.

Everyone experiences infertility a bit differently. It changes all of us, I believe, but in various ways. As for me, I've learned not to put so much stock in planning. Because, truthfully, those plans may not work out.

This is a hard lesson for someone who loves to make lists, cross things off, get things accomplished. Someone who enjoys housecleaning because it has tangible results; someone who puts a meal list together for the week. Someone who has to plan, months in advance, for various job responsibilities.

This pregnancy could not have been more planned, when it finally happened. There was absolutely nothing spontaneous about it. But, after that, it's all unknown. We're not finding out the gender, so I can't plan too much, too specifically. I'm doing my best to start getting things covered at work, but I can't count on a particular date as the one on which I'll end up in the hospital - I have to leave some things unknown, undone.

I'm not entirely opposed to birth plans. I think everybody handles this experience differently. I have only one strong preference, which is that only my husband and I will be in the birthing room. But that's it; that's my plan. My plan is to go to the hospital and have a baby. I'm sure I'll come up with a few more preferences, but that's all they'll be: preferences. Not plans. Because this is beyond planning. And the last thing I want is to be disappointed by what will be, in all likelihood, my only experience giving birth.

It's possible that I will change my mind over the next few months, that I'll learn something which will provoke me to create a more detailed plan. But I doubt it. I've tried planning this child. It didn't work. I simply want to enjoy this moment, and the next one. See what it looks like when we get there.


  1. You are very wise, in my estimation. I'm also a planner, and had plans thrown out the window several times, in several ways. With this last baby, our plan was "come home with baby." Thankfully, that worked out.

    (Sarah sent me over here, I hope it's ok).

  2. I think your plan to just go to the hospital and have a baby is a good one. When I had my baby 10 years ago, all of my emotional time and energy and planning had gone into my adoption plan, so my birth plan was as vague as yours. I didn't want an epidural, but wasn't completely opposed. I didn't want a c-section, but knew it might have to happen. I didn't want an episiotomy, but if push came to shove, so be it. I have no disappointments regarding the birth, and felt pretty lucky that it was vaginal without an epidural or episiotomy!

    I think letting things happen is best, but also let people know what you want, even though you'll be open to change.

  3. i know that it will all go just as its supposed to. im so happy for you :)

  4. This post really resonated with me and think that you are very wise to plan no further. Just having the baby should be enough, right?

  5. I went through infertility as well. When I finally did get pregnant through IVF, my plan was also "go to hospital. Have baby". It worked for me. I say good plan!

  6. I've also reached the "time to start thinking about this whole birth thing" stage. So far, it's been a lot of getting informed with no real plans for the actual event. I think it's find to plan as little or as much as you want, as long as you realize (as you clearly do) that the baby will be calling on the shots on its birthday. How are you feeling these days?

  7. Wow, I could have written this post. I know exactly what you mean. My "life plan" isn't quite as delayed as yours, but it is a few years off. And my birth plan is pretty much exactly the same as yours (having twins I think helps me realize that I'm not likely to get what I want). But yes, my only requirements are that no one else is there but my husband (and hospital staff) and I end up with two healthy babies. Of course I have preferences, but I'm totally ready for the emergency c-section and anything in between. Well, maybe not really ready for it, but I won't be upset if it happens. I'm up for anything, and I just can't wait to meet my babies. So, as a fellow planner and list-maker, I think this plan is excellent!

  8. I love your outlook here - take it one day at a time. Like you, I am an avid planner. But 2 years ago, after several years of IF and IVF, my firstborn was stillborn at 37.5 weeks for no apparent reason. That took ALL my planning instincts away concerning reproduction, birth, etc. Now I am thankfully pregnant with twins (30 weeks) but unable to plan the nursery, the birthplan (what's that? just give me LIVING babies) or anytime after my scheduled c-section on July 12th. I think some women overrate the 'vaginal birth' experience when the goal is really just to give birth to a healthy, live child, no matter the means. I'm very happy for you - being that you're pregnant and that you can 'let go' at this point and try to enjoy your pregnancy. Best of luck to you!

  9. I struggle with the whole planning bug too...I always want to plan & as you said that doesn't always work out. I think for me planning things about the birth are about taking back some of the control I lost during infertility, but I suppose as much as I plan that can all go out the window, no guarantees right?!

  10. I love this post. Isn't it amazing how much hope we can put in our own plans? I've been pondering lately how much of my sadness is from the fact that I don't have a child, and how much is from the fact that our infertility has taken my life far off of the course that I had planned. I think your birth plan sounds right on.

  11. I'm following the exact same path as you are. We also aren't finding out the gender and I think it's mostly because I don't want to be able to plan everything. I'm living it day by day and I bet we enjoy our pregnancies a lot more in the long run.

  12. You give me a tiny glimmer of hope. I will be 31 this year and still have not met the man of my dreams. My plan was to be married around 24, have babies at age 28, 31, and perhaps 34. Sadly, none of that has happened. Hopefully soon...

    Good luck with everything!