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Monday, February 22, 2010

WTF Part Deux

Hello, Guests-n-Others!

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."

Her: "Oh."

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.

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.

(See? Who says I don't have a plan?) ;-)


leahjane8 said...

LOVE this post. I felt the same way about the birth plan - no plan except please let a live baby be at the end of it. I went in with the vague feeling of, I'll try to go natural and just see what happens. Well, I asked for drugs pretty quickly and ended up having a c-section after 32 hours of labor. And I feel TOTALLY okay about it, because it all ended with a live baby. THAT'S ALL I CARED ABOUT. You are a wonderfully honest voice for those of us KUKD's.

Hope's Mama said...

Another brilliant post.
I too only had the word "life" as my birth plan for Angus. Granted, I did want to push him out, as I did my (dead) daughter, but "unfortunately", due to circumstances beyond my control (huge baby at 38 weeks, cervix not playing nice and a small pelvis - go figure, nothing on me looks small from the outside) was taken out by the surgeon's knife. But can I complain? Hell now. He's here, he's alive. He's at home with me right now. Not six foot under in a tiny white box five minutes up the road like his big sister is. And I had midwifery-only care for her pregnancy. I grunted and pushed her out (albeit with the nasty epidural in my spine, but can you blame me, or any of us for wanting to be spared SOME of the pain). But she's not here. So I'll be damned if anyone wants to force their ideal birthing options on me. Because in the end, we are the ones who truly know what matters, and that is life. Ours and the babies.

'Murgdan' said...

I feel the same way about a birth plan...though this post makes me want to take the post I just published and wad it up and toss it in the basket and start again....except maybe I'm weird, because I want a midwife AND a hospital AND no birth I'm just all kind of a freak.

But no one has really been in my business about it...and I can't believe you have home-birth-Amway-salesladies in your area. Interesting.

Kells said...

Great post. Thanks for your honesty!

When I had my daughter 9 1/2 years ago I went into delivery as some sort of over-achiever in birth school. I wanted zero drugs, I wanted zero intervention, it was to be a completely natural birth where my daughter was put on my chest immediately so we could bond (etc. etc.)

I got such a different, let's just say, it was the exact opposite of what I had planned including my daughter in the NICU for 4 days and me not doing so well either.

What I realize now is the goal should be - healthy mother, healthy baby. Who cares how you get there. And I had no idea that nurses secretly laugh at the birth plan anyway because they have seen enough to know that they don't always work out.

lis said...

i truly love reading your posts. and i think i have a blog-crush on you as well. your posts are so well written, and like murgdan (whose post obv. doesn't belong in the trash) i feel like mine are ants on the side of your bloggy picnic basket.
i use weird metaphors when i haven't slept.

i haven't been knocked down as many times as you, but im pretty far down right now as my own experience goes. and reading your blog gives me hope that one day ill be huge again and staring the reality of bringing an actual baby friend home.
im going to my first psychiatrist visit on tuesday and i am hoping i can gain a little bit of perspective on life and how to live it back up from all the way down here. if that doesn't work im praying for xanax.

and how presumptuous are people to think you even CARE what they have to say on the subject? i would have a severely bitten tongue were i in your shoes!

Carolyne said...

My midwife asked me do I have a birthplan and my response was the following (and I quote):
"My plan is to have a healthy baby in a safe way in an environment in which I feel safe and comfortable"

She was not amused.

I'm not a fan of plans. I say go with how you feel at the time, I read about women choosing to give birth with no meds and doctors forcing them to be drugged up and vica versa. I plan to go in with an open mind to everything and if I need drugs, procedures then so be it.
I love reading your blog, albeit I don't comment that often, but I admire your honesty and 'call a spade a spade' approach.

Amy said...

Awesome post.

angie said...

I always wondered that too--W(hy) TF do you care? I admit that I never did a birth plan for any of my children. I read an awful lot, but just felt like everything was too changeable, and then my baby died at 38 weeks. And I couldn't even really plan for the next month's appointment, it seemed too iffy. xo

Pundelina said...

I completely lerv your birth plan oh-enormous-bellied-lady! And I would be going the doctor-in-a-hospital-route if I were you too. WTF is up with people who choose to comment on other people's birth choices. I just don't get it.

My birth-plan went seriously awry and were I lucky enough to get knocked up and give birth again, I'll have a plan like yours.


Kris said...

Awesome - Plans, we don't need no stinking plans. This made me think of one night lately, as I lay in bed, there next to my oh so supportive mans. He was talking about the old bath tub, cracked tile, and total lack of anything resembling a home for a future baby and how we would get it done. It was important before, and he did not want me to get stressed that is was not done. I told him I don't even give a s@$! if we have a room for the baby done, I will just roll a crib right here next to the bed. Lets just get through the next 6 months and give birth to a healthy living child, the rest will all work out. And the thing is, I really don't care... bradley method, c-section, drugs, boy, girl, gross bathtub, plain white walls, new covers for the rocking chair... it just does not matter anymore. In some ways, that is the one gift of being a baby loss momma that is pregnant again, all the BS, the consumerism, the should do it this way crap, has all been stripped away and what is really important has coalesced into a diamond sharp clarity - the only thing that really is important is a healthy living child. And I really don't G(ive)AF WTF anyone thinks anymore about any of it.

Kris said...

PS - Is there a word for a crush on a blogger, (blomance?) because if so, then I would use it for how I feel about your posts and you in general. You are definitely one of my heros.

Logical Libby said...

Well, at least no one has suggested you do something "creative" with the placenta. Have they? OMG, HAVE THEY?

KuKd Chick said...

Oh my golly, I'm glad I'm not the only plan-dodger these days. I was starting to feel like an aimless slacker-freak.

Logical Libby...ah, the placenta. Yes, I've gotten some joke suggestions from my warped-minded friends, but nothing serious, thank god. My friend A's father ate his nephew's foreskin - I think it's a Chinese-American thing. Yummers.

Leslie said...

My favorite was when one of my good friends told me she felt "less of a woman" for getting a c-section. I was like, "You KNOW you're talking to someone whose body has killed 2 babies, right? You want to talk about feeling "less of a woman"???? Honestly.

I also wanted to post a comment to tell you that I am new to the blogging community here, and I love your blog. Your description of the stillbirth experience was one of the most powerful things I have ever read, and I am looking forward to reading more. One of my biggest concerns is of being an overprotective mom (if I do ever get pregnant with an actual child), in response to the psychological damage caused by all this. I look forward to reading how you deal with this.

If you have time to stop by my very new blog, I plan to present studies done by evolutionary biologists that relate to IF, as well as chronicle my own journey. Today I wrote about ovulating lap dancers. The prose isn't as nice as yours, but I hope to get better!

Pundelina said...

"My friend A's father ate his nephew's foreskin"

I am scarred for life :o

Sara said...

Hey - I've had two homebirths but I never had a birth plan. My midwife with my first birth scoffed at all the BS surrounding birth these days, including childbirth education. Her take? It's hard work, it hurts, and you can do it. In reality - that applies no matter what your birth plan or birth outcome may be. This is just another one of those issues that tends to fuel the "mommy wars" - and is really just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to children/babies/pregnancy/birth - people really just have no censor unfortunately. No matter what side of any issue you find yourself, your choices will be extremely controversial to people and some will let you know about it - that's a guarantee!

Glad you have plans for a good post partum meal - that's usually overlooked by all and birth can make a mama hungry!!!!

glasshalffull said...

Is there a way to patent a quote? If so, please do with "You lose a lot of luxuries when your only experience with birth is death"- I might just have to plagiarize until then. Great piece.

KuKd Chick said...

Hey Pundelina, don't knock foreskin until you try it. I've heard it's great deep-fried in truffle oil with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Glasshalffull, I still can't get over your name. You should patent that and I'll patent the other thing.

Reba said...

your birth plan is just like mine (2nd time around) was! hurrah!

except mine involved having an epidural the minute i walked through the door. there must be some kind of sweet justice in my 1st epidural taking so well, but with the pregnancy that had the much nicer outcome, i could feel *everything* by the end.

i think women who haven't had the dirth experience get a thrill out of the idea of having a natural childbirth. you know, the way we get a thrill out of the idea of birthing a living baby this time.

it's all about where you're coming from.

Michelle said...

I like your plan the best...when it is time go to the hospital and push out a living baby...that works for me and if I get there that will be my exact plan. Sorry to be a copy cat ;0

shelby said...

Awesome post! I have totally experienced that Amway feeling but haven't been able to express it as well as you have! Creepy.

kdactyl said...

I totally love your posts! After 2 years of fertility, $35k, two losses and increasing age...all I wanted was a healthy baby. And it didn't help that I had two close friends who had just lost full term overdue babies! I walked into my OB's office at 8 weeks pregnant after being released from the fertility clinic and told him..."I want a c-section at 38 weeks! Can you do it?" I didn't care about my "recovery"...I didn't care that I wouldn't get to push my baby out of my vajayjay and feel that overwhelming sense of accomplishment and roar like the she-woman I was suppose to be! I just wanted the damn 9 monhts to be over and for that baby to be in my arms. And guess what? My Dr. (bless is loving heart)...looked me right in the eye and said...."Whatever you want...I have learned over the past 30 years to trust the mothers...they just "know" what needs to be done". And...30 weeks later on a beautiful morning I was calm, happy, and delivered a beautiful baby in a calm environment with my husband and sister at my side. My baby was put in my arms only minutes after delivery and stayed with me skin on skin for the next couple hours and all was awesome! I couldn't have asked for a better ending....and guess what? Ths little stinker had a true knot in his cord and turns out there is a 25% mortality rate associated with that when a vaginal delivery takes place. Gee...I guess my Dr. is on to something huh? Trust the MOTHER! So...go with what you KNOW IN YOUR HEART is the right thing to do.


kdactyl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
namastemom said...

I want a beer too. Although I don't think I can get Alaskan Amber where I am. Maybe I can have my husband smuggle one into the room.

How much longer to you have Monica?

KuKd Chick said...

Namastemom - I've got 3.5 weeks left. Agghhhhh!!!

pandadiaries said...

I'd have Lady Gaga and a nice cold pint of Woodchuck cider :)
I wish you the very best of luck!

shannon said...

With my short polling of my friends' experiences....the ones with the extensive birth plans are the ones that had every possible thing that could go wrong with their 'plan' go wrong. I tried to learn from them and not have too many set expectations and we had a much more positive experience. You have a great attitude about the whole thing.

I'm so amazed by you each time I read your blog! Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

OMG awesome! They are a cult, aren't they? And they just don't get it. Kuked x 4 (1 stillbirth, 3 miscarraiges) here and when I had a breech baby, some peeps couldn't believe I'd have the c'section. You nailed the thought process perfectly: the plan? The only plan is a live baby and minimal risk. Fairytail oil painting births were out the window long, long ago.

Here's to your Alaskan Ale! And live babies :)

Anonymous said...

Right f-ing on-. My birth plan: wheel me down the hallway May 7th for my planned c-section and make it quick.

I love the steak and ale idea too. I would probably write that on my birth plan and submit it at this point.

Thank you- I will be dropping by here often. Great blog.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a conflict of emotions I am feeling after your post. I relate to both sides. I was that Amway sales person and later on, I was also the mother whose baby died during a home birth. Now...I am the mother who is ashamed of her choice which killed her baby, I am the mother that deals with the question, "Would my baby had made it if she was born at the hospital?" I know the answer and dwelling on it makes it hard to live life, specially now that baby #2 is on his way. I am now planning to do what is needed to bring a live baby home, but wait, did I not plan that for my daughter? Yes, I planned to work and do everything I could to birth my baby, the problem was I chose her birth without knowing exactly what she would need and I trusted the wrong person for my care, I thought my midwife would know or be interested in delivering a breathing baby rather than delivering at home no matter what, or the $10,500 dollar fee she would receive at the end.
Things are so much more complicated than this comment but I thought my experience might make all the hb community fearful of expressing their opinions as if they were the Gospel. Can you imagine if one of those people would question my choices for birth to my son? I wish they would, it would be a bloodbath.
I did not make any sense, this hits home but at the deepest level, a level I don't like visiting often.

KuKd Chick said...

Anonymous, thank you for this awesome and compelling comment. God, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry for the loss of your child; as everyone here will attest, it's a sad and horrible thing no matter how/where it takes place- home birth, hospital, wherever.

Regarding your decisions, it's obvious that you made the best choices you could have for the best interest of baby and you. That's how we make all of our choices anyway - based on what we know and believe. It's the only thing we have to go by, really - and the fact that this one time id didn't work out, I don't think is anything you should feel terrible about! There are so many factors involved, and I think a death of a baby could just as easily happen in a hospital due to malpractice - in which case, you'd be question that decision too and wonder why you didn't deliver at home, right? Any good/bad outcome can come from whatever decision we make. You just got shitty-arse horrendous luck this time, and I'm sorry for that. There's no doubt in my mind, though, that this isn't your fault. Easy for me to say, though, here from a blog-o-distance. As you said, I can imagine things being much more complicated than what you can possibly say in words here.

Those are trivial details compared to the real universal horror of losing your baby. I'm just sorry to hear your story. Hang in there and best of luck with baby #2.