Emily Henderson Header Image Emily Henderson

My Birth Plan …

Well here it is folks. Y’all keep asking for more personal posts especially about the baby (and house), and because I know that I’m so curious about other people’s birth plans right now, I figured that this topic could be a really great discussion. It’s so funny how throughout my 34 years I’ve heard so many women’s birth stories and almost immediately forgotten them because I’ve had no point of reference … until now. Now I can’t get enough of them.

EMILY HENDERSON PREGNANT

So let’s get into it:

After discussing the subject in length with Brian we have decided to go for a quick, painless birth. We’ll wake up, have a delicious cup of full caffeinated coffee, i’ll whip up a sun-dried tomato quiche (what is this ’97?), while I check the blogs, put on some waterproof foundation and mascara, pack my vintage japanese silk birthing kimono and head on down to the hospital. I’ll have a spray tan from the day before, my hair blown out from Dry Bar, and generally I’ll look glowing and absolutely not bloated.  There will be no ‘ugly faces’ or piercing screams, because there will be no pain just pressure, and maybe some discomfort. There will be no surprises and therefore no changing of my mind from my birth plan.

Oh! And I may even bring a bird or two into the room to sing sweet, happy songs – possibly from ‘The Little Mermaid’ –  to me while I have short evenly timed and far apart contractions. My baby will be super handsome as he slips out, he’ll breastfeed really fast, sleep through the night and I’ll be back in my skinny jeans by noon.

Yup. Also I spoke to Obama and he said that he’s giving everyone a miniature horse for christmas and God told me that from now on ice cream and chicken nuggets are officially very good for you.

Instead my real birth plan is this:  ‘Be yourself, and do the very best you can’.

There is no ‘plan’ and there certainly are no absolutes. If I need an epidural I’ll get an epidural. If I need a C-section I’ll get a C-section. The health of my baby is my first priority, and my ability to care for him right after is my second.

So this post is more about my approach and my goals and how I’m prepping, not my ‘plan’ because as my doula says – birth is like dealing a deck of cards under water – you really can’t predict what hand you are going to get dealt.

Alright, so I’m with Kaiser (an HMO) and its been pretty great so far – no real complaints. I’m at a teaching hospital which has its good and bad points – its innovative and avante garde but yes there are a lot of students there and they need to ‘practice’ in order to learn which I’m down for in theory, on other people, but not on my spine or my baby. Also due to how its ran, the chance that I’ll get the midwife I’ve seen the most is pretty much impossible. They have shifts and once their shift is over, they are off duty. Its fine, it doesn’t really bother me, but extra help is not the worst idea.

So, to help us feel more comfortable, we’ve hired a doula who is the most amazing doula I could ever imagine. She’s been doing it for 25 years (60 births a year) and is both really progressive, and totally practical.  She calls the baby her boss and she works for him, not me. Her goal is to teach me how to have the quickest/safest labor and birth possible. In case you all don’t know what a doula is it’s basically a birthing coach and honestly after having one I can’t imagine not having one – she stays with me from the time my water breaks until a couple of hours after the birth to help my baby latch. She is our advocate, advisory, and support system. She has seen soooo many different birth scenarios that she can answer every question and quell any fear. She’s a fan of natural vaginal birth but the second the baby’s health is in jeopardy or the mothers fatigue is starting to affect the process (which affects the health) she recommends pain management and if needed and wanted, a C-section.

I haven’t had time to take the proper birthing classes, but with her service we get 4 two-hour private classes that cover everything from what Brian can do to help, to what we pack, to pain management, to breathing to hypno-birthing, to breastfeeding, to infant-care – it’s a lot of information but taught in a very learnable way. Plus she is probably the most entertaining person I’ve ever met. I’ve truly never really trusted anyone’s expertise more in any field. Brian and I even really look forward to the classes.
BIRTH PLAN

Here’s what she has told me to do in advance to help have the shortest labor possible:

1. Drink more water than you can imagine. Done. That’s easy. She told me all the reasons why, but my brain just remembers ‘more water = shorter labor’.

2. Walk all the time, slowly, constantly and with wide legs – this helps the baby descend better.  She recommends 3 thirty minute walks a day around the block.

3. Have a lot of sex in the last month. Now, I’ve never heard this before but then once she said it now I read it everywhere. The science is that there is a hormone in what she calls (and I will CERTAINLY NOT ever refer to it again as such) the ‘daddy medicine’ that softens the cervix and helps it open more, preparing for birth. This does not sound like the most awesome of tasks when you are 36 – 40 weeks pregnant, as you can imagine, but it works. Sex = a shorter labor. Done.

4. Moisturize ‘that area’ with vitamin E that has safflower oil every night while sleeping (drench a cotton ball or makeup pad with it).  This prevents (and I apologize for even bringing it up) … tearing.

5. Sit with legs open as much as possible – it helps loosen the ligaments and makes it easier for the pelvis to open on up. And daily cat/cows help, too.

6. Practice breathing. Brian’s assignment is to randomly, all throughout the day say ‘cleansing exhale’ and no matter what I’m doing I have to drop it and take a huge breath where during the exhale I basically become a rag doll. She wants me to turn off my frontal lobe as much as possible, stop thinking about it, and just let the body go with it instead of trying to fight it (which makes sense to me) so if he does this all day long it will put me in the practice of having to all of a sudden jump from not being in pain to being in pain and hopefully breathing through it.

I trust her. She’s birthed 1500 babies and has a very high vaginal birth rate with generally fast labors.

Other things that I’m to do to help not go over 40 weeks: drink red raspberry leaf tea, dress my food with red vinaigrette dressing, massage my spleen 6 (inner ankle) and acupuncture. Oh and use evening primrose oil and Borage oil in addition to ‘daddy medicine’. My god, i hope to never use that phrase again. Its cum, people. Cum.

So that’s what I’m doing to prepare. I’m going to bed at 10 every night and taking a ton of relaxing baths.  I have one more week of crazy work then the rest is moving, blogging and general office work until the due date of December 17th.

The big question: Will I have an epidural?

Answer: I don’t know. I’ll do the very best I can.

Here’s some information I didn’t know – the epidural options are much better and lighter than the original ‘classic’ as my doula calls it. At Kaiser (and most LA hospitals) there is what is called the Epidural light and the Walking Epidural that are wildly less potent than the classic. Its  a different drug, i think,  but the idea is that its a much small dose that doesn’t make your whole body paralyzed; you can still feel pressure, push, etc, but you are in less pain. I asked her again yesterday, ‘Wait, why don’t I want an epidural again?’ and she replied ‘I have no idea, you tell me’. She says that 6 years ago she didn’t recommend them because they tended to lead to other problems, namely unnecessary, unwanted C sections and much longer labors. But since the ‘light’ and the ‘walking epidural’ came along that is not the case in her experience.

But then I asked her if she were to give birth now would she have one and she said ‘Well, I birthed two kids naturally (1 eleven pounds), so … no.’ To which I responded, ‘Why not? If it could be more pleasant? And there is nothing really wrong with it why wouldn’t you try to not be in as much pain?” and she said ‘Because there is something empowering about withstanding the pain.’

To which I pushed, ‘So its purely psycological?’ and she said ‘Yes’.

Now, this is just my doula and I know this is controversial but she is progressive and liberal – she is pro hypno-birthing (she has her own cd’s that she makes for clients) and generally promotes everything naturally. And remember, her boss is the baby and she is concerned utmost with the health of that baby. She’s constantly referencing new studies, and comparing them to her experience. She is the doula to many doctors in town and generally is extremely well-respected – my Eastern philosophy Midwife at Kaiser (the one that I’ve seen the most and I’m hoping will deliver my baby) was PSYCHED when I told that she was my doula. (I’m making her sound fancy but she’s SOOOOOO not, at all – just very, very good). In conclusion, I believe her. Just the fact that I have to rationalize that to myself and readers is crazy.

(P.S. i’ve just read 10 reasons to not have an epidural, which was interesting but nothing too compelling in there that is influencing me too much).

That being said there is something inside me that still wants to try for it naturally. I’m not psyched about a needle in my spine and if there were no pain factors and the choice was between having a procedure that involves a needle in my back or not, there’s an obvious answer. But when you add the excruciating pain factor then obviously the answer can easily change. Many women have told me that they wanted to die to get rid of the pain, so if they are saying that they would have chosen death over birth, then I’d imagine a needle to the back is going to be an easy option to make.

I just got off the phone with one of my other best friends who had 1 birth naturally and 1 birth with an epidural and MUCH preferred the epidural saying that she really enjoyed the whole experience more – that she was happier during the epidural birth and more excited when he came. That is compelling information, folks. Meanwhile last night another friend told me that she preferred the natural over epidural because she liked the mobility.

So my answer is, ‘We’ll see. I’ll be myself and do the very best I can’.

I know so many really strong women who have gone in, desperate for a natural birth, who have prepared FAR more for it than I have, and then opted for the epidural. So I don’t know why I would think that I would be able to withstand the pain more than them. I am no better than any other woman on this planet. probably weaker than many, so for me to go into thinking ‘I won’t need an epidural’ is cocky, self-righteous and setting myself up for failure and unnecessary self-shame. If only the “weak” women in my life took the epidural and the “stronger” ones didn’t, then I would be able to gauge the situation better, but some of my strongest friends  –  serious bad-*sses –  have gone in determined for a natural birth and opted for the epidural after 9 excruciating hours. I am not stronger than them therefore I am not diluting myself into thinking that I can do something that they couldn’t.

And if you are saying to yourself, ‘You should have more conviction than that’, and ‘You aren’t going to get anywhere without the “I’m the best’ attitude” I say that I don’t personally subscribe to that theory. Even when I went on DesignStar my approach was, ‘Just be yourself and do the best you can’ – and I won.  Work hard at being the best you can be, not being the best. Life is all about managing expectations; it’s all you can ask of yourself, and putting pressure on yourself to do better than your absolute best seems like one big set up for failure and severe disappointment. Know your talents and strengths, know what you aren’t good at, try to get better and use that information to make the best decisions you can.

If I wanted to I could constantly be disappointed in myself about one thing or another, so why go into something so stressful, traumatic and unpredictable as my first birth with any expectations other than, ‘I’ll just be myself … and do the very best I can’? In case you are wondering what my parenting method is too, it’s the same answer … also for my career and marriage. There is something about determination that is great and very important, but life is too fluid to be able to predict (or judge) your own reactions to things.

That, my friends, is my birth plan.

So what’s yours? I’m interested in women who have had both epidural and non-epidural births. Is there a preference?  Are there some other ways to prepare for a shorter labor that you’d suggest? Are there some other pain management devises that you recommend? Are you annoyed even talking about it?

Go for it.  And by the way, you are ALL bad-*sses, by the way,  regardless of how you birthed or how you will birth your baby. No matter what it is intense and traumatic and stressful, so kudos for getting it done.

 – and before comments start flying I seriously urge you to watch any judgments you might have – I love a good honest controversial dialogue, but just don’t be a d*ck, m’kay? Nobody comes to this blog to feel bad about themselves, and I rarely delete comments but I will if people are judgmental, mean and cruel to others. Say what you want about me, I don’t care, but not others. 

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