When Best Laid (Birth) Plans Go Wrong

You know what they say about the best laid (birth) plans... they often go awry

When I was pregnant, I read somewhere that you should have a birth plan. I used a colour-coded spreadsheet to plan my wedding, so this appealed to my need to organize and control things that made me nervous. I threw myself into the process of planning the arrival of my first-born child.

I carefully researched the obstetricians in the area. I interviewed members of my family who had been their patients. I performed reconnaissance on the facilities of all the local hospitals to assess which would be the best prepared in the event of an emergency. I finally selected a hospital about forty-five minutes away from my home. (It had a NICU in case baby needed extra support.) I attended prenatal appointments under the careful supervision of a doctor who had privileges there. We even booked a tour of the hospital I had chosen. Everything was ready, with nothing left to chance.

I was so looking forward to having my baby with my husband by my side in the hospital I picked out, under the guidance of the doctor I had found. I imagined the scene and it was idyllic and calm. I had it all figured out. Or so I thought.

One day, after one such prenatal appointment, I began to feel quite ill. I decided to go have dinner with my mom who lived a further half-hour away, sleep over at her place and then attempt the journey home in the morning. I had a backache and fell asleep with a heating pad on it.

I woke up in the morning in considerable discomfort. It was slightly irritating at first but the discomfort grew and grew. I woke my mom up and suggested I should probably get checked out, just to be sure. Maybe this was labour! I called my husband and let him know I was going to go to the hospital to see what was going on. My step-dad asked which hospital he should take me to and I opted for the one my mom worked at nearby. After all, there was no guarantee there would be a baby today.

We got into the car and within a few blocks, it was clear I was having contractions. I screamed in the backseat. My step-dad ran every red light between the house and the hospital. My mom checked me into the emergency room and I commandeered the nearest gurney and garbage can to vomit into loudly. The staff at the desk laughed at the urgency in my mom’s voice. After all, it’s a first baby and those take ALL DAY. Laughter ensued. Condescending laughter ensued.

Because it was before 5 a.m., I was ushered to a private room. I was made comfortable, then made very uncomfortable with an IV nobody seemed able to insert efficiently. I felt an immediate kinship with those pin cushions that come in sewing kits. The doctor came in to check on me—finally—and asked where my partner was.

My mom was by my side, but I had no idea about my husband’s whereabouts. I assumed he was en route to the hospital. We phoned him and put him on speakerphone and I inquired as to his progress. He sounded disoriented, almost as if a ringing phone had just awakened him. Not almost, exactly. That’s what happened. He went back to sleep because, like the front desk staff, he believed that first babies take ALL DAY. The doctor informed him he would miss the birth of his child. It was rush hour on a weekday. He would never make it in time.

I was crushed. This was not how I pictured it happening at all. My husband wasn’t by my side and I was at the wrong hospital; I didn’t know who the heck was delivering my baby;  I didn’t have a car seat or a hospital bag or anything the baby books suggested. (I also planned not to take drugs but there was some nitrous oxide and it turned out to be delightful!)

This was not on my birth plan at all. I had to take a moment and gather myself. Birth plan or no birth plan, this baby was coming.

It turns out that my mom was an awesome birthing buddy. She was so great, encouraging and truly wonderful. When I delivered her grandbaby I felt like I did when I presented her with a perfect spelling test as a child. I was so proud. I was hanging out with my mom and my brand new baby, in the “wrong” hospital, with the “wrong” doctor who safely and professionally delivered my child. His dad arrived eventually and was delighted to meet his son. He brought the car seat and the hospital bag and all the things the baby books suggested. All was right in the world.

My child was just hours old, but he taught me a valuable lesson. You can plan whatever you like to make yourself feel less scary, but babies come in their own time aka wherever the heck they please. This was a lesson that has served me well in parenting in general. I thought my baby needed a birth plan, but it turns out all he needed was a mom, a doctor, a family and love—a formula no spreadsheet could calculate.  

Babies don’t need colour-coded spreadsheets to arrive safely, but when I saw his adorable little face, I was tickled pink (or maybe baby bootie-yellow!)

Want to read more from Alison? Check her out on her blog Sparkly Shoes And Sweat Drops and her weekly column on UrbanMoms.ca.

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