My “un-hippie” birth plan.

December 10, 2012

{Disclaimer: I pretty much used this post as a sounding board. It may come off as a little negative or hostile, but that’s because it’s coming from a hormonal pregnant woman with worries and frustrations.
I will have other posts about just how “hippie” I am approaching this pregnancy, as well as about the more light-hearted and positive experiences I am having.
Anyhow, if you’re curious about my choice in birthing location (because you’re going through the same thing, perhaps?) then here it is!
Real talk.}

I used to have visions of what birthing would be like for me. I would be walking around in a forest while contractions started. Then, labour would be primal and raw, kind of ridiculous and silly at times, and would probably take place in water. I would have music that I liked on, and there would be fantastic smells all around (jasmine and neroli absolute, anyone?). Labour would be hard but rewarding, and I wouldn’t need any kind of pain relievers because I knew that my body was made to do this. I would look really good while giving birth, and my partner wouldn’t be able to take his eyes off of me. I would probably have some awesome orgasm when the baby came out, and have these crazy visions and be inspired about how the rest of my life would be. I would definitely have the most profound spiritual experience of my life…not that I have much compare to. My team of midwives and doulas would congratulate me on the best birth they’d ever witnessed (I have no idea what this means!). My gorgeous baby would come out and clutch one tiny hand onto my fingers, and the other onto my partner’s, as he cried and filled his lungs for the first time. We would laugh and cry, then have dinner, and I would feel awesome.

Now, I think this image is nice and all. But I know it’s not going to go down like that, and that’s fine.

That’s not going to be my experience, but that does not take away from my birthing experience. And although this is still what bothers me most, not having that “perfect” experience does not make me less of a woman or a poor mother (yes, I really thought that,  and am still trying to shake that notion…but it’s silly and immature). As you’ll see, I had to rule out using midwives, going to a birthing centre or having a homebirth. It took me a lot of thinking, but after a few months of contemplating hiring a doula to assist my birth, I’ve decided against that, too.

Honestly, the pressure of having to have a certain kind of birth (ie. location-dependant, it seems) is one of the most frustrating experiences I have had in a while.

Lately, this has been brought up in conversation with various friends and acquaintances; my apparently surprising (and to some, appalling)  decision to basically have an “un-hippie” birth. It seems contrary to my personality and values, but in fact, isn’t.  Do we always have to “seem” consistent within a label or lifestyle that we are categorized under? No. At least, I don’t feel the need to be consistent. I feel the need to keep myself, and my little budding family, happy and healthy. Even if that means trying out some extremely alternative things once in a while (more on that later), or doing things in the most conventional way possible. For this birthing experience, I have chosen conventional. I will be birthing in a hospital, and not a cabin in the woods with bluebirds and baby deer tending to my every need.

That’s right. I’m going to birth this beautiful baby completely within a system that I have held strong contempt for, and I’m 100% ok with it.

You see, something dawned on me that changed everything: this isn’t totally about me.

This birth is, first and foremost, for my son. It’s pretty essential to him! My main objective is to get him out of me in one piece, even if that means sacrificing my “ideal” scenario for him. Also, this birth is for Adri. He won’t have any of the fun contractions or pushing bits, but this is also his first child, and means the world to him. I am doing this for both of those guys who I love (already!!) so, so much. No matter where this takes place or how it all goes down, it will still be the biggest expression of love I have ever created, and will still change my life and be remembered forever. Fluorescent lighting and all.

And anyhow, as far as this being a really important passage of rite as a woman for me, the location is not what’s important; it’s my state of mind that will make or break the situation. I am fully preparing my mind and soul to be able to handle everything that could be thrown at me on the big day, and Adri is 100% on board with this.

Besides that, I definitely have my reasons as to why I decided against not only hiring a doula, but have decided against using a midwife or trying to snag a spot in a birthing centre. And I won’t even consider a home birth (at least for baby #1) …unless there’s some kind of unavoidable emergency situation, of course, and Adri has to deliver the baby (by the way, he’s studying everything labour and delivery related like he’ll be tested on it! He’s no dummy, he’ll probably be a pro by the time this kid is born). It’s really unfortunate, but in the end I made my decision because I felt forced into believing that it truly is the only viable option for me.

The health system in Quebec definitely has its pros and cons. For prenatal care and birthing, the only option that made sense for me was to go through the hospital system. Since I have no doctor, family or otherwise, I had nobody to turn to when I first became pregnant. We have plenty of free walk-in clinics here in Montreal, but somehow that felt like the wrong first move. I mean, this is a tiny human embryo, not a urinary tract infection. Also, at that time, I was still terrified of of this weird doctor/hospital scenario I kept playing in my mind. I imagined that a first prenatal visit would be like a cross between a pap smear and just the coldest, most clinical exam you could imagine. I wanted someone who would smile and congratulate us, who would follow this pregnancy for many months, and not just hand my file around every week. I had even heard of some horror stories of leaving the appointment from a free clinic with abortion brochures….I have no idea if this is true, but seems plausible enough.

So, right away, the thought of the logistics behind birthing were frustrating me. Pregnancy, I’m totally cool with. I love it! I get to marvel as my body does it’s thing…and it’s doing it SO WELL! High five, awesome uterus! However, it’s what’s out of my control that bothers me so. As soon as I peed on that stick, I had to figure out where I fit in this system. I never felt I fit into it, but had to, somehow.

The first thing I did was call the only birthing centre on the island of Montreal. I had no intention of birthing at a big evil hospital. At the time, I was 6 weeks pregnant (I was pretty sure, anyhow), had just found out, had no doctor, nobody to refer me for my blood tests or ultrasounds or pap smears or urine samples and generally had this overwhelmed feeling. All I knew is that in this city, you’d better line up your doctors, midwives and babysitters from the day you have unprotected sex, or else you’re screwed (pun semi-intended).  Plus, I had raging pregnancy hormones that ranged from uncontrollable happiness, to total and utter fear (mostly it’s just happiness now). It felt like a nightmare, with outbursts of joy. Very confusing times.

The midwives at the centre told me they were booked tight for the month of March, and that they would call me when I’m 30-32 weeks along to let me know if they have a place for me. In the meantime, I was to find a doctor. Um, what? That was my problem in the first place! So here I had to find a doctor who would take care of me, until I maaaybe, perhaaaaaaps had a spot to give birth at their centre!? And if I did get a spot, and something went wrong, I would just have to go to a hospital anyhow, a hospital where nobody would know me or anything about my pregnancy. I can’t even think about what my options would look like if I didn’t get a spot…talk about stress weeks before giving birth. Sounded like a terrible plan to me.

Call me crazy, but I cannot support that system in good faith. It may be wonderful for many, but simply less than acceptable for me, at this time.

Another option we have in Quebec is to give birth at home. I live in an apartment. I can hear my neighbours cooking dinner from the hallway…there was no way in hell that I was going to expose them to my entire labour and delivery symphony! Plus, I’d have to find what are essentially “illegal” underground midwives, since the only legally recognized midwives are at these few-and-far between birthing centres. Again, if something went wrong, then what? [side note: I’m not expecting anything to go wrong but I was born breech and my mom had to have an emergency C-section as nobody could turn me around…unless some magical midwife could have done it, in a home birth situation, I could have died…maybe my mom, too. Also, a fact I had to  point out to my friend the other day, doctors know how to turn babies over as well.]

With this in mind, I decided to go against “alternative” and go with the one system that did welcome me with open arms, “conventional”.

Anyhow, what I ended up doing was getting a referral to a GP from the hospital I would give birth at.  Adri pretty much chose the hospital because it’s McGill’s research hospital, the university he’s done his undergrad to doctorate at. The hospital is the Royal Victoria, this huge, Victorian, castle-like building on top of a hill, next to the Mont-Royal Mountain. (Its quite the vertical hike up there…something I may come to really hate!!) My doctor is a sweet but no BS kind of woman, and I like her. I’m taking my prenatal classes at the hospital, and  so far I’ve loved the care I’ve received. They truly treat pregnancy as a joyful, although challenging, time…not like a medical emergency, as I had expected.

As for how the whole birthing part is going to go down, I’ve decided on 2 things:

1. I will write out a clear but not TOO precise birth plan so the staff knows what my wishes are (but with lots of room for compromise and negotiation…I don’t want to be THAT woman with so much detail you’d think I was an OBGyn myself.) Birth plans are standard protocol at most hospitals in Quebec, and as long as your doctor agrees to them, the whole staff is supposed to be supportive of your wishes.

2. Adri is my doula. My Dude-la, as I call him. Nobody in the world knows what I want more than him, and nobody knows how to comfort me more than him. He has no other agenda but to comfort me and meet his baby boy in the safest way possible. He’s always level-headed, never panics, and can get stuff done like a motherfucker. (Ok, bad choice in words but can’t help it for some reason!) Plus, he gives great massages.

But you know, it’s hard to talk about sometimes. It’s so hard to explain yourself when you seem to be backing down on your morals, and I think this is just the beginning of one of the hardest lessons of being a parent (outside of actually parenting itself…I’m not totally naive!): you can never do what everyone thinks is right.

I’m sure Adri and I will consistently make what others might consider bad parenting decisions. We’ll either be way too alternative, or not alternative enough. I’m sure we’ll seem inconsistent, not part of any particular parenting style, wishy-washy on our diapering politics, strange about our baby-wearing or neglectful for not co-sleeping. I’m sure we’ll be seen as too involved with our children or as though they’re (he is) being raised by wolves at times. I’m sure we’ll have some parents tell us we’re pushing too much, and others saying we’re too lenient and relaxed. Whatever it is, it will seem wrong if it’s just not their style….even if they are not (yet) parents themselves. I guess what it boils down to is that they are our decisions. We’re fairly competent people, him and I, but we’re not perfect. I’m sure we’ll make some pretty bad mistakes along the way, but those are ours to make, ours to learn from.

Adri has the confidence and cojones to take it all in stride, but I find it harder. I feel I need validation from others, unfortunately, but I am trying. I know, in time, the only validation I will need is a gummy dribbly smile from my little boy.

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