It's impossible to predict how your childbirth experience will go. You can plan, dream, research, envision, and even talk to a psychic or get your cards read. You can meditate, ask your mom how hers went, and reflect on any other birth experiences you’ve had. But, in the end, there's no way to know how it'll all go down. So having grand aspirations for labor and delivery is just setting yourself up for disappointment during childbirth. Trust me, because after all was said and done I was disappointed in my own.
I'm not saying I'm ungrateful for the experience, of course. In fact, I’m forever grateful that I now have my rainbow son, and that he’s grown into a healthy, happy 4-year-old kid. But when I think back on his entrance into the world, I still feel the sharp sting of dismay and the ache of lasting trauma. I switched care providers at the last minute and had a home-to-hospital transfer while pushing. My vision for an easy, intervention-free birth went out the window in a matter of moments.
After my son arrived, we quickly realized he was sick and, as a result, he was sent to the NICU. So my hope of having my family greet me with cake and balloons and flowers while I breastfed my newborn and took photos and enjoyed my first few moments with my baby just, well, never came to fruition. At a time when I should have been enjoying that so-called golden hour, I was experiencing severe disappointment, pain, grief, fear, and stress... all at once. And while there's nothing I could have done to avoid my birth experience, I'm sure I could have avoided feeling so let down if I hadn't done any of the following:
I Didn't Plan For Emergencies
Do you have anything in your birth plan regarding an emergency C-section? Or if your baby needs to go to the NICU? I certainly didn’t. I figured things would mostly go as planned and without a hitch. So when I had to be transferred to a hospital last minute, and then have my son transported to a different hospital to be admitted to a NICU... well, let’s just say I didn’t handle it all that well.
I Put My Trust In The Wrong People
This is not to say that doulas and midwives are not to be trusted. This is not to say that all OB-GYNs aren’t to be trusted, either. My experience is in no way indicitive of all midwives or doulas or obstetricians.
But I ended up trusting a group of doulas who were so bent on “natural birthing” that they convinced me to leave my OB-GYN for a midwife I barely knew. It was not a good move by any means, especially since I had a high-risk pregnancy.
I Didn't Listen To My Mom Friends
Once I got involved with this group of midwives, I didn’t really listen to reason from anyone else. One of my best friends told me, more than once, that she was able to have a low-intervention birth at a local hospital, but I continued to ignore her. I was convinced I would end up having a C-section if I had a hospital birth, as if having a C-section is the worst thing ever (trust me, it's not).
Maybe my labor and birth experience wouldn’t have been as awful if I had listened to the people who've been there, done that.
I Switch To A Home Birth At The Last Minute
I went from having a planned hospital birth at a hospital that was over an hour away, to having a home birth with (what I would later find out to be) an unqualified midwife. Somehow I thought this would make for a much more ideal birth. Guess what? It didn’t pan out. And even if I had been able to finish laboring at home, my baby’s life would’ve been in danger. The midwife didn’t even remember to bring all of the necessary tools, like a nasal aspirator.
I Assumed Perineal Massage Would Be “Enough” To Avoid Tearing
I was pretty freaked out by the idea of an episiotomy or tearing. I truly hoped that I would avoid the entire thing, so I opted to use oil and perineal massage a month prior to my son’s birth. I’d been told this would likely avoid all tearing.
Nope. It didn’t. Not even close.
I Thought Reaching 40 Weeks Was The Most Important Part
My first child was born prematurely and, as a result, didn’t make it. So when I got pregnant with my son, my main focus was somehow making sure he wasn’t born premature. By 37 weeks, I knew he was basically “safe” to be born without the possibility of complication... or so I thought.
Since I assumed he was "in the clear," I was sideswiped when, at 40 weeks and two days, he was born with persistent pulmonary hypertension.
I Expected I Would Get To Breastfeed Right Away
I read so many books and articles talking about how the body just “knows” how to breastfeed and more or less shaming moms for not “trying harder,” I figured I would be just fine when I tried nursing. Not only did I not get to breastfeed immediately, I had to wait over a week to start since my son was in the NICU. When I was finally able to try my hand at nursing, I had to deal with undersupply. Disappointment is an understatement.
I Didn’t Get Mental Health Help
Making sure you’re in the right space, mentally and emotionally, can really help a mom-to-be face the unknown. I put so much hope pressure on this being the “perfect” childbirth experience, that I was able to completely ignore the very real trauma that was driving that need for perfection. I had just lost my daughter a little over a year prior, and I was still dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from that experience. Maybe if I’d spoken with a therapist or counselor, I would have been able to work through some of that lingering trauma, and make better decisions that would've lead to less disappointment the second time around.