Mom holding baby and smiling
Photo courtesy of Tonilyn Hornung

The One Thing From My Birth Plan That Came True

by Tonilyn Hornung

A mom friend told me my placenta could be ground into a yummy shake I could drink after my baby was born. As it turns out, I should have ground up my birth plan and eaten that.

I’m a planner. I adore lists and schedules, and I still have my Trapper Keeper from high school to peek at when I’m feeling blue. There’s a confidence that happens when I lay out the groundwork for my life, so it’s no surprise that as a nervous first time mom, my planning skills went into overdrive. The be-all end-all of planning was my birth plan.

Intense scrutiny, thought, and color-coding went into structuring my birthing plan: I’d deliver in a hospital with my doctor. I’d have a natural childbirth with only my husband present while extended family could extend themselves to the waiting room. I’d bring my own birthing gown, music, and snacks. Immediately following the birth, the baby would be placed on my chest for skin-to-skin contact. With this perfect plan in place, what could wrong?

According to plan, my husband and I arrived at the hospital when my contractions were three minutes apart. My pain seemed a little intense for this early in the game and that’s when my doctor told me that my baby’s head was not in the best position for a comfortable birth. The head was turned towards my stomach so my kid was being born “sunny side up.” While I’m a huge egg lover, this was not a situation I’d listed on my laminated birth chart.

Quickly, my life became unpredictable in a way I couldn’t have predicted. After eight hours of “back labor” with excruciating contractions that came without a break, I broke down and asked for an epidural. My water had to be broken by hand, I wasn’t dilating fast enough, my epidural kept coming out, and me and my baby’s blood pressure began rising and falling. Even though I’d been sure that I’d want no family in the delivery room, I begged for my mom. So far, the only item I’d been able to check off my list was “Bring Your Own Birthing Gown.”

I’d spent nine months prepping for this monumental moment. I’d been ready to savor each delicate nuance of childbirth, and I was struggling emotionally. I couldn’t find my groove. I wasn’t even close to going with the flow because this was nowhere near the flow I’d pictured. The idea I’d created in my head kept me from fully engaging in the present — each moment felt confused and spoiled. My plan had held me together, and now I was falling apart.

Most days (or any) won’t go as I anticipate — even if I plan for every outcome.

After 26 hours, due to our fluctuating blood pressures, an emergency C-section was needed. My mom held me as I cried and whispered “This isn’t how I wanted it,” over and over. Now, I was just plain scared, and with the confidence only a mother can command, she reassured me that both of us would be okay. She reminded me that soon I’d get to hold my infant.

Finally! There was still something on my list I’d get to experience, and it was the most important part of my birth plan — holding my baby! I knew how monumental this first skin-to-skin bonding could be, so I checked my nerves outside the surgery room and waited for our moment.

“Do you want to meet your son?” my doctor asked my husband after the C-section was complete.

Lying on the surgical table, I watched my husband go to our newborn. My husband’s face was bright with love, and I impatiently waited for my turn. As he walked towards me, I couldn’t wait to see my baby’s fingers and toes up close. My tiny baby’s head was nearing my chest, and I could almost make out his eye color when I heard my hubby ask, “How would you like to hold your son?” I opened my mouth to respond with a resounding “Yes” but something else flew out — vomit.

Photo courtesy of Tonilyn Hornung

Instead of my little baby being laid on my chest, I threw up on my son. Maybe it was the drugs, or my new mother’s intuition, or the drugs, but the event seemed to happen in slow motion. I managed to shout to my husband to move our little guy before I soaked his entire face. My newborn was scooped up and taken away to be cleaned. That’s when my kid taught me my first lesson about motherhood: Nothing ever goes according to plan.

Motherhood is messy. Trying to plan the birth of my son opened my eyes to the fact that motherhood is far from predictable. Most days (or any) won’t go as I anticipate — even if I plan for every outcome. For me, this definitely means more living in the here and now.

I’ve held onto my laminated birth plan as a reminder that motherhood is more about staying present than making plans. It was truly shocking to learn that nothing about my labor and delivery actually delivered—except the beautiful baby boy I finally got to hold. That moment delivered all the love I’d imagined it would, and that time I didn’t throw up.

Read the next piece from Not In The Plan, essays about the unforeseen elements of birth, and the ways people recover.