The “ideal” birth is usually an all-natural, no medical intervention birth. It goes something like this…
You labor at home as long as possible. You eat, drink and move as you see fit. You decide when to go into the hospital to continue laboring. The transition from home to hospital is smooth. You are at 6cm when you get there. The LDR at the hospital is the one with the tub (as opposed to just a shower). The nurse reads and honors your birth plan. You are not pressed with anything you don’t want. No one offers you the epidural because you told them you didn’t want it. The lights are dim, your birthing music plays on your iPod. You have intermittent fetal monitoring with a Doppler. There is no IV attached to your arm. Your doctor or midwife only says the most encouraging words. They help you find optimal positions for your labor. Your husband, or support partner is lovely and warm and knows all the right things to do or say. You manage your contractions beautifully, using coping techniques you’ve learned through your readings and the classes you’ve taken. Labor is intense, but manageable. You push in an upright position that feels good to you and no one counts or coaches you. It takes a good deal of effort but you do it. Your baby is placed on your chest and she breastfeeds a few minutes later. Then they do the newborn tests and procedures. Baby rooms in at the hospital with you and breastfeeds like a champ.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I wish all (hospital) births went like that. But, the reality is, most of them don’t. How does a mom come up with an ideal birth? Reading, reading, more reading, education, reading, talking to friends, google, reading, Babycenter, The Bump, reading… Sense a theme? We can over-educate ourselves and “think” it to death. We know, for sure, we do NOT want this, that or the other thing. We “know” there’s a right way to give birth. We cling to the idea of what birth SHOULD be… rather than what it CAN be.
When we cling to the idea of what birth should be, we form what I’ll call attachment. When our births don’t go as planned we find ourselves in a state of distress. That attachment doesn’t allow us to have the flexibility needed to make good decisions about what is necessary to have a “good” birth. You “know” you don’t want an epidural. Then you “cave in” and get one anyway. Now you feel guilty, sad, disappointed, etc. because you got the epidural. Then the rest of the ideal birth gets tossed out because, “Oh well, might as well, who cares.” It’s like the dieter who falls off the wagon an eats a cookie. Eh, might as well eat the whole box of cookies, diet’s shot anyway.
The other big scenario is when something truly out of your control happens. The baby turns posterior, and makes for a challenging birth; you begin to hemorrhage; your labor support (husband?) falls asleep on the couch; your blood pressure spikes and stays high; your doctor isn’t as supportive of a natural birth as you’d thought and they insist on an IV, fulltime fetal monitoring and Pitocin; and so on and so on. All of these things cause deviation from the “ideal” birth to which you are so attached. This deviation causes distress, disappointment, sadness, trauma, feelings of failure, etc.
The Buddhist (and Yogic) principle of non-attachment needs to be applied. Yes, you should learn about pregnancy, labor and birth. Yes, you should take a childbirth ed. class. Yes, you should read positive birth stories. Everything in moderation – there is too much information out there. Some of it is conflicting and can cause fear and stress.
Do write a birth plan (see previous post), but include your “if… then” statements. Understand that there are many factors that influence how your birth happens, not all of them are in your control. Plan for what you can. Know how to make informed choices. Be flexible about that which you honestly don’t know. It’s OK to daydream about your “ideal” birth. Just don’t become so attached to it, that if it doesn’t go as planned you are devastated. Enjoy the idea of the “ideal” birth. Breathe out, and let it go. Let go of that tight hold you have on what it is that you want. Allow the experience of birth to be an experience. Breathe in the beauty and the work of labor and birth. Find your rhythm and by present during your birth. If you focus on what “should be” rather than what is, you lose something. Be present and enjoy your labor, enjoy your birth, and enjoy your baby – this birth is once in a lifetime.