The Best Laid Plans

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When visions of a natural labour don’t quite go to plan…

I found it whilst sorting through old baby equipment. Innocently resting in a transparent holder; two beautifully typed pieces of paper, elegantly presented and only slightly marred by a large coffee stain. After several minutes perusal the tears were flowing down my cheeks. Laugh? I nearly burst my C-Section stitches. I’d found my first birth plan.

“My husband and I will be using aromatherapy oils and relaxing music as pain relief” read the second paragraph. I’d been preparing for the birth endeavour whole-heartedly and embraced every theory with gusto. NCT classes, yoga classes, books and articles. Did I know how to change a nappy? Nope. Could I bath a newborn? Wind a screamer? Not on your life. But I could have done a Mastermind round on drug free birthing.

[quote_left]’Laugh? I nearly burst my C-Section stitches….'[/quote_left]

“EP-I-DUR-AL NOW” I remember screaming at my poor husband as he clutched the birth plan whilst attempting to mix the lavender and massage oils. “But, sweetheart, what about a nice massage?”

“Get the anaesthetist or I’ll make you drink that oil” I bellowed as another of my early labour contractions engulfed me.

“You’re still not three centimetres“ said the midwife cheerfully; “strictly speaking you’re not actually in labour yet. Let’s switch up that syntocin and really get things going”. Enya was not going to help me here. The epidural on the other hand was a blessed relief. Why do we torture ourselves? Imagine going for a root canal armed only with completion of a six week course in meditation. We should be going down on our knees daily to thank the medical research which made anaesthesia an option.

[quote_right]’Imagine going for a root canal armed only with completion of a six week course in meditation'[/quote_right]

Birth number two came round only 18 months later. Contrary to Old Wives wisdom you can get pregnant whilst breastfeeding. This time there were no packs of homeopathic remedies, no expensive oils and not a barking mad new age way to survive a 24 hour induction in sight. My birth plan was a post it note reading “Epidural; at the earliest opportunity. Preferably 38 weeks.” But it was not to be. After discussing this birth plan at a lengthy consultation I was sent to see the chief anaesthetist. “Sorry Mrs Robinson, no can do, there’s not an anaesthetist in the country would come any where near you with an epidural. Have you thought about massage?”

By a sly old twist of fate, an inconvenient medical condition had left me falling back on all the birth options I’d been pooh-poohing for months. Not to worry, I thought, everyone says second births are easier, what are the chances of this one being worse? Well, every chance as it turned out.

I love the image of me as a brave and noble soul; gripping my husband’s hand as he wipes an elegant bead of sweat from a brow furrowed in labour. No such memories have I. “Try to be a bit quieter, you’re upsetting the other ladies, Mrs Robinson. I’m sure it can’t hurt that much…”

Birth number three was almost four years later. Fortunately time is a great healer and I managed to get through most of the pregnancy in a state of denial, forgetting the worst of the previous two birth horrors until I entered the crazy zone of 42 weeks pregnant for the third time. Yet another induction loomed on the horizon and raspberry leaf tea became my drink of choice, long walks my hobby. At 41 weeks I waddled out of the midwife’s room into a hall full of fellow expectant mums at various stages. “You could try pineapple” suggested the health professional helpfully “I’ve heard that does wonders”.  “Really?” I replied in an icy attempt at politeness and a voice which carried to all the nice patient ladies waiting, “because all that has ever worked for me is three pessarys then 24 hours of a syntocin drip at full blast. But I’ll go and try the prickly fruit if you think it might help.”

[quote_left]‘It’ll come when it’s ready,’ he’d intone reassuringly, ‘can you just shift up a bit, I can’t quite see the 9th hole there.’[/quote_left]

One of the annoying things about crap births which end with you pushing the baby out is how they are described as ‘natural’. The pedant in me could not cope with this. “You have had two natural births, I can’t imagine why the induction hasn’t worked” said one consultant. “THEY WEREN’T NATURAL!!!!” I screamed. “Well they weren’t Caesareans, so that’s natural” said the consultant as his army of minions tittered at the crazy lady. I took a deep breath and attempted calm, ably assisted by my husband. He’d been here before too many times to see the birth as anything other than a chance to spend several days away from both work and the kids, and as far as he was concerned the longer the better. By some happy chance (for him, not me) my third interminable labour fell over the British Golf Open and all-round BBC2 coverage. “It’ll come when it’s ready,” he’d intone reassuringly, “can you just shift up a bit, I can’t quite see the 9th hole there.” I’m sure even he would have got fed up by the sixth day if that hadn’t coincided with a gripping finale to the golf. The birth, however, was rubbish and this time ended with an emergency C-section, but Nigel saw the whole of the championship; which was nice.

My sister told me years ago that the good thing about hellish births is that you always have something to talk about at Mother and Toddler groups. A recent foray back into the world of tea, chat and bickies that is the Mother and Toddler group proved her right. After a self-indulgent, and slightly competitively gory, half hour of birth descriptions, a quietly happy voice piped up from the edge of the circle; “All three of mine were water births, it was magical.” You could have heard a pin drop as every head turned to stare, not a comment was made and the subject was dropped. Magical? Where’s the fun in the re-telling of that?