If you follow my Twitter, you’ll know that I struggled a fair bit with writing my birth plan. They can be daunting things, these ‘plans’ – how on earth do you plan for an event with the potential for so much to go wrong? Not to mention that with twins, my base ‘ideal’ – a home birth – was already more or less out of the question.
My other concern was that if I outlined specific expectations and made them into a Big Deal, I would feel disappointed and inadequate if we had to deviate from them.
When I started to substitute ‘preference’ for ‘plan’, I found that the words came easier. I couldn’t say, for example, that I plan never to have an epidural – but I do prefer not to be given one upon admission, as is routine for twin births. I can’t plan not to be monitored, but my preference is for infrequent monitoring provided that there are no signs of fetal distress.
When I first discussed my birth preferences with one of the doctors, it did not go well. It seemed that for every statement she made about how my birth would likely happen, I countered it with a polite but determined refusal to consider anything of the sort. She was exasperated, I was defensive; we were at what felt like a total impasse.
So she made me an appointment with the consultant and I went away to consider whether I was being entirely unreasonable in expecting some measure of control over what was going to happen to my body.
I decided that it would be easier to articulate my wishes if they were written down. It was at the second draft of the birth plan that I decided to substitute in the word ‘preference’. I was immediately surprised at how much more reasonable I sounded!
So I took it to the consultant and requested that she took my blood pressure before reading it through. It actually worked really well. One of the first things that the consultant said when she looked up from the paper was that she ‘liked the flexibility’ in my Plan – success! Starting out on the right foot made all the difference and we were able to have a pleasant chat outlining our expectations. One of the things that we discussed was that the Plan listed preferences for the best case scenario. Of course we wouldn’t refuse an induction if there was a medically-dictated reason for one, nor an episiotomy if one of the babies needed to come out urgently. But if there is no real need for either then I would prefer not to have it. I wanted to know that I wouldn’t be arguing with medical staff in labour, that my wishes would be respected.
It went really well and I left feeling far more confident than I had when sitting outside in the waiting room. A few compromises were made on my side, certainly, but there were happy surprises too – the consultant didn’t blink an eye at my request that Kirsty be allowed to stay with the babies and me after the birth, for example. This was tremendously important to us. Kirsty is the non-biological (though legal) parent and we had worried that either bonding would be more difficult if she was sent immediately home or that it would be devastating for her to be away from them. Personally, I can’t imagine going through such a life-changing event as watching my partner birth my children and then being turfed out of the hospital for the night! Thankfully, it looks as though the hospital will be sympathetic to our wishes and allow her to stay.
The consultant also booked us an appointment to meet the consultant midwife, so we’ll be doing that too.
It seems strange that letting go of my ‘plan’ has allowed me to feel more in control, but I do. I’m starting to feel really confident in this medical team, I’m starting to feel like they’ll listen to and respect me. It’s a good feeling.