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Why making (and being ready to change) birth plans is so important



Fr. Michael Rennier - published on 09/10/18

This is how our babies came into the world, despite our best planning, and somehow we all survived.

Birth plans … ah, yes, those mythical documents that I’m told help delivery go smoothly. It isn’t that I doubt birth plans exist. I’m quite sure they do. I believe we’ve even made one or two. My doubts have more to with the part where my wife and I planned how we wanted it to go, and then how the actual births totally failed to follow our plan.

Don’t worry, all our babies are all fine. It’s only natural, though, to want everything to go perfectly. It really is a great idea to think the pregnancy through and make decisions ahead of time. That way, nothing surprises you. Or, at least, fewer things surprise you. For instance, you’ll want to plan ahead of time if you want the pain meds, who you want in the room with you, what mix-tape you’d like playing so your child develops good taste in music, that sort of thing. Babies have minds of their own, though, and they may have their own plans. All I’m saying is that we do our best to make a good plan, and then we prepare to adapt and don’t spend too much energy worrying.

Each of our pregnancies has been pretty wild – I’m half convinced I’m living in a sitcom – but in the end each one was a beautiful experience and God gave us a happy, healthy baby.

The first baby arrived in the early morning of a Cape Cod winter. Not only did we wake up in the darkness of the pre-dawn, but it had started snowing overnight. The roads were a few inches thick already and more was coming down as I helped my wife through her contractions while we scrambled into the car. I prayed we wouldn’t slide off the unplowed roads on our way to the hospital. I’ve never hated snow so much. We hadn’t planned for adverse weather conditions, but in the end we arrived safe and before the day was over were holding our first daughter in our arms.

The second baby arrived in the mid-afternoon of a Cape Cod summer. In mid-July in Cape Cod, the population swells with tourists, the beaches are packed, and all the ice-cream stands are open. In short, it’s a paradise … but a paradise with standstill traffic. Tourist season has the locals using back routes and putting off errands until midnight. Unfortunately, there is no back route to the hospital and baby wasn’t waiting. We ended up idling in traffic on a one-lane road, totally stuck. My wife was about to kick a hole through the windshield from intensifying contractions and I was frantic. It was stop-and-go to the hospital, where we abandoned our car at the front door, sprinted for the maternity ward, and had our baby nine minutes later. I’d never planned for traffic. That’s how our second daughter was born.

For our third baby, I’d wised up. Traffic and weather weren’t going to hold us back, so the instant my wife had her first contraction we went to the hospital. For each pregnancy, her labor time had been shortening, so we figured worst case scenario was that we’d hang out in the hospital for three or four hours. The nurses took a quick look and declared we were nowhere near ready to check in. I hadn’t planned on the nurses making us leave. But we adapted, walked across the street to a diner and my wife watched me eat pancakes – Yes, I’m a great husband. Then we went back to the hospital, forced them to check us in, and she had the baby very quickly. That’s how our third child and first son was born.

For our fourth baby, the birth plan was rapidly becoming a joke. The nurses wouldn’t even let us check in last time, we said, so for this one we wouldn’t even go to the hospital. No problem, right? We were good candidates for a homebirth. We’d had three incident-free, drug-free, natural births. So we contacted a midwife and set a plan in motion. Remember how I said that my wife’s labor was very quick? That may have had something to do with the midwife not arriving in time. That’s right, this delivery took place in the middle of the night at home with no professional assistance whatsoever while our three children slept in the next room. We hadn’t planned on that. That’s how our second son was born.

For our fifth baby, we switched to a different midwife. I insisted that we choose her based on geography. The one who lived closest to us is the one I wanted, and anyone further than five minutes away was disqualified. I timed the new midwife down to the minute to see if she arrived on time for our pre-natal meetings because I wanted to be sure I could trust her punctuality. I emphasized to her repeatedly that she would need to sleep with her shoes and medical kit next to her bed and come to our assistance immediately. You know what? Everything went according to plan this time. This is how our third daughter, the apple of my eye, was born.

Birth plans seldom go how we imagine, but that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you did it wrong or failed to plan well enough. It doesn’t mean that if you’d eaten a different pre-natal vitamin or chosen a different doctor or worried more that the delivery would’ve gone more to plan. With babies, we simply do our best, put our fears aside, and let God take over the rest.

By the way, our sixth child is due to be born soon. Pray for us!


Read more:
Here’s what no one tells you when you’re about to give birth …

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