Be stubborn in your vision but flexible with your plan
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
So - I am married! In fact, I have been with my husband for a total of eleven years, eight of which we have been married. In that time, we have grown together and continue to do so as we navigate parenthood along with making our dreams for our future come true. Ya girl here is a go-getter; I speak my dreams into the universe until one feels right enough to make into a plan. I DREAM BIG, y’all! I am just that way. Do all of my dreams come to fruition? Hardly... But what does happen is that my ability to falter, take criticism, network, and learn has enhanced each time that I reach for a goal, even if I fail in the process. Even the plans that never happen have taught me so much about myself and what it is that I want from this life. When I say I have grown, I do mean that I feel as if I have been multiple people throughout my life; each phase laced with its own adventures and set-backs. My husband, the yin to my yang, is my complete and total opposite. It hurts my heart because he is so genuine and smart. His talents are being utterly squandered by the company that he works for and his brain could be used to heal so many broken cracks in our youth today... but he has trouble dreaming. He does not see the person I do. He is such a kind and gentle soul with so much life to heal from, and for eleven years, I have reminded him just how amazing he is. I mention all of this to say that I believe one of the biggest reasons he struggles to dream, is because he is not flexible with his plan.
Let me explain - you see, even when we were only dating and he was ready to propose to me, he got so frustrated when the day did not go completely as planned. To set the scene, we went on a date to a park for a picnic. We already lived together, (Gasp!) so I made the food and he brought the ring. It was a fun, HOT, and typical South Carolina day. The park was wonderful and we even brought our bikes to ride. Cut to the first thing that went wrong: the tire on one of our bikes was flat. I could see him visibly getting panicked and it was odd to me, but I explained that they rented bikes here so surely they had a pump we could use (They did indeed have one so this problem fixed quickly). The next thing to go wrong was that he forgot the ring in the car and had to run back to get it. He was wearing a button-down, long sleeve shirt, which in retrospect was also a bit peculiar.) We finally settled on a spot after our bike ride and enjoyed our picnic, then we cleaned up and sat near the lake on a bench swing and played hangman as we relaxed to let our food settle. Then GUSH! Hangman is how he proposed to me; and it was sweet and genuine and simply adorable! As you can see, I said yes... He will tell you a different story though, one where he was mortified and angry that nothing went as he had planned in his head and to this day, he still can allow small details to really derail his momentum and sometimes stop him dead in his tracks.
We decided to use this weekend as time to celebrate our anniversary and again, nothing went as planned, but we still had a good day as the food and park we chose were, in my opinion, perfect. This day was, of course, great because it celebrated our anniversary but it was today that ushered in an explosion of fun and silly chaos. We decided to take our daughter to a park that is about thirty minutes from our house because one of the things that did not go as planned the day before, was that instead of her grandpa watching her, her uncle did and he took her and his kids to this same park that I am speaking of. So this park is MASSIVE and if you live close, you know Gahagan Park and just how wondrous it is for us adults! I can only imagine just how fricking AMAZING it is to my kid. So she asks to go again today and we oblige. We took off after everyone was awake and when we arrived, I just knew that my husband would be in a very anxious headspace because it was a bit people-y outside and he is an introvert. He is a champ though, and for his daughter, would gladly sit in that feeling as he chases her and acts silly to invite the giggles out. But he did not have to force himself to work through that feeling, noooo.... Just mere minutes after showing up, things changed as it began to rain outside. People dispersed quickly and only a few others, including us, stayed to play in the rain. My husband had reservations, yet gave in quickly to the child within. In the end, we were able to freely run and chase our kid and take advantage of an almost empty playground with the added bonus of the rain. Now in some cases, I would not have done this but since this park was literally thirty minutes away and we had just arrived, I was not yet ready to leave. It is South Carolina after all, so it was still warm outside and not storming. The rain was pretty much unexpected, and so if we would have left instead of staying, we would not have had the fun we did. But what glorious, unexpected fun we had. And unlike the old wives’ tale my husband regurgitated... none of us got sick from playing in the rain!
So why is this all important? It obviously has nothing to do with birth, right? Weeeeeell.... That is not completely true. I mean, sure, the story is about an anniversary weekend but there was a bigger lesson learned this weekend.
"Be stubborn in your vision, but flexible with your plan."
Pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood postpartum are all quite unique experiences. Each pregnancy and baby bringing new unexpected heartaches and joys. There are no guarantees in this life and those who choose to be birth keepers will tell you that birth is no exception to this rule just as parenthood is no exception to this rule. In my example, if I was not flexible in my plan, when my husband suggested to leave or got upset with all the unexpected nonsense life was throwing at us, we would not have had a blast playing in the rain with our kid and creating super fun memories together. If we focus on the obstacles instead of the end goal, we miss the truly magical opportunities life gives us to be flexible. You see, it is in these opportunities that we learn how to adapt and survive. Those who beat themselves up over what did not go right, miss the opportunity to see just how brilliantly they can work on their feet and the end result that comes from that. Nothing feels quite like overcoming unexpected obstacles, but part of that is preparation for the unexpected as well. That could mean preparing for something very specific or that could mean going to school and taking a math class even though you are not sure you will ever actually use it in real life.
Birth, however, is not an anniversary lunch date or a trip to the park, so I want to continue to dive a bit deeper and provide a more vivid frame for which to put your Dream Birth. Since pregnancy is different for each person, and then for each subsequent pregnancy, it is even more important to remain flexible in your plan. In class, I talk about creating a birth plan for your ideal birth and then a birth plan for an emergency, such as a cesarean. For some, this process can bring up pretty big feelings and that is understandable. But I do this because I want them to remember that, even in emergencies, they can still have a beautiful vision for their birth. It’s important to reach for a vision that is not fixated on the nuances of labor and birth, but rather on the type of birth you would like to have. This looks different for each person and can range from, "Give me all the meds!" to, "The plan is to have a home birth if all goes well." Each person will have a different view of their birth and the best way to make that vision so is to first educate yourself on your desired type of birth and then get the team who you feel can help you make that happen. In birth, there is no room for those who don't believe in it's divine power. There is no predictor but for those who believe that birth is a normal and natural process, one that intertwines our mental and physical self and cannot be fully explained with science, birth is not a problem to be managed. Sure, OBs are important for high risk pregnancies and the small percentage of those who end up with true emergencies, but for those who are low risk (which is about 95%), a vaginal birth is certainly normal, not to mention your body was kinda made for this! So, what does that mean exactly? Well, it means that it is entirely possible that an emergency can happen which requires OB care, but it also means that if you trust the process and your body, you are pretty likely to have a great birth experience as long as you have done your due diligence and learned everything you needed to about the type of birth experience you desire and build a birth team that you can trust to also believe in you and in the process. You need a team who understands how important it is to see your vision too; they may need to help you navigate changes if emergencies arise, but otherwise, they should be able to work with you on what it is you want and need. Like life, birth is often everything we never new we needed and through its ambiguous nature it teaches us about our own strength. You may run into obstacles, but honestly birth is just that, a set of obstacles (feelings, sensations, contractions,) Its up to you to traverse that terrain. I for one want to study the map a bit before the big day so that if I hit any of the bumps in the road, I know my options and how to best navigate those circumstances… i.e who I want to be there, what symbols or trinkets will I need and most of all any fears I have and how I will face those as well. Facing fear is something I enjoy in most cases but it was not a very comfortable conversation to have with myself about my birth. Honestly, I was terrified of a cesarean and having to work through that was not something that I was ready to do while I was pregnant. So, believe me, I know what I am asking is a tall order.
For some, following this mantra will be a breeze, but for those who are like my husband, you will find it difficult and sometimes you will veer off course which will create anxiety that causes you pause. Know that in these moments, you are on a ledge; a ledge that surely looks incredibly high, but I promise you, it is an illusion. Your brain is tricking you. It is not fear you will feel when you take that leap; it’s exhilaration! You fall to a place where dreams come true. A place that, had you turned back, would have been little more than an anxious feeling, when in truth, it could have been the start of your life's purpose. Birth may not be where you find your life's purpose, but it will teach you a great deal about yourself as it molds you into a parent, and one of the best tools to have as a parent is flexibility. Children have an uncanny way of creating confusion and making plans change on a dime, so learning to use this tool often will make life so much sweeter.
If you wish, unmedicated childbirth will take you on one of the most exhausting journeys of your life, but as Mother Nature would have it, holding your child will shroud all of the work and waves in a dream-like mist and replace the exhaustion with exhilaration, pride, and the purest love. You may remember the difficult path, but the hormones that peak after childbirth will ensure that you gladly do it all again for that moment, that first look as you fall in love with your baby. No part of natural childbirth is textbook, each person responds differently to the sensations of labor and birth and it’s important to have people on your team who understand your path and want to help you see it through. It would seem that although trauma is seen in terribly high numbers across the birth spectrum, for those who wish to have an unmedicated vaginal birth, deviation from this plan can be especially hard. Maybe it feels like you have failed... but I ask that you give yourself grace and then you see that this is a team effort. You can literally do everything right and still need emergency help. This is no fault of your own, and in some cases, can be due to sudden issues that arise, completely out of your control. In these moments where labor or birth do not go as planned, remember to ask yourself, "What is my vision of birth?" and from there, if a change in is course and is warranted, continue to use your vision to create a new path woven with all the special intricacies that make it your own unique story and be sure to be an active participant. Doing this will help you cope with the changes that arise, and hopefully if you have done your research and picked a great team, you will also feel much more sure of your experience and your choices. In the end, it’s about being prepared enough to feel empowered in your decisions. With self empowerment, you can birth uninhibited, and no matter how your birth goes, you will always be a WARRIOR in my eyes.