One important thing that I learned from giving birth to my two sons is that with pregnancy, labor, delivery, and birth, you are never fully in control of what goes on. Pregnancy is a miraculous process, and a complex one, too. Many factors affect a pregnancy throughout its term as well as during the final hours of labor and delivery. Pregnant women and their partners often go to great lengths to take good care of themselves before and during pregnancy, in order to increase the chances of giving birth to a healthy child and having a satisfying birth experience.
My message for you today is that no matter how much you plan and prepare, and no matter what lengths you go to to take care of yourself and your growing baby, you can not guarantee any particular outcome. My intention is not to frighten anyone, or to cause additional anxiety during an already stressful time. In fact, my intention is to provide reassurance and empathy as you move towards labor and through delivery as well as comfort and support after the fact.
You see, during my second pregnancy I was determined to do everything that I could to avoid becoming sick with preeclampsia like I did at the end of my first pregnancy. Early in my pregnancy, I selected a team of home birth midwives who worked with me to set up a plan of action including nutrition, exercise, and supplements in order to increase my chances of avoiding preeclampsia. I knew that if I ended up with it, I could not have the natural home birth that I wanted.
I worked hard on my action plan, exercising, eating right, and taking my supplements. About a month before my estimated delivery date, a routine urine test showed signs of protein. I took a more extensive urine test, along with blood work, and it revealed that I had preeclampsia. Since the baby would have to be delivered the next day, I had another ultrasound. The doctor looked closely at Blake before giving me the best news that I could have hoped to hear at such a stressful time – my due date was wrong and he was full term.
In the days that followed, I was induced, labored with medication, and had an emergency cesarean birth. Blake was born healthy, and I was thrilled. I was also a mess. Instead of the home birth I had envisioned, I had gone down the spiral of one medical intervention after another. In the weeks that followed, I applied myself to healing both my physical and emotional wounds.
As soon as I was cleared to exercise, I went for a walk with Blake in a front pack and Dylan in a stroller. As I walked, I realized that it was time to stop thinking about whether I had done enough to take care of myself during the pregnancy. I had done the best that I could. The healthy, happy baby in my front pack was all the proof I needed of that. Since then, I have had fleeting thoughts about the pregnancy and birth. Each time, I remind myself that I did the best that I could and beating myself up over it will not change the outcome.
Whatever happens during your pregnancy, labor, and delivery, know that you did the best that you could. That is all that anyone can do. Please be gentle, and offer yourself the same compassion that you would offer to a friend who had a pregnancy or birth experience that was different than what she had envisioned.