It’s OK to Mourn Your Birth Plan—Here’s Why

I did not put “having things in common with Mandy Moore” on my 2021 bingo card. Yet, a few days before she gave birth earlier this month, Mandy shared to Instagram: “My platelets have dropped exponentially during pregnancy and it’s sadly altered my birth ‘plan.’ Any other pregnant folks in the same boat??” 

My heart went out to her: Nearly four years ago, I was in the same boat.

My issue was not to do with my platelets, but at 36 weeks I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios, an excess amount of amniotic fluid. My obstetrician explained that this could make a home birth dangerous due to cord prolapse—an emergency condition where the unborn baby’s umbilical cord slips through the cervix during labor.

My dream, since before I even got pregnant, was to have a home birth. I wanted to labor in the comfort of my home with as few people around me as possible. I wanted my cats nearby. I wanted to sleep in my own bed afterward. I wanted my things and my music.

But it wasn’t meant to be. I went in every other day to monitor the excess fluid and for ultrasounds to make sure there weren’t any other problems that would create additional danger for me or the baby. While things didn’t progress into the danger-zone, each day that passed made it clear that even under the best conditions, a home birth was not going to happen. I was crushed.

 

 

I knew I was lucky and privileged; a hospital birth with a midwife wasn’t a bad alternative. There were a lot of things we could do to still bring elements of what I’d wanted into my birth. We had plans in place to have a birth that was as low-intervention as possible. But it still made me sad.

I talked about it with my home-birth midwife, my husband, and my obstetrician, who offered varying degrees of support. My HMO’s obstetrician, who I’d been meeting with each month of my pregnancy, wasn’t much help. She implied that I was selfish for still wanting a home birth—and naive for feeling sad. She implied that I cared more about my birth plan than my baby. I left the conversation with her feeling like a failure on two fronts. I’d failed at being able to have a home birth, and I’d (apparently) failed at loving my baby more than my plan. 

 

I left the conversation with her feeling like a failure on two fronts. I’d failed at being able to have a home birth, and I’d (apparently) failed at loving my baby more than my plan.

 

While that couldn’t have been further from the truth, I recognized that in order to get through it, I needed to grieve first. For a number of reasons, I knew that this would likely be my first—and only—birth. So I needed to let go of not having that experience. I took a day or two to just be sad about it. I cried. I went for walks. I yelled at the walls. I read poetry. I allowed myself to feel all of my feelings. Not just sadness, but jealousy, anger, and fear.

My husband was awesome and so comforting while I let myself wallow in the sadness of letting go of my dream. In the week before and after my due date, he took me out for lunch almost every day. We watched movies and he rubbed my feet.

My midwife was also terrific. Together, the three of us came up with a plan for the hospital transfer (including when and how it would happen), and a new at-the-hospital birth plan. We collaborated on a plan that would maintain as much of the home birth experience as possible—while taking advantage of the technology and safety measures the hospital could offer.

 

 

With the same sense of ritual and nesting that I had been preparing my home for the birth, I packed my hospital bag with great love and care. We brought battery-powered candles, a USB speaker, lots of comfort items, and my stuffed animal from childhood. I made music playlists and packed blankets and outfits for the baby I was about to meet.

Once I’d grieved, I was able to feel excited again. I was able to remember that at the end of all of this, I’d get to meet my kid.

 

Once I’d grieved, I was able to feel excited again. I was able to remember that at the end of all of this, I’d get to meet my kid.

 

I held off on inducing labor and was able to labor at home for a number of hours (with my cats nearby) before transferring to the hospital, where my baby was delivered by a midwife (just like Mandy Moore!). In the end, I felt like a badass who had given my baby the birth he needed to arrive safely. It wasn’t the birth I’d planned for, but I don’t regret it for a moment. Not following my birth plan didn’t make me a failure: rolling with the punches made me a mom.

It can be hard to talk about, especially when all of the advice you get about a birth plan is, “Don’t cling too tightly to it!” It’s easy to feel ungrateful or silly for feeling sad, but if your birth doesn’t go to plan, it’s okay to grieve that, even as you’re excited to meet your baby.

 

Read More: Being Pregnant During a Pandemic Is Hard—And It’s OK to Feel Sad About It

 

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