Planning for the Birth of our Daughter
I never knew that having a baby meant there was so much to do before she even arrives! Now with less than a month before my due date and my nesting urges in full swing, I have been trying to stay focused.
Register for baby essentials, check.
Buy and install car seat, check.
Wash baby clothes, check.
Reupholster glider, almost check.
Buy the remaining needed baby things, almost check.
Read books about labor, check. (Not sure that was a good idea!)
Write birth plan…uh…
Apparently the new trend for pregnant mamas is to write out a birth plan to bring with you to the hospital to make sure that the medical personnel know and follow your wishes. For all intents and purposes, this sounds like a wise idea. However, I can see how quickly the birth plan turns from “here are my wishes” to “if-labor-doesn’t-work-out-exactly-like- this-I will-be-crushed.”
When I asked my obstetrician his thoughts on a birth plan, he said something along the lines of, “I don’t have a problem with a birth plan but please don’t be one of those moms that falls apart if labor and delivery doesn’t go like you hope. This is not a measure of how strong you are as a woman and too many moms need to remember that.”
A scene from the movie What To Expect When You’re Expecting flashed in my mind. The overly organized, on-top-of-it pregnant mama had typed out her birth plan and had thought through every detail, but let’s just say that labor did not go at all like she planned.
I felt really badly for her (I know, sometimes I can get a little too involved in fictional stories…) because I can relate to details not transpiring like I envision. And because of this, I have been trying to prepare myself for the unknowns of the upcoming birth of our little girl.
In doing so, I’ve recognized in myself that I have a tendency to respond several ways when life feels uncontrollable (and the specifics of when a baby will be born and how the labor and delivery will transpire are just that!).
1) Expecting the worst
I know I have shared a little of this before, but one of the ways I can unhealthily try to control life is by protecting myself from disappointment. That way, if I don’t have too high of expectations, I won’t be too let down.
I’ve noticed I have been reacting this way a little bit in regards to how the birth experience goes. I’ve heard enough scary stories from friends and friends of friends that if I am not careful, I can internalize fear about my own labor pretty easily and the focus shifts from God to me and my circumstances. As a result, I begin to fear the future. When I dwell on all of the negative birth experiences I’ve heard about, I find myself transferring them to my situation and expecting them to happen to me. What if I don’t dilate and then they have to rush me into an emergency c-section? What if I lose too much blood during delivery? What if the cord gets wrapped around my baby’s neck?
I’ve found that when I try to bury my fears, they always come back up to the surface. And when they do, they’re larger than before. Instead of fearing the future and all of the possibilities, I am learning to address these fears and work them through with God.
2) Excessively planning
When the above coping mechanism doesn’t work, I can tend to plan every detail of the uncontrollable event. I’ve mentioned this before as well because one way it played out after I was diagnosed with cancer was by excessively watching every food morsel I placed in my mouth. I subconsciously thought that if I controlled everything I ate, then the cancer wouldn’t return. As my husband says, “how’d that work for ya?” Yeah, didn’t work so well. I basically just drove myself crazy.
Well, not surprisingly, I did the same about my thoughts about labor and delivery. I read a book by a well-known midwife who encouraged a very natural birth and each night as I read a new chapter, I could feel my chest tighten as I tried to heed her advice and plan for my labor and delivery.
My subconscious thought process went something like this: Okay, so make sure you exercise every day to encourage the baby to come on time so you don’t have to be induced. And then when you start having contractions, don’t go into the hospital right away because your body needs time to go through the process. When you get to the hospital, make sure you don’t get an epidural too early (if at all) because then that will slow down your labor. And if your labor slows, you won’t dilate and then you will have to get Pitocin. Make sure you don’t let them give you Pitocin because then your contractions will be more painful and it may stall labor all together. Make sure you tell the doctor you do not want an episiotomy because that may cause infection. Try really hard to stay relaxed (ha!) because if not, things may just get out of control and then you are going to have to have the dreaded c-section. And then your baby won’t be able to nurse right away which will cause bonding and feeding issues…(and on and on it went…)
I think this would be an appropriate time for Jared to ask me, “How’s the planning working for ya?” Not so well. Somehow I convince myself that planning and controlling will help me prepare for the future but actually it just brings more anxiety upon me because I am hyper-focused on making sure my plan completely follows the schedule I laid out.
3) Balancing planning with trusting God (aka Surrendering)
As you may know about me if you’ve read my writing for a while, sometimes my thought pendulum needs to swing heavily to one side before it can find the middle ground. After a couple of weeks of internally stressing out about the details of our baby’s upcoming birth, I realized I needed to sort out my thoughts. So with my Bible and journal, I sat in a corner of our bedroom reserved for times like these. I knew I needed to get to the root of many of these fears so they weren’t haunting me when our daughter decided to make her appearance.
The first thing I had to surrender was that there was no right way to have a baby. I can read all of the books I want on every different theory, but if I do happen to get induced or do have to have a c-section, it will be fine. I am sure many of you reading this had birth experiences that didn’t go exactly like you planned, but you would remind me that the point at the end is a healthy baby and a healthy mama. That is what I am trying to keep in mind and letting the other details fall where they may.
After I journaled for a while and asked God for some insight into what was going on in my heart, I decided to do a study of the word “plan” in the Bible. I knew I needed to replace some of the lies and anxieties with good ol’ truth. I was struck by several verses:
Proverbs 16:9 (NIV) “In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps.”
Proverbs 19:21 (The Message) “We humans keep brainstorming options and plans but God’s purpose prevails.”
Luke 14:33 (The Message) “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be My disciple.”
The thought struck me as I read these verses how key it is for me to truly know God and His heart toward me. If not, I could see myself being so frightened about God “determining [my] steps.” And I can attest that there have been times when I’ve feared what God had planned for my life and whether I was going to like that plan. (For instance, do you remember my honest post before my 20-week ultrasound?) I think at face value, that is quite human, and I wonder if you have ever felt similarly. In the last few years (especially when life hasn’t transpired like I’ve planned), God has been deepening me in my relationship with Him and encouraging me to look at the root of my distrust, pluck out any misconceptions of Him, and truly trust His heart and plans for my life.
The story of Joseph in Genesis is a wonderful example of how life may not tick along like we envision but God always brings about good. At the end of much drama (check out Genesis 37-50 for more details), Joseph says to his brothers, “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good” (Genesis 50:19, The Message). I love knowing that God is an expert in bringing good from bad plans!
And though God was talking to the Jews living in Babylon, I still find great solace in one of my favorite verses that reminds me of God’s heart: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
As I reflect on the subject of plans over the last ten years of my life, I see that some events worked out just liked I’d hoped and others were excruciatingly painful. I would have never asked to wait as long as I did to get married. Yet God has shown me so many good things that have come from that wait. I would have never chosen cancer and a delayed beginning of our family, but God deepened me and our marriage in ways we could have never experienced otherwise. I’m sure you can think of a few examples yourself.
I’ve realized that if my plans don’t pan out like I hope, it’s because God has something bigger and better in store—though sometimes we may not see the “bigger” and “better” until further down the road. I’ve also realized that oftentimes my plans for my life are very short-sighted and even too small. When I’ve given God control of my life, He’s worked in some amazing ways that I couldn’t have even dreamed. And let’s be honest, there are some situations in life that we just may not see what God had planned but I hold onto the hope that one day in heaven, it will all be made clear.
These thoughts were confirmed when I read an excerpt from Jesus Calling:
“You will not find My Peace by engaging in excessive planning: attempting to control what will happen to you in the future. That is a commonly practiced form of unbelief. When your mind spins with multiple plans, Peace may sometimes seem to be within your grasp; yet it always eludes you. Just when you think you have prepared for all possibilities, something unexpected pops up and throws things into confusion.
I did not design the human mind to figure out the future. That is beyond your capability. I crafted your mind for continual communication with Me. Bring Me all your needs, your hopes and fears. Commit everything into My care. Turn from the path of planning to the path of Peace” (September 17).
A wave of peace washed over me as I soaked in these truths. I told God, “Okay, I will trust You with my birth plan. You have been faithful in so many ways in the past and You will be faithful in this too. My labor and delivery may not go like I plan or envision, but I trust You know what I need and will work it all together for our good at the appointed time.”
Birth plan, check.