By OMC collective member, Julieanne, owner of Vital Flow massage & bodywork
The birth plan
I remember when the nurse I was working with sat down and asked me if I had thought about making a birth plan. I think I was four months pregnant at the time. I really hadn’t but thought it would be a good idea to educate myself on my options for choice of birth partner, epidural or no epidural, fetal monitoring or not, etc. Over the next few weeks, I took a birth class and then crafted the ultimate birth plan. Or at least what I thought would be one. I had multiple copies. One was in my planner, one with my mom, one was in the glove box of my car (just in case right?) and one I sent to my doula! I felt so prepared! Boy was I in for a surprise. Essentially everything went totally opposite of the fantasy I had spent months revising. I don’t think I’m alone in this.
The change in plans
I ended up having an emergency Cesarean; my child stopped moving the last 24 hours and once I got to triage at Providence an OB soon stepped into my room in place of my midwife and informed me that I was going to have a C-section birth in the next hour. This is after the hour-long ultrasound beforehand where the tech tried everything to get my baby to move but couldn’t, and the previous hour of fetal monitoring where I was having contractions but my baby’s heart rate wasn’t mirroring mine’s fluctuation. I never even went into traditional labor. It was extremely fast and contemplating it a year later; traumatic, and I’m still working through that grief.
I don’t think I even unfolded one single copy of my birth plan. As the haze of medication wore off the ever-dreaded mom-guilt started to set in. Could I have done something to prevent this? What if I went to the hospital earlier? What if I had eaten better or exercised more during my pregnancy? How could something that I had spent months planning and obsessing over go so wrong? What was wrong with my body? My birth plan was a hoax!
Fast forward a year; my child’s first birthday! I started to really reflect and replay his birth in my head. I explored my mindset during my pregnancy and my feelings of guilt and shame afterward. Then it came to me; what would my reaction have been if I didn’t feel like I had to write a birth plan? Not that I would be any less educated on my options or even not write my preferences down, but what would my level of “mom guilt” be if I didn’t feel like my birth experience could be based solely off of how I planned it.
Retrospectively, I can see that I felt a certain sense of responsibility to sticking to my birth plan in order to give my baby the best start at life. (Whatever that is) I still felt like that was within my scope of control; the seeds of unrealistic self-expectations were sown.
The change in language
I had just given birth to my child; perfect, amazing, beautiful. My body had managed to sustain a life for nine months. I was cut open unexpectedly on an operating table; half my body numb; more petrified and alone than I’ve ever been in my life in order to keep my baby safe as they entered this world. I am a warrior; a birth giver, a single parent. How dare I demean my experience?
I don’t blame my nurse or any practitioner I worked with along the way. I blame the systemic language in place that places unnatural pressure on people that give birth.
Let’s get rid of the language of the birth plan; rather call it “birth preferences “ and empower birthing people to embrace the wildness and unpredictability of their experience. Give ourselves grace and just a little more love. There is no “wrong” or “lesser” way to give birth.
Pacific Northwest born and raised, Julieanne studied massage therapy at Alaska Career College in Anchorage, Alaska in 2015. She is passionate about helping people of all walks of life create time for themselves through customized therapeutic massage sessions.
Through motherhood, she developed a love of all things mama and baby and went on to study perinatal and postpartum massage therapy at the Simkin Center in 2019. She is enthusiastic to work with you and help create the space you need to heal and thrive; filling up your own cup so you can better deal with the stresses of life.
She believes that blending techniques of Swedish, Deep Tissue, Myofascial release, and Trigger Point Therapy is the most effective way to ease everyday aches and burdens.
In her free time, you might find her on a hiking trail with her young son, curled up with a good novel and some caffeine or hunting down some live music!