Get over it — shake it off

Back during the hockey playoffs, the next to the last game Chicago played, they were decimated — ended up losing by either 5-1 or 6-1. It was horrible. My husband is from Chicago and loves hockey, but he didn’t even watch the last period — it was too painful. The next day, the Chicago coach made excuses along the lines of “the referee made a bad call and it got us off our game.” Looking at the video of the coach during the majority of the game, you could see that he was just absolutely p*$$ed. Consequently, he didn’t coach very well. And his team didn’t play very well either — whether it’s because they missed his coaching, or they picked up on his rotten mood, or something.

But here’s the deal — sometimes life hands you something unexpected, and it does no good to dwell on it like the Blackhawks coach did. In fact, his inability to rise above the bad call (if indeed it was a bad call — I can’t remember; but I do remember that the ‘Hawks benefitted from some bad calls made on the other team, but I didn’t hear the other coaches whining about it) may have cost his team the game.

Sometimes this happens in birth. It can take a number of different forms — a planned home birth ending up being a transfer; a planned vaginal birth ending in a C-section due to transverse lie; a planned unmedicated birth ending up needing some medication, etc. Sometimes women get bowled over by the intensity of the contractions, and might get scared by them, and their careful plans of how they’re going to meditate and/or relax through labor get thrown out the window.

Rise above it. Shake off the one aspect of birth that didn’t go the way you planned. Salvage what you can.

Sometimes an unexpected occurrence may make a woman throw up her hands in despair, and say, “If this didn’t go right, then nothing will!” And that’s not necessarily so. Sure, there are stories of women who planned home births who ended up having a C-section in a hospital. But that doesn’t mean that all transfers to the hospital will end up as C-sections. But if you give up, there’s a greater likelihood that it will happen to you! Don’t abandon all hope and your plans when a disruption occurs. It may be that it’s just a minor hiccup, but if you keep focusing on the negative (like the coach who just couldn’t get over the bad call), you’re going to be stuck in the negative, and then you may end up with just what you’re afraid of. Take a deep breath and say, “Well, I didn’t expect that! But I can still do this and this and this like I planned. Keep focusing on the positive.

Real vs. Ideal

In a post some time back, I talked about co-sleeping, and included a poll on “what is your ideal sleeping arrangement”, with the following possible answers: 1) baby in bed with me; 2) baby not in bed but in the same room with me; 3) baby in his own room.

Of course, nobody answered #3. I didn’t expect many of my readers to, because I know I attract people who think like me, and I wouldn’t have either — my “ideal” is baby in bed with me. But there is a difference between “real” and “ideal,” which I think fairly amusing, at times. Maybe I shouldn’t think it funny, but I do. It’s a quirk I have.

I moved my first baby to his crib (in my room) when he was about a month or so old, because he was waking me up and I was waking him up all night long. That’s what really happened; but it didn’t change my “ideal sleeping arrangement” being baby in bed with me… as long as we both can sleep, anyway! When baby #2 came along, him sleeping in the bed with me worked out a lot longer, although I had him in the bassinet beside the bed a lot too. I would frequently fall asleep with him in my bed through at least 6 months, and with some regularity up til about 9 months. At that age, a lot of times he would nurse until about asleep, and then start fidgeting and wiggling to get away from me, so I put him in his crib, and he’d go to sleep. But my “ideal sleeping arrangement” was still stated to be him being in the bed with me. It just didn’t work out that way.

Were I to have another baby, I would still plan on having him or her in bed with me. It’s still my “ideal sleeping arrangement.”

Sometime after I had completely moved my younger son to the crib in another room (around 13 months or so), I answered a breastfeeding questionnaire, which included the question, “Where should babies sleep until they are at least two years old?” Without batting an eye, I answered “in bed with me,” because that is my ideal… even though I had just put my son who was less than two years old down in his own little crib in his own room.

In some ways, that is hypocritical of me. In other ways, it’s just responding to some of the realities of life. One such reality is that my husband is not totally supportive of the baby being in bed with us (at least partly due to his fear that he’ll hurt or smother the baby somehow by rolling over on him, pulling the blanket up over him, or putting a pillow on him). So, when he complained about a specific thing related to the baby being in bed with us, I would frequently put the baby in his own crib or bassinet for that time. Even though I would still answer the question without hesitation that the best place for the baby at that age was to be in bed with me.

A lot of times, we face situations which cause us to deviate from our “ideal” of what we should be doing. Nurse-midwives who cannot legally or practically attend home births may unhesitatingly state that the “ideal” in their opinion is for women to give birth at home… all the while they are perpetuating hospital births. Because the reality of the situation is, that they have to have a job, and for whatever reasons, they cannot just “jump ship” from the hospital and hope to survive financially by going strictly to home births.

Non-nurse-midwives may state that the “ideal” is for women to give birth at home… but the reality of the situation in their state may be that if they attend such births, they may go to jail, or be hit with hefty fines, or both.

Women may say that their “ideal” is to give birth in their own homes, and then opt for a hospital birth. Perhaps because their insurance will cover a hospital birth and they’d have to pay for a home birth out of pocket. Perhaps because they are worried about the pain of labor. Perhaps because their husbands are not supportive of them having a home birth. Or perhaps for some other reason.

Sometimes “real” interferes with “ideal.” That’s life. But it’s important to really question your decisions when you deviate from your acknowledged ideals. Why settle for second-best if you don’t have to?

Why plan?

One of the things that is often discussed is whether or not a woman should make a birth plan. There are a few different schools of thought on this. One is, “Women don’t need any plan other than, ‘Go to hospital; have baby.'” Another is, “Birth can’t be planned, so you shouldn’t even try.” Another might be, “You can plan if you want to, but it won’t turn out that way so you’re wasting your time.” There are also some more positive constructions, obviously.

Some people are consummate planners — they have the Day Planner in which they put everything, and are super-organized, and know how they’re going to spend every minute of every day for the next year. They may even be called “obsessed.” Others are the polar opposite — even trying to figure out what to eat for supper that evening, or what to wear the next day to school or work is too restrictive on their “freedom.” Most people are in the middle.

Apparently, my father-in-law was (and still is) very much a planner when it came to family vacations. He would literally have the whole time planned — they would leave home by such-and-such time, and drive so far, eat in this town, drive some more, get to the destination by suppertime, eat, and go to bed. And every day of the vacation was similarly planned. Spontaneity was not smiled upon. There may be some slight variations allowed (You want to play ping-pong instead of foosball? Okay), but in general, he had his plan and it was followed.

When I got married, I paid a lot of attention to a lot of little details about the wedding. I planned a lot of things, obviously — you have to do that when you’re organizing a medium-sized church wedding. If you want to stop in at the Courthouse, not so much needs to be planned; but if you’re going to have a couple of hundred people in attendance (and to feed!), you’ll want to be prepared. For all of you who have ever planned anything, whether a vacation or a wedding, or anything that you thought of more than week in advance, I ask you, “Why plan?”

Are the same thoughts screeching through your head that are screeching through mine? “What?? ‘Why plan’?!? Is this person an idiot? Of course these things have to be planned!! I have to know how much food to buy, or clothes to pack, or money to take… I’ll have to take off work or get somebody to watch the kids or….

What if I said, “Well, you can plan, but you know it’s not going to work out the way you plan, so you’re just wasting your time!”? After all, nobody who gets married plans on having the groom pass out, or the flower girl showing off her pretty panties, or the ring bearer picking his nose, or the flowers getting lost, or the cake getting crushed — but all these things happen in weddings every day. Nobody who goes on vacation plans on having a car wreck, or the alternator going out in the middle of nowhere, or getting a stomach bug the whole week, or having the luggage get put on the wrong plane, or finding out the hotel has lost your reservation — but all these things happen, too.

The fact is, there are things that happen that are not planned, but that doesn’t mean that having a plan to start with is a stupid idea. In fact, it’s usually stupid not to plan. The inspiration for this post came from reading this article, “Homework is the Mother of Prevention,” which I first saw on The True Face of Birth.

This Australian author begins by saying that she was not known to “be prepared,” and in fact ended up quite sick when she went to Latin America, completely unprepared because she refused to read any of the travel literature.

But when I was pregnant I managed to break the bad habits of a lifetime. My motivation was hearing about the many apparently normal, healthy pregnancies that spiralled out of control in the labour ward, ending in unplanned and invasive medical interventions. I was told that labour is just like that — unpredictable, chaotic, terrifying. A bit like my Latin American adventure. But while friends and family didn’t hesitate to censure me for my haphazard approach to overseas travel, the opposite was true of my careful preparations for labour. If I had a dollar for every time I was told that birth plans were futile, since things would never come out the way I expected, I could almost have doubled my baby bonus.

I strongly urge you to go read the full article, because it has many salient points. But just to sum up what I’ve already said — just because life is ultimately unpredictable, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan.

Pregnant women already attract unjustified scrutiny and criticism. No woman should ever be judged for the decisions she makes while in labour, given how indescribable and unexpected that experience really is. But how a woman handles her preparation is another matter entirely, and maybe a lack of preparation deserves scrutiny. To just “wait and see” when the stakes are so high is simply negligent — both for the mother’s health and for her baby.