Before having my kids I was a music teacher. For a while, I taught 40-minute sessions twice a week to 13 elementary classes plus my own private students. That was a lot of lesson plans!
The first few months were very hard. Having to come up with fresh material, learn how to structure a lesson effectively for each grade, and when to stick to the plan and when to improvise were all things that took a while to get the hang of. But these words that a colleague encouraged me with have stuck in my mind since the moment she said them: "successful teachers plan tight and hang loose".
The essence of this phrase has reached far beyond the classroom for me, and lately, has surfaced in my mind as I think about birth plans and families' wishes for labor and delivery. What it means is this: we gotta know our stuff, figure out where we want to go, and be flexible when things don't go exactly as planned.
Writing a lesson plan, meal plan, setting goals, or putting ink to paper to formalize your intentions for your birth all have a lot in common. Primarily, this: it's impossible to have the whole picture before you start. You may have the best meal plan in the world, shop for groceries, then come home utterly exhausted the night you set out to make mozzarella stuffed meatballs from scratch. Do you stick to the plan you made on Sunday just because? Maybe. Or maybe you order pizza because tonight, that's best for everyone. And the groceries won't go bad by tomorrow.
With birth, there are an incredible number of variables. I don't think I've ever heard a birth story that contained the words "everything went according to plan". Babies come when they come, how they come, and even a scheduled C section or induction has its' way of catching you by surprise in many ways. Does this mean we don't plan or think about our preferences during pregnancy because it will just get thrown out anyway?
The act itself of planning your birth helps you get the birth you envision. When you decide how you would like it to go, you have to get information and make choices. You talk with your partner about what is most important. You advocate for yourself and your baby to get the care that matches your priorities. Maybe you just don't want to be in very much pain, and you know that you won't enjoy the birth of your baby without medication. Great! Then you know a home birth is not for you (where an epidural is not possible). Discover that you are passionate about delayed cord clamping? Then find a doctor who thinks it's groovy. Finding out, and communicating to your team, what is going to make this the best birth for you and your little one is simply becoming educated about a huge life event and taking charge of your care.
But, we can't hold on too tightly to the plan. Circumstances sometimes change in birth, and quickly. "Hanging loose" simply means we know how to let go. Maybe that home birth you longed for can't happen because you "risked out" when your baby turned breech. Take the things you most desired about the home birth experience and see if you can make those happen in the hospital. Maybe the water birth you dreamed about doesn't happen because you couldn't find a perfect pushing position in the tub. Maybe you end up needing medication to keep your fever down... Or the baby is born in the ambulance... Or maybe it's just that you do better with loud moaning sounds than the tranquil breathing exercises you practiced. Take a moment to grieve what was not meant to be, then use all your knowledge and expertise about yourself and your baby to decide what is next, with your support you have gathered around you to lean on.
I'm Katie. Owner and operator of Daisy Doula birth services, wife, mama, friend, singer, cook, amateur photographer, and a PNW gal born and raised. Here I explore birth, motherhood, and beauty in the daily humdrum.