I am currently awaiting the birth of my second daughter – joining us earth-side some time in late June. I think I might be in the nesting phase of pregnancy because I am thinking a lot about what my birth and postpartum experiences will be like this time around. For the birth of our first daughter we did a lot of birth preparation and very little postpartum planning. I’ve turned that equation around this time. I’m much more focused on planning for a peaceful postpartum experience. I am thinking about the birth too, but I’m preparing for birth a little differently this time around. For both experiences I know that I need to balance my hopes and expectations with being flexible and unattached to any particular outcome.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing more about my birth and postpartum planning for the second baby. I started last night night writing birth and postpartum plans. I’ve had conversations with my partner and my parents who will be supporting us during the immediate postpartum period. As usual, I’m trying to think of everything and also trying to accept that there will be challenges I don’t foresee. I’ve been surprised at some of the walls I’m hitting when thinking about what would be helpful in my postpartum planning. There is a lot to think about, and I often question whether it’s worth all the thought. In a way I enjoy mulling these things over in my head. I love thinking about birth and postpartum. On the other hand I wish I were one of those people that could just go with the flow and not worry about the future.
Here’s a little more about my first step in birth and postpartum planning: Birth Preparations
Taylor had a wonderful post some time ago called Giving Birth as Practice for Parenting where she talks about birth teaching us how to let go of the control we usually strive for. I know I need to keep this in mind for birth. I feel myself getting pulled towards my hopes and expectations.
“Things will be easier this time, my body will perform better than last time, I will have less pain, it will be shorter.”
Many well-meaning friends and family have even helped me create these expectations – it’s often said that second births are easier. But, to expect this is a trap. I’ve been in that spot before. Though I worked hard to keep an open mind about birth with my first born, of course I had expectations about how it should go. To those expectations I tied my value and worth as a woman and a mother. So, when things went slightly differently than I expected – I took it kind of hard.
So, how am I preparing for birth this time around if I want to avoid attaching myself to expectations? Well until about a week ago I had really done little birth preparation – this is a huge shift from the last time. By 32 weeks with baby one I had taken two birth classes and read at least 3 birth books. I’ve also acknowledged that I need to place less importance on my birth experience – which is not to say I don’t think a woman’s birth experience is important. I just remember being a little disappointed last time that I didn’t have the magical birth experience others have described. For me, birth was hard work, intense, and long. Afterwards I felt ragged and shaken. If I accept that birth may be hard work for me and it may not be magical or peaceful then I give myself permission to move on from the birth without shame or guilt.
I have done what I can to have an empowered experience. I have the knowledge to make informed decisions and a birth team that truly offers informed consent. I’m surrounded by providers that believes in my capacity to birth my baby, even if I doubt it from time to time. So, my ultimate birth preparation is letting go of my birth plans. This is not to say I didn’t craft a list of “HomeBirth Hopes” last night. But it does mean that my hopes are about feeling comfortable and empowered throughout my birth rather than birthing a certain way. (I’ll be sure to let you know how this goes).
I’ve been accused of “over-functioning” on more than one occasion. Though I resent this term which implies that my over-achieving approach to life is a bad thing, I admit that I do default to behaviors that allow me to plan and control during times of anxiety. Let me tell you that beneath all of my fluffy nonchalance about this imminent birth and postpartum period is a jagged pile of fear and anxiety. So yes, I am over-functioning a little bit these days, because it helps me manage the anxiety that comes with birth. Though I know I survived birthing one baby, I also remember what was hard about that experience. I worry that, faced with similar triggers during birth, I will shut down with fear or anxiety. I worry that maybe my body isn’t capable of doing this again. Birth feels familiar and yet so unknown.
I am starting my postpartum planning by planning for birth. I am planning for my birth by letting go of my plans. Yes, I am overthinking things, and I am worried, but I am also excited. I feel ready to have another baby around. I am curious what this birth experience will be like. I’m eager to see how my daughter welcomes her sister. I am so full right now. Physically, of course, but mentally too. I am full of all the excitement and anticipation that comes in the last few weeks of pregnancy. It is a mystifying time when days and weeks fly by but also pause indefinitely. I work hard in my life to avoid living in ambiguity, but for the next 8 weeks that’s exactly where I’ll be. I will be planning and envisioning how things will go. I will be creating hopes and expectations, and then I will be detaching myself from those hopes and expectations. Please join me as I continue my postpartum planning adventure.