The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Today, we want to start off by thanking our listeners. We want to take a second to say we are overwhelmed by your responses to us, the notes of encouragement, and how you share things. It’s been amazing. Emily and I are super overwhelmed by the awesome listeners we have.
Second, we want to take a moment to ask, if you haven’t yet, if you would please share this and maybe slap a review on iTunes, or give it a rating. We appreciate when you guys do that, and that’s the best way to get word out about the show, help new people find out about how the Gospel impacts everything they do as moms. If you can take a moment and if you like what we are doing here, please share it with your friends, pop it into a Facebook group or send it via email to some moms that you know that might enjoy. We would appreciate that. Today, we’re talking about birth plans.
Emily: As usual, Laura and I had such a great time preparing for this show because it meant that we got to recount pretty much all the details of our birth planning.
Laura: We love a good birth story.
Emily: We do and we could sit and listen, and talk about them forever. I feel that’s my favorite thing to do - to run to the hospital, and hear how somebody’s story went, and hold their baby.
Laura: It’s the first thing I want to know. You hear about a new baby and I’m like, “How did birth go? Tell me every detail. [laughter] I want to know.” Em, do you want to start us off and talk through a little bit about how your births went? Guys, remember Emily has had three pregnancies, three labors and deliveries but she has four children. She had a set of twins there right in the middle.
Emily: It’s going to be so hard to condense this because as Laura and I said, you want to share all the details. With my first one, I did the traditional planning approach, and went to the hospital, took the class, walked around the birthing ward and we were ready. We knew all the medical facts. I read a couple of random books that people gave me but honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little naïve about it, and I didn’t have a lot of plans, and then my son ended up coming unexpectedly; four weeks early. I’d had a healthy pregnancy, no reason to believe I was going to have my water break in the middle of the floor but he came early. It ended up being more painful than I could have imagined, and it was hard. It got me thinking for the next one that I need to figure something out because that didn’t go so well, at least according to me.
Then I had twins the next time. That changed the story again, and as things went along, I began to see that I needed to give a lot of trust to my doctor and to the hospital because there was a ton of factors, and there was a lot of safety concerns for myself, and for the babies. It was a higher risk pregnancy, and what was interesting is that birth ended up going well because for me, I was a lot more flexible, and I had educated myself even more on a lot of the different ways things could go, and what we were going to do. If it went this way, then we were going do this, if it went that way, then something else. It ended up being a good experience and because I had a pretty good experience, I thought for my third one this is going to be my epic natural delivery.
The moment has come. I have the experiences. I can do this now. I did all the research on natural birth. I prepared for it for about six weeks in advance and I got to the hospital and it ended up being my longest, hardest labor yet. It was like 24 hours. They always tell you they get shorter on each pregnancy.
Laura: That is such a load.
Emily: I was so disappointed because even though I had done everything right, it ended up being one of my most high risk.
Laura: When you say you’d done everything right and prepared...
Emily: I had practiced all my breathing, and I had done all the mental things you are supposed to do, and I had prayed, and I had my spiritual music, and it was good. I feel I was very worshipful in it but it didn’t go like I wanted. It was still a lot harder and I still felt it wasn’t in my control. Imagine that. [laughter].
Laura: My turn. With my first, I was totally the mom that had read every book on the planet that has ever come out about anything resembling childbirth. I was on every forum, on every blog, reading all the stories and taking notes, and I compiled the best of each piece into a beautiful Google Doc. I was the mom that had every detail down. I literally wrote on my birth plan, “I want the lights dimmed. I want them low.” That was in writing so it better happen! [laughter]
I had chosen a midwife. But at the actual birth it ended up being an OB as my primary care provider because my midwife was out on vacay. Starting with that, that birth completely did not go to plan. Literally, the only thing I got was those lights being dimmed. [laughter] That was it and beyond that, the birth went completely different than I could have ever expected.
Someday I will share that birth story on the podcast - I’ll to link to my birth stories in the show notes. I’ve written about them on the blog so you guys can certainly read them but someday I will share the story here. We’ve got a few show ideas around birth and our personal stories and experiences that we’ll dive into but for now, just know that that birth was everything I didn’t want [laughter].
For my second, I went in with super open hands. I didn’t even want to think about childbirth. I was in some ways probably avoiding planning or thinking about labor and delivery because of the things that had happened through my first. I ended up in some therapy. I ended up hiring a doula. I went with the same midwife and guess what happened? She was gone. Again, I had an OB deliver. My doula couldn’t be there. She was sick, so I had a replacement doula. That birth went significantly better and I think a lot of it had to do with how I prepared for it. I’m not going to say that my first had anything to do with the things that happened because of how I prepared for it. I’m not saying that, but I am saying some of the emotional healing or scars occurred because of the way I held my birth plan and the way that I held onto how it should go and my expectations.
That draws us into the point of the show today - birth doesn’t go to plan.
Emily: It doesn’t. I think that, like a lot of things in life, we want to put our hope in our plan. I remember, especially with my last one it was like, “Okay, I’ve got my chiropractor appointments lined up, and I’m doing the exercises, and I’m doing the walks, and I’m doing the stretches. I’ve got my play list and if I just manipulate all these certain things then I can be in control.” Then I will have a “healthy, happy experience,” and sometimes it does turn out that way but we operate like it’s a guarantee.
Laura: It’s still important to be informed in your health care. Throughout the show, we do not want to make it sound like, “Hey, you shouldn’t plan for birth at all.” No, that is a good thing. You need to be informed and you need to understand the risks and the benefits of an epidural before you say, “Yep, I’m going to do that.” That’s important no matter what you are going to do in healthcare.
We are not saying that at all, but we are going to talk today a lot about the heart attitude behind a birth plan. I was the girl that was like, “Okay, minute one, I am going to walk around the house. Minute two, I’ll maybe jump into that bathtub. Honey, you better fill it and have it ready. It better be warm. I want some lavender aroma therapy prepared.” I was that girl at the beginning that was like, “This needs to go my way or else someone’s going to get hurt.” I was so caught up in my heart attitude of control and wanting this perfect birth story, assuming that if I can control enough, I am going to get this perfect story out of it.
Emily: It’s understandable why we would want to control this event, in particular, because it’s one of the most painful things that we are going to experience as a woman, just from a physical perspective of child bearing. Of course, we are interested in doing whatever we can to make it a smooth experience. I always say, not painless necessarily, but to make it a good experience. That’s God’s grace for us. But when our heart attitude is primarily focused on, "How can I eliminate anything that might be hard or scary for me and trust in a book or a method, then I think we’ve veered off track. I’ve done it, and Laura has done it, and that was one of the reasons why we wanted to talk about it.
Laura: It’s important to look at how the Gospel plays into childbirth. Are you surprised we are going to talk about the Gospel? Remember childbirth and child bearing was before the fall. It is a good thing. God created it. But because of the fall, because of sin entering the world, there came a curse on childbirth. Now there will be pain in child bearing and He’s going to multiply it. That is part of the curse and there is a lot of grace, which we will get into. This is part of it. Having issues in childbirth, whether that just be physical pain or complications and things going wrong, and you need an emergency C-section, or different kind of care, or hemorrhaging, etcetera, there are so many things that can go wrong in childbirth. It’s important to remember where that originated from but it also shows it’s because of our sin: our desire for control, our tendency to trust in ourselves and not in God.
Emily: We can even get wrapped up into pride or despair, which we’ve talked about on other shows. If your birth story does go well, or it did go according to your plan, you can start to feel like, “Hey, if you prepare like me, or you do what I did, or you subscribe to this method, then yours is going to be fine too.” That becomes your Gospel and you can become very proud or you can start to despair and feel like something is wrong with you. “This is all my fault. If I would have done something different …” and neither of those sides of the spectrum is true, although, that’s where we go and our flesh either wants credit for it going well or wants to think that it’s all our fault if it doesn’t go well. We have a part in the story but God is in control and He is the one that’s over our birth story.
Laura: So as we're planning our births and how we want it go, as we're sitting there taking notes, or we are even mentally thinking through it – whatever that is for you – I think ultimately, as you are writing that birth plan, your first thought should be, “I have to have an open hand with this and I have to trust God that He is going to work.” He already knows how my birth is going to play out. He is sovereign over this and again, still think through how you would like it to go, but checking your heart attitude as you are prepping that birth plan.
See if you are saying, "God is in control." I have to trust in the One who has already overcome this pain and look towards your eternal future, your eternal glory and say that what I’m about to experience now - that pain, that suffering, that deep heartache of childbirth and child bearing, should point us to Jesus in recognizing that He is in control and He is sovereign over all.
Emily: I love that word, talking about our eternal hope – it seems kind of obscure. What does my eternal hope have to do with the fact that I’m getting ready to have contractions and all of that? If you look at the whole redemption story across scripture, that is the big story. God is going to overcome all pain, and suffering, and that the labor pains of life and sin in the flesh are going to end, and there’s going to be joy on the other side of that. It’s a beautiful picture that we get to live out, and in that we can experience God’s grace, which is what Laura and I also wanted to bring out on this episode.
It’s how much God has provided relief for the curse in our lives through all kinds of things, through doulas, and midwives, and methods for breathing, and medical advances that allow us to have more safety than women have had in the past, or air conditioning. We don’t have to be necessarily sweating to death or we can give birth in a bathtub. I remember thinking about that whirlpool when I was in labor. You push the button and the jets come on, on your back. I thought, that is God’s grace. I can listen to music or have people there that bring me comfort. There’s so many things that have just given grace in the midst of that pain.
Laura: Let’s all take a second to recognize what grace it is that we live in 2016 and can benefit from these things. Em and I were talking about childbirth, through history and thinking how amazing it is that we have modern, medical graces from God, to be able to deliver and to deal with those things. The point is, as you plan your birth, it is totally okay to say, "These are some of the things that I really hope to have." That’s the key word - hope to have. But you also look at it and say, “Gosh, I want to thank God for this modern medical care,” that Emily was talking through. All of the grace that is in birth, the choices that I have, the care that I can receive. Being grateful that there is help for when things don’t go to plan and second, trust that God is in control. That he is working for your good. That this is again, as we’ve been talking about, pointing to our ultimate rescuer to the ultimate person who will rescue us and deliver us from all pain in all of life.
Emily: No matter what happens, we are in Christ and we don’t have to be tied to our story. We are not our birth story.
Laura: Amen. It’s placing trust in God and that He is over everything. That He is our refuge. That we can’t trust in training, or in a person’s experience, or a book, or a method, or plan. That is the great hang up of birth plans, at least it was for me. I was trusting that in my plan, I was going to somehow get this great birth.
Emily: No matter what happens, our identity is not found in our birth plan, or how it goes, or whether it’s good or bad. Our identity is tied to Jesus. That is a good place to close today. I know Laura and I could sit and talk birth plans for a long time. We are going to have some good resources. There’s a lot of good articles out there about planning for birth and trusting in Christ, and giving glory to God regardless of what your situation looks like. We’ll be linking to some of those things on our show notes.
Again, as Laura said, thank you guys so much for listening and for sharing, and yes, we’ll touch base with you guys next time.