This piece first appeared online at the Melbourne’s Child website back in 2004. It’s no longer available there, so I thought I’d re-post it here. This is the sort of thing I was writing about parenthood before this blog came along…
I think I was born under the wrong star sign. I should have been a Taurus – don’t they make endless ‘to-do’ lists, spring clean in every season and vigilantly maintain order? So, I felt no small relief when I discovered I was pregnant after only a few months of trying. My body had responded – the willpower, which ordinarily got me through the day, had succeeded. No luck was involved, or so I thought.
Little did I know that we give ourselves up to luck more often than when we buy our weekly lottery ticket and hope for a miracle.
My pregnancy was boringly predictable, textbook: morning sickness by eight weeks, first movements by twenty. As labour loomed, imagine my joy when I read in a magazine that it was time I devised a ‘birth plan’, a set of guidelines for the big day. Finally, some distraction and a chance to put my skills to use!
I followed their examples judiciously:
Aromatherapy? TICK! (After all, everyone likes a nice smelling room)
Dimmed Lighting? TICK! (Nothing wrong with adding a little ambience)
Right to Privacy, as much as plausible. TICK! (Not too much to ask for just my husband and medical staff to be present…is it?)
Pain Relief? Natural Remedies; analgesics administered on pain of death (No irony intended)
After printing and re-reading, the plan seemed simplistic, clinical and slightly clichéd. Nethertheless it was folded up and placed in my handbag, ready to show my obstetrician at the next appointment. I felt like a schoolgirl again, proudly returning her homework to the teacher.
Except this piece of work was never to see daylight again – at least not at the moment it mattered. For giving birth is a lot like a space launch. There are high expectations, plans and strategies but, conversely, there are the false starts and dangers.
I first suspected my plan was going to go astray when my due date passed without incident. I was induced ten days later and there went my first wish for labouring at home, for the contractions began immediately.
From then it spiralled downward:
Aromatherapy? Having heard that Clary Sage ‘may’ provoke contractions, I had been sniffing the stuff for some weeks, like an eighteenth century dandy with his snuff box. But forgetting the fact it stinks like weeds, I defy any woman to even try using their sense of smell to boost their comfort levels with any success during labour. I was more likely to rip the electric burner out of the wall before filling it with oils.
Privacy? No such thing, especially when window washers descend on their outside scaffolding like archangels right when you are beginning to push. There is nothing more distracting than three, burly men loudly discussing the football results from the weekend as their radio blares Britney Spears singing ‘Hit me baby one more time..’ I know who I would have hit, given half the chance!
Dimmed Lighting? Halogen bulbs, deadlier than any women’s changing room. On-Off switches only. I’ll say no more.
Pain Relief? Let’s just say I was a quicker convert than St. Paul on the road to Damascus.
Yet to quibble over ‘best laid plans’ seems moot after the eventual – and blessedly uncomplicated – appearance of our daughter. Others do not have the same bragging rights. To use the space analogy again, a mission’s journey is often lost in the bang of lift-off. Exploration, the unknown and unknowable is more important – as is a baby.
So, ladies, write your plans. If you’re lucky, you will get to follow it. If not, well, like mine, it will provide a good belly laugh afterwards. Or be a handy piece of scrap paper.