Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Birth Plan

Having determined that my ideal couple was “anyone who wouldn’t stand between me and the anesthesiologist”, I thought it was nice that my IM wound up being a nurse herself. (Ironically, the very first couple that the counselor tried to match me with …. The couple that turned me down …. He WAS an anesthesiologist. That’s ok, that match still wouldn’t have worked out, no matter how many wonderful drugs he could have smuggled me during delivery. **PS KIDDING!) In addition to working in the medical field herself, my IM had almost died when she lost their second child. So her appreciation for modern medicine was both professional AND personal. Obviously, a traditional, hospital-birth setting, with plenty of medical staff hovering nearby, was something they were all in favor of, so we were good to go.

At this point, with about two months to go until delivery, it was time for my counselor and me to discuss my Birth Plan. A Birth Plan is a written (or just thought-out, I suppose) idea of how you would ideally like the birth to go. It’s something that is recommended for anyone giving birth, but the agency especially recommends them for surrogate deliveries, since sometimes in the chaos that is “delivery”, you can lose focus on what is (or WAS) important to you. The birth plan is simply a way to make sure everyone – doctor, nurses, surrogate, surrogate’s husband, and the Intended Parents, are all on the same page, and have the same goals and expectations.

When my counselor called me to discuss it, she asked, “So, basically, what is your birth plan?” And I replied, “You know my birth plan. To have as many drugs as I need to be comfortable. And at the end, it would be nice if perhaps, maybe, hopefully, a real live baby could come out of my body.”

Somehow, I think she thought my expectations were a little low.

There were actually lots of things for me to consider, and she offered up other suggestions that had been important to other surrogates, for me to think about.

Was I comfortable having my couple in the room with me while I was in labor? While I was actually pushing? What if the hospital put a limit on the number of people who could be in the room? Who would I want then? Assuming I was comfortable having the couple in the room (I was) then where did I want them to stand? At the head of the bead? At the foot of the bed, so they could see their daughter being born? And see lots of other naughty bits? Was I ok with that? (I was not, sorry to be a prude, please stand at the head of the bed.)

What did I want to happen in the moments immediately after the baby was born? Did I want the doctor to place the baby on my stomach, as is traditionally done after delivery? Some surrogates feel very strongly that they be allowed to hold the baby first, and then they can physically “present” the newborn to his/her parents. Or they want the surrogate’s husband to be allowed that privilege, as a way of respecting his support during the entire process. In fact, I know one surrogate who felt strongly that she wanted to “present” the babies (she was having twins) to their parents, and explained to her IP’s how important that was to her. She wound up having an emergency c-section and was put under general anesthesia for the surgery. Her couple not only had the stress of making sure their babies were ok, but also making sure this surrogate, who they had grown to care about like a member of their own family, was alright as well. But this couple went way beyond that. They waited, several hours, to hold their own children, until the surrogate had come out of anesthesia, and could realize her dream of physically handing the babies to their parents. That is how much they respected the wishes of their surrogate ---- how freaking awesome is that?!?

Anyway, for ourselves, we were hoping our delivery would be a little less dramatic, but I did have a preference --- I wanted the baby to be immediately handed to her mother or father. I didn’t want her coming to me first. I felt as though my privilege had been to “hold” her for the past nine months …. Her parents should be the first ones to get that privilege once she was born.

More things to consider ---

Often, if a hospital has an available extra room, the family will be given their own room with the baby. In the event there were no extra rooms, however, after the baby is born and cleaned up, did I want the couple to have the opportunity to room in with me? Did I want the baby to stay in the nursery? Did I want private time with the baby, to feed her or change her? Some surrogates, either at the request, or with the blessing of, the Intended Parents, choose to nurse the baby in the hospital, or perhaps pump their breastmilk for the parents to bottle feed to the baby. Was I interested in either of those things? Was my couple?

Hospitals usually only give two wristbands, for people to have the right to check the baby out of the nursery. Obviously, they normally go to the mother and father … did I want one of the wristbands for myself? If not, did I want my couple to bring the baby to my room for visits?

And of course, the bottom line of any Birth Plan: realize that the unexpected can always happen, and be flexible if your birth plan goes to pot. Yes, it’s important to have a general idea of what you hope will happen, but it’s equally important to realize things don’t always go as planned. In my mind, the fewer expectations I had, the less likely I would be disappointed if something didn’t go the way I planned.

Finally, bottom line, I did wind up giving my counselor a list of a few specific requests:

I wanted to be able to take as many photos and video during that time as the hospital policy would allow. Turns out my couple also hoped I would feel comfortable if *they* took lots of photos, so we were all happy.

I asked that my children be allowed to visit the baby in the hospital. My counselor said not only was this allowed, but recommended. They were still young at the time; 2, 4, and 5, and I needed for them to see what this was all about. Thankfully, my couple said they couldn’t wait to meet my kids and that they were welcome at any time.

And then lastly, this is where the weirdness that is me became apparent. I have a *THING* … and I know it’s silly, and doesn’t make any rational sense, and in the big picture what does it matter anyway …. But I have this *THING* about the “ceremony” of allowing the father to cut the umbilical cord. Basically, that I think it is the dumbest, most superfluous, most inane example of stupid-ness on the planet. It’s this totally lame task that someone thought up … to what? Make the fathers feel important? Like they’ve contributed in some way? I’m sorry, but it’s no great skill to work a pair of scissors. My kids all learned in pre-school, and more important, I don’t think the act of cutting the cord makes a man a father. And, perhaps in a more subconscious way, I resent the symbolism of it. *I* grew this baby inside of me for nine months; *I* nurtured her; *I* pushed her out of my bagina ---- now a dad gets to show up and in one second .. SNIP! He’s an important part of the birthing process? No, I’m sorry, that’s just ignorant and asinine. He was an important part of the process nine months ago … now, he can bring me ice chips and smuggle me m&ms and simply stick around during my tortoise-labor to support me --- THAT is what makes him important, not cutting a stupid cord.

(I told you it was irrational and silly. But it's how I feel.)

When I was pregnant with Kellen and Kendrie, I tried explaining this feeling to Blaine, as a way of letting him know that I didn’t want him to cut the cord on either of them. I hoped it didn’t hurt his feeling, but I found it patronizing and insulting … and stupid. Have I mentioned stupid??? Blaine, thankfully, laughed, and said he could care less about cutting some dumb cord. Whew! But now I had to tell my counselor about this weird hang-up of mine, and that I didn’t think I would be comfortable with my IF cutting the cord.

She *did* think it was weird, but she told him. And while I have no idea if my IP’s thought it was weird or not, they were perfectly respectful about it. In fact, their exact words were that they had waited so long for this baby, a little cord cutting, or NOT, really wasn’t going to make any difference right at the end.

One final thing the counselor recommended was that Blaine and I work out a secret word, or secret code, for just the two of us. Then, if at any point during the labor or delivery things became overwhelming to me, and I reached a place where I needed to be alone, I simply needed to say the word. His job would be to recognize the word, and know that at that moment, he needed to find a polite, tactful way of getting the parents out of the room. The counselor explained, sometimes the physical pain, or emotions of what is happening can reach a point where you don’t want an audience. Maybe you just need a quiet moment to gather your thoughts, and collect yourself physically. And your husband’s job, as your primary support person, is to make sure you get it if you need it.

I told my counselor that I appreciated that, and would definitely take it under consideration. Then I called my IM and told her what my counselor had said. And told her that my secret code phrase, for when I needed them to step out of my room, was: “I need you to step the hell out of my room for a minute, please.”

Thankfully, she laughed.

And with that, I think our birth plan was in place. Weirdness and all.


Anonymous said...

Oh Kristie: That is priceless. It's funny because I'm not one that ever screams profanities at my husband or anything like that (during childbirth that is!!) but I was never sure whether he was capable of making it all the way through delivery without passing out so I always had a girlfriend of my with me. I don't like to hurt anyones feelings but did ask her during my first delivery to "PLease shut up". Sometimes it just needs to be said.


Trish in Va said...

So funny! It all brings back memories from almost a year ago when I was delivering....

OUr plan was just me and my husband, but he at the last minute was nervous about passing out or getting sick, so I consented to my mom and aunt staying with us. Unfortunately my mother-in-law and father-in-law did not understand why I wouldn't want them in the room with things coming out of my bagina, so there are still hard feelings that they had to wait 30minutes to see the baby. Oh well, such is life!

On another note- I agree about the cord cutting- bet a man came up with it for bragging rights!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why, but this post has me crying (I'm at work - not good). I think I need to limit myself to reading your blog from my home computer until this baby is born!
Diane in Cincinnati

Lisa from Texas said...

I cut the cord for all three of my children. They were connected to me and I was delivering them so I wanted to cut the cord. I loved the symbolism of me separating myself from my baby and making him and her and her our baby. He gets to give two of them away at a wedding (if the distant future, I hope). I am loving this story as it unfolds. It is actually better than PW's Black Heels to Tractor Wheels and you are staying with the story! Thanks!!

Stacie from MN said...

Kristie, I am really enjoying your story! I didn't realize there were so many things to consider. Like you, my first priority were the drugs.
My mom & little sisters both ended up in the delivery room with my oldest...and not by my choice. I sure wish I would have had a code word then!

Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for giving us all these details. I find the whole story interesting and I am learning so much. Thank you.

Deb from NY

Eloise said...

Oh my goodness, so much of this had never occurred to me! You are doing so much more than entertaining us with your story (though you're doing a FINE job of that). This is all very educational for me and, I'm guessing, your other readers.

I'm glad you're finding time to share it with us even though it's summer.



Anonymous said...

OMG! I totally had the "thing" with the father cord cutting ceremony as well. My husband was offended that I didn't think it was necessary that he cut the cord. I really didn't want him to. Darn, we were paying the doctor and he could just cut it. My doctor said that he doesn't really even give the fathers the option UNTIL I went into labor. Right when she was born, the nurses told the doctor to hand the scissors to my husband. He went ahead and cut the cord and it shot blood all over the doctor!!!! Needless to say, my doctor was not very happy and said as much. He said "that's the reason I don't let them cut the cord". I was secretly feeling smug about it too. It is STUPID!!!

Anonymous said...

Totally forgot to sign my name on the above post.
Wendy in Winder, GA

Lauren said...

Ah, Kristie, another point of common ground. I too dislike the Dad-cuts-the-cord thing. When Fergus was born, I grabbed the scissors and cut it myself. Then later I was so glad I'd done that--like Lisa said, it seemed symbolic to me of the separation between me and the baby, and either it would be a routine medical task done by a nurse or it would be done by me--I wanted to do it again for Norah. To my surprise, Rob was a little jealous and wanted a chance to do it too. Ordinarily, I think I am fair-minded and respectful of his Dad-ness. But that time I got stubborn and refused to yield the right to cut the cord. So I cut Norah's too, and I remember them both (sort of, through a haze!).


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your birth plan & surrostory. I wanted to email you this video but I have no idea so here's the link to youtube --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqfGqOx2iDQ

Hope you are doing well & that the kids are enjoying summer!!

KD said...

Love it Kristi - thanks for the story. A nurse shoved scissors in my husband's hand with both my deliveries and forced him to cut the cord. He hated it and thought it was stupid, so we're with you. Not to mention it was a bit of an afterthought with both kids since they both had the cord wrapped around their necks and were BLUE! (they're fine now!). Whatever - way too much drama. I love your secret code, too. :o) Keep the story coming!

Grandma J said...

I can relate. With my first baby, my husband was in Viet Nam, and you didn't have options like picking a friend to be with you. It was a spouse, or in their absence a parent..so it was my mother!

I think I told everyone to get the hell out of my room...there may have been an F bomb in there too, who knows.

My other three were C-sections. God definitely knows what he's doing.

Cathy in MI said...

I never thought about so many of these things. I like you would include drugs in my birthplan, that's all folks, whatever else happens I can deal with. Just please hook me up with an epidural. Wow, to have to think about the parents getting a room for them and their baby and if they couldn't get a room and the cord thing and the wrist band thing. This is all very interesting. I enjoy your sharing but I am not running out to sign up for surrogacy, which is good because it's not for me, but like I said, I am enjoying your sharing so much either way, so thanks again for putting yourself out there for us.

And last but not least, thanks for ending with a comment that made me and I am sure all of your other readers laugh out loud!!!!!!! I love your secret word, love it!

I hope all are enjoying summer vacation. I ditto what someone said in the comments recently too - you owe us a follow up and some photos of the kids being knighted at school. (we know you took pictures;)

Jacquie said...

So funny - and the "amen, sister" chorus in the comments is just as enjoyable. When I went in for my 2nd c-section, the anesthesiologist explained that sometimes women get a strange sensation with the spinal where they worry that they'll be unable to breathe. So, the entire time we were in teh O.R., my husband repeated: "You're still breathing, honey" until I was ready to OFF myself just to make him change his verbage.

Excellent point about cutting the cord, wish I had thought of it 9 and 7 years ago.