There's no doubt about it; pregnancy is bloody amazing. There are the good bits (feeling a mini person moving around inside you, 'glowing' with wonderful glossy hair and nails, being able to eat what the chuff you want); and the annoying bits (feeling a mini person kick the shit out of your bladder/stomach/guts, heartburn, sickness, constipation).
It can be a wonderfully exciting time, especially as you get into the third trimester and shit starts to get real. However, it can also be terrifying if something suddenly goes wrong or things don't go to plan.
When Things Don't Go To Plan
When I went for my 20-week scan in my first pregnancy, I was told I had Placenta Previa but noone seemed to be that bothered by it - they said most likely that it would move out the way by the time I got to full term. I figured that was a bit of a worry but decided not to dwell on it too much. Until a week later when I had the first bleed.
Even then, it was a small bleed and my cervix checked out ok so I just cracked on with a slightly slower life than normal; until a month later when I woke up at half 5 thinking I was pissing myself (It was my waters going). As soon as that happened I shot out of bed and the bleeding started. Everything you absolutely don't want to see at 28 weeks pregnant.
I don't remember much between that and lying in a hospital bed being pumped full of rather painful and slow steroid injections and feeling like I was going to pass out - other than calmly getting a bag of stuff together to leave for the hospital. I think the only thing keeping me sane at that point was the fact I could still feel the baby moving.
I still consider myself extremely lucky that I narrowly missed out on an emergency C-Section at 28 weeks by a matter of hours, and managed to get to 34 weeks before it became apparent that the placenta wasn't moving and the hospital wanted her out. From week 28 and the subsequent ones in holed up in hospital whilst the consultants figured out what they should do with me, it became clear that this pregnancy was certainly not going to go to plan.
Of course this is a fairly extreme example; babies and bodies can be unpredictable and there are a myriad of ways, varying from slight hiccups to the life-changing, that pregnancy, labour or birth can progress down a different path from the one we expected or planned for.
Making a Birth Plan
We're all encouraged to write a Birth Plan (didn't quite get that far last time, but it would have included a home/water birth); which is really useful to get everything written down and available for any caregivers to be aware of your wishes. It would be interesting to know the percentage of birth plans where it all played out perfectly though!
Right now I'm getting into the mindset of getting crystal-clear on what it is I would like to happen; the best-case scenario of what I am aiming for for the labour and birth. Having not laboured last time, I'm unsure of how my body will respond but I've learnt over the last couple years that sometimes I just need to get my mind out the way and trust in it.
At the same time, I know that I need to consider what may happen if things don't go to plan; what types of things I would agree to if they're necessary, and what type of things I want to avoid at all costs. For me, educating myself on possibilities, possible pitfalls in the system and what birth rights I have is a big part of trying to achieve my most desired outcome.
Staying In The Moment
Although some things can be uncovered in the pregnancy and mean that things no longer progress as we'd planned; some changes can happen pretty quickly.
On the day I went into hospital, I was just recovering from all the injections and the bleeding episode when I had a load of people telling me they were going to do a C-Section (which was always my biggest fear when it came to birth), whilst spouting statistical risks of like, permanent bladder problems (I just remembered that bit!) and trying to arrange a tour of the Neonatal unit and what drugs they would give my baby if she was in pain during her stay....WOAH! my mind was still in the mid-pregnancy stage and it was all way too much for me or my partner to get our heads around.
Because my anxiety was in full-flow at this point and bordering on having a panic attack, I did my best to really acknowledge the fear, not try to push it away but practise staying with the present moment. In these sorts of situations, the theory is inevitably easier than the practice; and to begin with, leaving the present moment meant taking it hour-by-hour, then day-by-day for quite a long time.
Mindset is some pretty powerful shit. Whether you use hypnobirthing techniques, positive affirmations or really ground down into your body and allow yourself to feel and flow with whatever is happening, tools like these are gonna be useful through labour and birth in general. Visualisation, too. I would feel my baby kicking and visualise a bubble of protection around her.
Do Not Blame Yourself
Blame is a useless thing. If something does go wrong or differently, we're usually too quick to start rifling through every little action we've taken trying to figure out what we did wrong or could have done differently to stop this happening. We get angry at our own bodies.
Please don't blame yourself or your decisions - things are not your fault (and in most cases aren't anyone else's either - nature is a random thing).
Be sure to take the time to be extra gentle on yourself, and seek out whatever support you feel called to.
It can be devastating when the pregnancy and/or birth experience doesn't go as you were expecting; even 'small' things can really throw you off. Just try and be aware of your feelings throughout and allow yourself to feel and express those (whether journalling, seeking support with women who have been through similar or just sharing how you feel with your partner/someone trusted).