I have a confession to make: my name is Mrboosmum and I am a compulsive planner. I love lists, updated calendars, synchronised diaries and neatly filed documents. I also believe in and really enjoy doing research, in being prepared when doing anything in life, whether it’s buying a breast pump or a house, planning a shopping list or holiday. It’s a prerequisite of my professional life and makes me feel more in control at home. That’s invaluable to me and why I was interested to read about Aptaclub’s new ‘Preparing for Birth’ app to help mums through the last trimester of pregnancy. It’s a great idea and if Sissyboo and Mr Boo were to have a sibling (which they’re not, I hasten to add) I would have it downloaded before my 12-week scan.
Now for my second confession. While lists and research help to make me feel sane in the enjoyable chaos of life with two young children, my desire to plan, prepare and be in control simultaneously drives me (and no doubt my partner, the Grumposaur) mad. Since having Mr Boo, before my third trimester had even begun, my to do list often extends no further than ‘1) Make a to do list’, my filing is more an act of improvisation, shall we say, and my research consists of lots of open tabs on my smartphone for websites I read with bleary eyes during Mr Boo’s nightwakings.
Knowing that life would be like this before having my children wouldn’t have helped. To be frank, it would have horrified me. What I wish I’d known, what I wish I could go back and tell myself, is that part of good planning is knowing that you can’t plan for everything. If only I’d realised that accepting this would make me feel happier and, paradoxically, more in control.
You see neither of my babies had read my birth plans or diaries. I’ve recently written our birth stories for this blog so I won’t go into details here. Suffice it to say that my planned natural, minimal intervention delivery of Sissyboo ended in an emergency c-section that saved her life. Mr Boo, on the other hand, arrived naturally with no warning at 29 weeks, 10 weeks before the day he was due to be delivered by a planned Caesarian. I hadn’t packed my bag, bought any baby clothes or nappies, or got the car seat down from the loft. I was 65 miles from home, giving birth in a hospital I’d never set foot in, wearing a borrowed maternity dress, jewellery, make-up and low heels. It was purely by accident that I had my maternity notes with me. I vividly remember thinking during both labours, this isn’t what’s supposed to be happening. This is not what I had planned. It made two different, difficult situations worse. It was terrifying to feel so out of control.
Neither birth was what I wanted. And I would do anything to change them, particularly to go back in time and do something to make Mr Boo stay put, to have him grow up without the challenges he faces. But both deliveries and the following months would have been easier if I’d allowed myself to factor the unexpected into my plans. Having Mr Boo, in particular, has taught me that our reserves as parents and babies are bigger than we could ever imagine and we are stronger than we know.
It’s good to plan. It builds confidence and equips us to make the many decisions we parents take, consciously or not, multiple times every day. But we should also recognise that we can’t necessarily choose the birth we want or plan for our children’s lives to look and be a certain way. But we can choose to believe in ourselves and in the depths of strength and love that can pull us through even some of the hardest times in our lives.
Being prepared for the unprepared is not to be disorganised. It is to be liberated.
This post is Premmeditations’ entry into the Aptaclub’s ‘If Only I’d Known…’ Competition.