No Birth Plan, Please

by Tania Pryputniewicz 


There’ll be no birth plan, no lists of what scent of lotion to bring. No incense, nor hot sock of rice to heat, no rubber ball to sit upon, nor birth class to attend with paid instructors who must be clear you can’t possibly tell someone who’s never given birth what to expect, with their trays of ice to pass into the palms, then hold for sixty seconds so you can learn to withstand the pain of a simulated contraction. No husbands in sweats holding their wives gingerly from behind, nor paper cervix circles the size of grapefruits to show you the distance somewhere inside of you must open to allow a child to pass (your only reference for that soft–you imagine–pink cone inside is that it’s the place your doctor pokes yearly, that if scraped too hard by that foot long q-tip is sure to make you wretchedly ill). But go ahead, decorate that cervix with a sticker of a salamander, and your name, then safety pin your husband’s cervix to his shirt, and ask him to pin yours to you without stabbing you in the breast.  You’ll not go sweetly inward and remain calm as the instructor straight-facedly intones is possible (if you just become one with the fire-walker in you), or use that focal part of some favorite work of art when the sledge hammer hits the gut at 3 a.m. and you wake up alone, unable to walk to the car for the half hour drive to the hospital, where they’ll likely ascertain you should go back home and let the contractions do their work til morning.


There’s hikes to be had and water to drink to slow the Braxton-Hicks contractions, there’s prayer and the picturing of how you want it to go with a steaming mocha the morning after and a pretty nurse, younger than you, teaching you to cut open a disposable diaper to fill with ice and place against your stitched and swollen body. There’ll be the new mewing next to your breast and a toothless suck stronger than the slats of the garage door panels trapping knuckles between them, and from that suck is drawn what’s left behind your eyes after labor. There are yards of billowed you turned inside out and you’re standing at the foot of the bed trying to get that duvet cover of your body to the end of the comforter and tie it shut again. The doctor’s done that, she promises, with those stitches you’re not to touch, or try to see, so mermaids leave your mirrors behind. Nor touch the swollen gourds of what’s become of your breasts, except here’s the lactation consultant rolling the burrito of your infant with rooting lips just so against the skin of your nipple, dark circumference wider than your baby’s cheek. There’s a woman on the other side of the curtain; you’ve heard one another’s tortured trips to the bathroom you share; it’s still clearly wrong to stand and allow gravity to take the fluids from you (so check the bowl for your ovaries before you flush). At least the belly’s flatter, fear vanished: the baby’s here and so are you.


But you’d do it all again—for those first three months of winking on like Christmas lights every time the baby lifts his tiny fists, before the mews begin, the milk satchels of camel-bag taut breasts shifting towards destination mouth, mooring both of you back to sleep in the primordial no-dream blue of linked rest. In the meantime, you’ll wait with your two sentence birth plan: We’ll go to the hospital. When we come out of those double glass doors, we’ll be carrying you, baby.




Tania Pryputniewicz is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. She lives in the California redwoods with her husband and three children. Her essay, “Sheila’s Vine,” is appearing in Catalyst Book Press’s forthcoming anthology of birth stories, Labor Pains and Birth Stories, and her artwork was used for the cover. You can read more of her work at her blog,


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