Monday, August 29, 2011

Birth Plans

Birth plans have been a hot topic in my neck of the woods lately and I just wanted to throw my two cents in to the mix. 

When I start talking birth plans with some people, I see them roll their eyes -- even on the phone, I can actually hear some people rolling their eyes!  Especially Labor & Delivery nurses.  The comment I've heard most often is, "The lady that brings in a birth plan is always the one that ends up with a c-section!" 

My approach to birth plans has always been this:  A woman needs to know her options before she can think about a birth plan.  In class, we play an "Options" game where we talk about all types of things that will likely be brought up during your birth -- some positive, some negative.  The point is just to get people talking and learning about various interventions, when they are actually necessary, and finally how they feel about them.  We go over all these options and then I encourage them to go home and print out the 22 page birth plan online (you know what I'm talking about!) and check off all the little boxes.  Again, just to get the two of you talking about how you feel about these options.

From there, it gets significantly whittled down to a simple one page document that is unique to the two of you and your wishes.  My favorite is the "Yes, Please" and the "No, Thank You" columns.  Polite, and not a list of demands by any means, which I think sometimes the L&D nurses envision when handed the dreaded Birth Plan.  

When I was pregnant with my 4th baby, I had imagined myself laboring in my bathroom with the big garden tub.  I don't think I had ever said that out loud and it certainly wasn't on a piece of paper.  I loved that bathroom.  I had been contracting all day long -- it was such a great day, really -- but it was not until I got to that bathroom around 8:30 that night that contractions really picked up.  By the time David came in the bathroom about 30 or 45 minutes later, I was telling him to call the midwife.  He couldn't believe it.  After timing a couple of contractions and listening to me sound out my contractions, he agreed to call her.

I strongly believe in Emotional Relaxation.  I believe that the mind is a very powerful thing, possibly the most powerful tool in labor.  I've known many women in various labor situations that without a doubt, Emotional Relaxation played a huge role in how their labor played out -- good and bad.  I believe that imagining your birth -- imagining yourself remaining calm and relaxed, imagining the smells you want to smell, the food you might want to eat, the music you might want to listen to -- are all good things. 

Labor is a funny thing, as we all know.  We don't get to choose our labor, which I believe, is what makes it so exciting.  Hindsight is always 20-20 and you can always look back and think or wish you had done something different.  It's hard to just roll with the punches and enjoy the journey, but that is my best advice.  Take it one contraction at a time.  It's like I always say in class, if we knew exactly what your labor would be like, that's what we'd prepare for, but since we don't, we'll prepare for all sorts of situations that labor is likely to throw at you.  Hopefully you will feel prepared to deal with them as they come. 

Back to the birth plans:  Go ahead and make one.  Making a birth plan doesn't mean that you are married to one kind of birth and you are going to be unhappy with your birth if it doesn't look like it does on paper.  It just means that you have talked about all the options and have decided what is important to you.  You have a right to have those wishes heard and honored. 

We makes plans every single day of our life.  I live by my list every day, every week, every month.  Sometimes I get it all done, exactly like I plan, and other days, life happens and the list doesn't.  I understand that obstacles are in the middle of the road occasionally, and I may have to go around them or just deal with them head on.  Laundry is a weekly obstacle that gets in the way of my plans! 

You don't stop planning your life just because it might not happen the way you want it to. Go ahead, plan your lovely birth.  Pay close attention, when you imagine your birth, to the details -- the people in the room, the lighting, the temperature.  Keep the things you like and dump the rest.  Enjoy your labor.  It's yours and only yours, no matter what it looks like on paper.  Enjoy the journey, speed bumps and all. 

Finally, honor your labor and your birth.  I've had several people over the years that have had "necesareans" and some of those have rolled a little easier with the punches than others.  I think mourning the loss of something you didn't have or get is a tough place to be.  Talking to people who understand is so important, and at some point, acceptance is necessary.  Knowing you did everything within your power to carry out your birth plan seems to be an important step to accepting the outcome. My friend, Abbey, writes a blog called The Road to VBAMC and she just wrote a fabulous post this week titled When Your Birth Doesn't Go As Planned.  If you are in this situation, I suggest you head over there and check out what she had to say.  I think you'll find it extremely helpful. 

Birth Plans?  Don't be afraid of what might happen.  Go ahead and plan what you hope will happen.


Jessi said...

Thank you!
We just covered Birth Plans this week (Class 7). I'll be adding this article to my Birth Plan links to send to each group of students.

Joana said...


I loved your post, however i'm from portugal and don't know where to find the 22 pages online birth plan. Can you help??



Jolee Burger said...

Well said, Donna. A lovely read and excellent points! I referred my class to your blog just last week. They seemed excited to read it!

~Fort Worth Doula said...

Love it! Thanks for the plug!!

Anne Belk said...

What is the 22 page online birth plan?