|Photo from Daphne's birth by Mathieu Photography|
My goal for giving birth has always been "walk away with a healthy baby that's mine". If that's how my story ended, I knew I would be grateful and satisfied. This didn't mean that everything would go how I wanted it to go, and it certainly didn't mean the baby would be delivered according to my plan (or anyone else's for that matter).
So, why have a birth plan?
Before my first baby was born, I over-educated myself into the illusion of security, learning as much as possible about nearly every birth-scenario so I could spare myself any surprises day-of. But, babies don't read your plans or your minds, and when the time comes there is bound to be surprises whether you have prepared at all or not!
My first two daughters were spontaneous labors that went on for hours and hours drug-free, followed by an epidural, and ending in a c-section. My third daughter's birth was a planned c-section, and while everything went according to schedule, I was glad to have thought through the day ahead of time.
Why spend all the energy and time thinking you are a hippie-mama going drug-free only to find out when push comes to shove (literally) that you turn out to be an epidural-getting drama queen? Why sort through calming verses and meditations for soothing your anxiety and pain when you know you'll have an IV drip and get a c-section?
1. A Birth Plan helps YOU know what you want.
You might not even know what your expectations are until you start to jot them down on paper. You may have a vision (haphazard as it may be) for what the day looks like and still not realize that you have joy or disappointment hinging on small things like "wearing my favorite chapstick" when you are at the peak of a contraction. A birth plan can help you sort through what's reasonable (dim lights) and what's preposterous (a tranquil haven that stays a perfect 70 degrees and silent with only the glow of a lavender scented candle to warm the setting). It can help you weed through your ideals (drug free and natural) as well as your limitations and tolerance for what's acceptable (get.baby.out.) Bottomline, you can't expect others to know what you'll need in your best/worst hour when you haven't taken the time to think through it yourself.
2. A Birth Plan helps OTHERS know what you want.
Even your beloved husband is scratching his head as to how he can best help you in your moment of dire need. If you don't know by now that your husband can't read your mind, then I really hate to break it to you that your doctors and nurses can't either. Even if you are planning a home birth with a doula or midwife, they are going to have questions about your comfort and pain management along the way. If you are having a scheduled c-section, you'll still need to convey your opinions adamantly regarding things like cord cutting, skin-to-skin, and pain killer options. Maybe you know what you want and you can easily inform those around you with the command of a drill sergeant. But, for those of us not giving birth to robots, it will make it much easier in the long run if you have talked through your expectations ahead of time and how you prioritize those ideas.
3. A Birth Plan helps BABY remain the focus.
This seems counterintuitive. How can a paper all about your expectations help keep the focus on your newborn? Because the less everyone has to worry about wondering what you want and need, the more they can channel their skills and energy to that screaming creature who just entered into the universe. If you can include choices about the baby on your birth plan as well, you can put your mind at ease knowing your birth plan can be easily referenced for your choices instead of trying to remember in the middle of it all if you chose salve-on-the-eyes for the baby or whether you wanted to postpone the Vitamin K shot. A LOT happens just minutes after the birth, and you don't want the burden of "having to think" placed on your or your husband's brain. Free it up so you can fully embrace the bliss of staring at that new little bundle of joy you just brought into the world.
4. A Birth Plan helps HUSBANDS understand.
Sure, hubbies are included in #2. But, more than just understanding your expectations, husbands have been (most likely) taking a crash course in all-things-baby since you announced the pregnancy. Birth is SCARY - and that's totally normal. It's a terrifying roller coaster of emotion to usher another human into the world, and your brain isn't meant to fully comprehend sentences like "What do you want to do with the placenta?" when you are just barely grasping the fact you took part in the creation of life. A birth plan can help a husband truly take part in the process of labor and delivery, knowing how best his time and energy is spent in the midst of the wild ride.
5. A Birth Plan helps MOTHERS in the future.
This blog is a perfect example! Here I am, dishing about my own experiences, hoping to reach an audience of new mamas understand that their birth stories are important - no matter how the scenario plays out. It's an opportunity to get to know why we think what we think about birth, share it with others, and help them understand their own journey. Looking back across my three birth stories, I can compare them to the plans I had anticipated and grow from the story that ultimately came out of it. It rarely goes how we think it will, right? But, healing from disrupted plans can help us curb disappointments and turn them into lessons of hope for others.
When you are about to have a baby, it's easy to feel like the only person on the planet that's ever felt that way. The more we can hold our expectations in our hands and learn to understand them, the easier it can be to let them go if the need arises. After all, learning to adjust and adapt to the unpredictable will serve you well once that baby arrives (however that may be)!