Do you really need a birth plan?

Do you really need a birth plan?

One time at a party, chatting with a few parenting folks and admiring a couple newly arrived cherubs, the topic unsurprisingly shifted to our birth experiences.

Damn straight I am writing a birth plan!

Damn straight I am writing a birth plan!

I had a twinge of jealousy when one of the mums spoke of her twins’ vaginal birth, the second little nugget being footling breech, just like my Turd Bird was. Despite a happily anticipated home birth, the end result for me was a caesarean.

So I fessed up a couple of my hurts after the girl’s arrival when one of the mothers laughed, “There’s no point having a birth plan, it never goes to plan.”

I became a reluctant expert in drafting a birth plan with our child’s pending arrival, and knew well in advance that little one was in a less than ideal position. I had all kinds of time, to not only try every method known to woman-kind to turn the baby, but to also think about what I wanted in a variety of scenarios.

Oh yeah, we had a plan, a few in fact.

Plan A: The ultimate dream as the days trudged towards and then trotted along past the due date, baby would miraculously flip around and I’d get my home water birth. Voila.

Plan B: So baby was stubborn, but would lift up those little feet and go bum down, vaginal hospital birth with intervention if needed, but not necessary, I would rock it.

Plan C: Alas, bub decides to stay put, and we go ahead with a footling breech vaginal. We watched A Breech in the System. My heart rate increased as the days crept on and it felt as though nothing had changed, but I held faith, prayed, visualised, you name it.

Plan D: If surgical intervention became advisable then at minimum I wanted to be the first person to touch my child, so I requested a MAC.

In the operating theatre hubby got woozy and overwhelmed, and in my newfound delerium of painkillers I said it was no problem forgoing my participation. I’d realise months later that it wasn’t so. I was the fourth person to feel my daughter’s sweet skin against mine. The baby I grew, danced with, fed and loved in my body for nine months, came to me after being admired and held by others.

Looking back it still feels so inherently wrong. I was in shock and a part of me left the room that day. So while my heart was opened with this beautiful child another part of my world crumbled. It took a long time for me to realise this and start putting myself back together, emotionally and spiritually.

Back to Ms. No-Birth-Plan: do I believe in drafting a Birth Plan? Absolutely! Did I get everything I wanted from mine (the A, B, C, or D version)? Uh no. Did I get other things? Absolutely!

At 42 weeks my darling finally decided it was time to make her entrance, and despite increasing pressure from hospital staff, I stayed with what my heart wanted and experienced a slow-building, spontaneous labour. Once we arrived at hospital later in the day, the head obstetrician made sure everyone had read my birth plan; this buoyed me as I faced the unknown. Beautiful, kind, strong midwives held my hands while I groaned through contractions for over twelve hours. My husband barely left my side, encouraging me as each powerful wave rushed through me. And lastly, I will never forget the look on my darling private midwife’s face after bub was in my arms post-op, “Angie I am so proud of you.”

By putting my intentions in black and white and making my wishes clear to medical staff, my midwife and partner I believe I was eventually able to look back fondly and heal from the experience more quickly.

The point of a plan is to use it as a guiding document, not the final word or decree. Plans go astray for thousands of people and companies everyday. Do we then imply that they were silly for writing one in the first place?

Please mamma, have a plan. Here are some ideas from my experience that warrant consideration:

  • Share your bottom line acceptable behaviours with your support team so they can advocate for you. If there are words you know you don’t want to hear, or approaches that you don’t think will work for your personality, let it be known.
  • Consider contingencies, but don’t dwell there. Planning a home birth? Excellent – maybe have a quick tour through the hospital you’d hopefully not transfer to, so the environment isn’t completely foreign if it does happen. Planning for a vaginal delivery? Have a quick read of what a caesarean entails.
  • Educate yourself on what interventions you feel comfortable with, what the impact may be on your baby and you; and think about how you would like you, your baby and family to be treated afterwards. For example bub sleeping in your room or bed at the hospital, or minimal visitations until you give the all clear.
  • Nominate who you want present. Clarify the level of privacy you expect; unwished for visitors whilst you’re in labour can be upsetting. Designate an assertive gatekeeper.
  • Most importantly, make a promise to yourself that no matter what happens, you will accept that you have done your best at that specific moment on that specific day with those specific circumstances that were presented to just you, and you alone.

I hope these suggestions are helpful ones. If a birth plan is important to you and your provider doesn’t take this discussion seriously, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere. If your needs and desires are not of paramount importance, you’ve got yourself a red flag that your wishes will more likely be brushed aside when it comes to the big day.

Whether it’s your first, second or fifth child, walking yourself through this process can help in the long run.

I’m keen to hear from you. Have you had a birth plan in the past? Did you feel it was a helpful part of your experience? Please share your respectful thoughts below.

I wish the very best for you and your baby, and hope that your experience contains the most divine love, respect and reverence that you, dear mamma, deserve.