Why I threw out my birth plan

Guest post by Amy Wynn
week 15 (5)

At the beginning of this current pregnancy, I was more prepared, more focused, and much more ready than I was for the birth of my daughter seven years ago. Rather than the pregnancy itself being the focus of my life as it was then, I was already thinking ahead to the arrival of the baby, and working out the logistics of birth and newborn care. I wasn’t very proactive about the birth of my first child, my fear of the entire process led me to just do as the doctor told me- and while I in no way felt he misled me or did a poor job — I felt strongly that being more active in the process could have saved me some pain (and possibly a few extra stitches) in the end.

Long before we made that ‘end-of-the-first-trimester-safe-zone’ announcement, I set out to arm myself with information. I bought twenty or so different books, ranging topically from c-sections to homebirths, joined every pregnancy website I could find, pored over every birth story I could get my greedy little hands on, and began deciding just how things would go this time around…

I would be in control. I would be one of these powerful, birth-goddesses I kept reading about. I wouldn’t let people bully me about my ideas, I would be strong. I would be ready.

I talked with my husband about each aspect of the plan, just in case something were to happen and I needed him to speak up for me. Everything was clear, from the point at which I would consider pain relief to the amount of time spent on perineal massage, to the absolute necessity of rooming in. Every aspect of the entire process, from check-in to discharge, was clearly decided and backed up with my own extensive
research.

As I discussed ‘birth plan’ plans with other expectant parents, I began to notice a trend. While none of these mamas went into labor thinking they knew exactly how it would go, many were shocked when the course of events necessitated great deviations from ‘the plan’. Some even felt they had failed at childbirth, despite bringing beautiful, healthy, thriving babies home with them. Depression over not achieving their ideal birth followed women who I had seen to be brave, strong, and otherwise reasonable about their expectations.

Logically, we know that a plan is just that — an idea of how you would like things to play out under ideal circumstances. Then there’s back up plans, and contingency plans, and alternates… sometimes we think we can cover all our bases and avoid the element of surprise.

But babies have a special way of dodging all your best-laid plans, by entrenching themselves in a breech presentation, arriving early, or even making their debut in the backseat en route to the birthing center.

So I sat down and thought about it for a good long time, and deleted my birth plan from the interactive planner, tore up the copy waiting to go in the hospital bag, and expunged it from my hard drive.

I still have my ideas about what I want, and my husband and doctor are aware of them. I still have choices and options, and know which way I’ll likely decide in a given situation. But I have given up the idea of planning from beginning to end something as intrinsically spontaneous as labor and childbirth.

My birth plan? To have a baby, of course.

Comments on Why I threw out my birth plan

  1. Excellent post. To me, it's more important for a woman to feel like she's a part of the process and decision-making — not to believe that she has full control, because your body is going to do what it's going to do, but that she is in control of the choices she makes given the situations she's in. That truly applies to all of life, but it's especially important in childbirth. Even though I'm looking to have a homebirth, I know that I may have to go to the hospital should problems arise. That's just how things go. I'm grateful I have that back-up option, because the most important thing is to have a healthy baby in the end. Kudos.

  2. what a fabulous post. i live in an uber-progressive city, and i feel like the groovy natural hippie side of things sometimes feels judgemental. understanding that we have options and trying not to get mowed over by Western medicine? that's a good thing. feeling like we're not perfect and shiny and new agey enough, that we somehow missed out on 100% of "the" birth experience because we needed medical intervention or chose an epidural? it's bollocks.

  3. Perhaps we should all stop focusing on what OTHER women go through and simply focus on what each of us goes through ourselves. To say that someone is silly because they’re upset their birth didn’t go the way they planned is to marginalize their feelings…to say that YOUR feelings about how SHE should be feeling about HER birth are more important. i.e. the whole “Just be glad you have a healthy baby!” idea. If one more person says that to me (and I’m 17 months out from my birth rape by doctor/hospital), I will seriously go postal on them. A healthy baby is NOT all that matters. A healthy mother also matters because without a healthy mother, baby will not be so healthy. We need to recognize that “healthy” does not just mean physically. Someone who is suffering from PTSD because of their birth trauma, or PPD because they had a c-section (forced, emergency or whatever) and their hormones weren’t allowed to kick in the way they should is NOT healthy and will have a much harder time taking care of that wonderful, healthy baby everyone talks about. Mom’s mental and physical state is JUST as important, if not more so, for taking care of baby and making sure baby stays healthy. Please let each mother have her own experience and feel the way she does about her own experience without attempting to marginalize it!

  4. I agree. Nix the birth plan, and instead find a care provider who agrees with you. A birth plan is pointless in terms of its real mission–to tailor the way your OB practices. That just ain’t gonna happen. For most American women, a care provider who is like minded won’t be an OB.

  5. I didn’t write a birth plan for either of my children. I’m not an advocate of them, as how can you plan something so unique and reactive as labour especially for your first one. Before both labours I talked with my husband about things I felt comfortable with and things I didn’t, but we both went into our childrens births with open minds and luckily I had two fairly straightforward births. I think that’s important; communicating before and during labour so that mum is happy with everything as its happening.

    For my daughter the midwife just asked some questions and made some notes as I was labouring. It was very instinctively lead and we dealt with things as they happend. With my son I was induced, but again the midwife asked me what I wanted and I again requested little intervention and so she only broke my waters which was fortunatly enough.

  6. I have a document in which I’ve written down my insurance information, blood type, and other basic details. It also says “husband in room with me at all times. If husband is somehow unavailable, mother will be in room with me. As a rule, please avoid spinal anesthesia. If I hurt badly enough that I get over my lifelong fear of needles in my spine, then give it to me. You will know this because I ask.” I have no plans for how I want my baby fed, if my husband will cut the cord or give it it’s first bath. What will be will be.
    At the top of the page is the ancient proverb “man plans and God laughs.”

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