I can already feel you guys thinking that birth plans are for (a) hippies and granolas, (2) scaredy cats, and (d) control freaks (5 points if you know where a,2,d comes from… I’ll give you a hint… Macaulay Culkin, the Wet Bandits and Christmas). Actually, birth plans are immensely helpful tools convenient for both yourself and your caregiver. Sure, they are the experts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a say in how your birth goes. Your financial planner is an expert, but that doesn’t mean they decide how much you save, where it goes, and when you will withdraw it.
I met a lady at McDonald’s last week who said labor with her 9th baby was by far the easiest. She dropped her kids off at school at 7:30am, had the baby with her midwife at 10:30am, and made it to school pick-up in the afternoon. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call Planned Parenthood. Labor and delivery don’t always go to plan, of course, but often they do. For low-risk uncomplicated labor and deliveries, you will most likely be able to determine how things go. And anyway, included in your birth plan are your wishes if things do start to get complicated.
After all that, my big push for every expecting mother to do a birth plan is this: being informed makes labor more comfortable. I know you think I’m crazy. I’m sure that I am at least slightly crazy, after all, I am a redhead. But, I believe that being informed and understanding what is happening in labor helps you concentrate and labor effectively without the extreme fear and dismay that comes when we just “go with the flow.”
Read on for reasons to create a birth plan and to get your free printable.
(1) You get informed.
I think one of the biggest reasons to prepare for labor and delivery and to write a birth plan is that you get some knowledge going. I recommend this article. In reading up for my preference, natural childbirth, I’ve come to realize that fear and freaking out go a long way towards making labor more painful. Pain relief will help with that, but you will likely still experience a certain amount of discomfort before any drugs kick in so no matter which way you prefer, this is something to consider. Your body knows what it’s doing. Contractions are good. It means the baby is getting ready to come out.
The transition “near death experience” phase is good, it means it’s almost over! Making a birth plan helps you feel empowered, informed and generally more in control. Labor is likely one of the hardest things you’ll ever do physically so knowing what is actually happening within your body will help you to say “that pain is for a good reason” instead of “oh my goodness, that hurts, I’m going to die.” Though, of course, the two are not mutually exclusive.
(2) You maintain some control.
I know you are thinking “gee, even in labor she’s a control freak.” Well. Yes. Okay, nature takes its course. The baby comes when it will. Your body responds how it does. You can’t account for everything and even the best laid plans go amiss. However, there is a lot to be said for thinking out your desires and then voicing them to your caregiver. If you generally hate bright lights then having them shine in your glazed over eyeballs during labor will not be helpful. You can request dimmed lighting. If you have a favorite cd that brings you peace and comfort, most hospitals and birthing centers will let you play it! You don’t know until you ask.
Also, doctors and midwives (since they’re the experts) will make all your decisions for you if you let them. Of course they’ll consult you and I’m not saying they don’t care about your wishes. But let me just tell you, the worst time to make a decision is when you are in labor. It’s a hazy time and no one can think straight. If you can think straight then you are not in any sort of advanced labor. Period. In the moment, you’d sell your house, your other children and your dog if you thought it would end sooner. You know what they say, don’t go to the grocery store hungry. Hmm, but you get where I’m going.
(3) You’re making it easier on your doctor or midwife.
Doctors and midwives are the expert professionals and want you to have the best experience possible with the result a healthy baby. I’ve found that my midwives and doctor (first time with a doctor this pregnancy) find it immensely helpful that I am informed. Okay, let’s be honest, I’m over-informed (and probably annoying though I try to be cool). I can sense they are confident in discussing options with me, they are able to go into more depth and are very willing to go along with my wishes to the extent where it’s possible.
I believe they enjoy working with you towards a birth that you desire. If they can have your birth plan available before and during labor then they can read up, get the feel for you, understand what you want, and try to make it happen. If during labor they are able to refer to your birth plan then they will have an idea – through the whole process – what it is you desire. This is also very helpful if your doctor or midwife isn’t available for the birth and you find yourself with someone new. You’ll still be able to sit back, go through labor as calmly as possible (bahaha) and know that your wishes are being considered.
So now that you are chomping at the bit to make a birth plan, laminate it, and hang it up on the wall next to your maternity photos, let’s get cracking.
// There are three colors available in the printable. Pink for those having girls, blue for those having boys and – for those of you who like surprises, those who are Belgian, and all who are gender non-conformists – green. The printable includes the actual birth plan pages, plus instructions on what things to consider for each section. Note: the goal is to be concise and to the point – bullet points even – because no doctor or midwife has the time nor inclination to read 12 pages, particularly not mid-labor.
Remember, it’s not because you’re a hippie, a control freak, or a fraidy cat. You make a monthly budget, don’t you? How much more important is a plan for the birth of your future bundle of joy?
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