In addition to creating a plan you prepare to share with the staff on the day of your birth, you can use your birth plan to guide your own personal preparations and to clarify who can become a resource for you and help you have the experiences you are hoping for. This process is very helpful whether you feel you need a birth plan or not. If you are not sure if you should write a birth plan try our “Do I Need A Birth Plan” Quiz.
In order to get the most benefit out of your birth plan process, look at or create a comprehensive list of things you do or don’t want during your birth. If you wrote a birth plan, this is the list you created in step two of the birth plan instructions. Include both tangible preferences for options faced during labor and subjective desires for the type of experience you will have. For each item that is truly important to you, create a positive affirmation of what you want. For example, “I don’t want an episiotomy,” becomes “I want to allow my perineum to stretch naturally around my baby.” “I don’t want to blame myself for unexpected outcomes,” becomes “I want to kindly accept myself and my efforts and recognize my labor as part of the life path best for my journey and my baby’s journey.” For each positive statement list things you can do to make this a reality, and list the ways others in your life could help. Here are some examples:
Desire: I want to allow my perineum to stretch naturally around my baby.
Something I am doing or will do to further this becoming a reality: Eating well and exercising so my tissues will be healthy, visualizing myself birthing opening for my baby, practicing relaxing my bottom and thighs, asking my care provider about their episiotomy rate, discussing my preferences with my care provider and my support team, asking them to remind me that it was my preference that I take the time needed to birth my baby without an episiotomy. In labor I will keep well hydrated. I will work to be trusting, keeping in mind my safe place and the images of other birthing women that I have seen.
Something I request of my birth team to further this becoming a reality: I want my care provider to agree to ask my informed consent about episiotomy at the moment when the surgery is being considered. I want my doula to remind me of good birthing positions. I want my husband to practice birth visualizations with me. I want everyone present to create a safe emotional atmosphere by remaining calm in all situations.
Desire: I want to kindly accept myself and my efforts…”
Something I am doing or will do to further this becoming a reality: When I become hard on myself for my actions/inaction, wishing I would have done something differently, I will write a note of understanding and forgiveness to myself. Barring a true emergency, I will ask for a minute to be alone with my husband when making decisions about something unexpected.
Something I request of my birth team to further this becoming a reality: I want my care provider to carefully explain all of my options if something unexpected arises in labor and I want my doula to process my birth with my husband and I in the first two weeks postpartum. I want to be part of all decision making.
Allow the discoveries you make to lead you to a clear picture of what personal preparations support you and what the best care for you would look like. Consider the services of a doula or additional support people. Begin to sit down with the important people in your life and ask them for the specific kinds of support you’re looking for.
When talking to your doctor or midwife, schedule a special appointment to discuss your birth plan. Ask for a time when they are less likely to be behind schedule with their appointments (like first thing in the morning or after lunch), and ask for more time than usual if necessary. Pay attention to how you feel about their responses and be honest about what you need from them.
Many care providers will appreciate the thoughtfulness you’ve put into your plan. It will be refreshing for them to see someone expressing their values and taking personal responsibility for their health. They will reassure you with their readiness to assist you and with examples of how they can help.
Unfortunately, the opposite can occur as well. If you find that your care provider belittles your efforts, patronizes you, or becomes defensive about their position as the expert, you could consider talking with them further to increase communication and understanding, or looking for a new care provider. Care providers have a large impact on your options and the respect you receive, and on the participation you can expect to have when it comes to decision making in labor. Search for one who will enhance your experience and bring all of their expertise to bear in a way that is helpful for you.
Through these steps, whether formal or informal, quick and easy, or with much deliberation and education, your birth planning process will lead you to inner readiness for birth, and will organize excellent care from others. You and your baby are worth it!