Why it’s important to have a birth plan even when things don’t always go according to plans.
Both births were magical in their own right, but my second birth (the VBAC) felt so much more natural than my first. It just felt like things unfolded the way they were meant to, and that experience and feeling was amazing for everyone involved.
I’m absolutely convinced that had I not done thorough research and written my own birth plan (birth preferences) in advance, I would have ended up with a very, very different experience the second time around – most likely resulting in a second cesarean.
No matter what kind of birth is your personal ideal, here are four reasons I believe it’s worth your time and effort to write a birth plan:
1. To get educated and be empowered for birth.
First and foremost, writing a birth plan forces you to get educated so that you can make informed decisions about how you’d like your birth to go. Understand your options. Ask questions. Search the internet. Speak with other moms. Take a birth education class offered by your local hospital. Learn about different alternatives and how they will affect you and your baby. Think through possible scenarios. Research medications and interventions (both benefits and risks). Familiarize yourself with birth-related terminology so that things aren’t flying over your head while in the midst of laboring. And learn about how your body is designed to work in childbirth. The more knowledge you have, the less room you will have for fear or second-guessing yourself when the pressure’s on.
2. To trigger dialog with your care providers.
Too many women go into birth with a spectator mentality. The doctor says “jump!” and they say “how high?” Now don’t misunderstand me, I believe you should listen to what your doctor has to say, and ask her opinions and advice. Always. (She endured medical school so she could help you.) But—there is a ‘but’—remember that doctors are subjective just like the rest of us. Their recommendations will be based on their experiences, the professors that trained them, the doctors they interned under, the cultural norms where they practice, the hospital and insurance provider’s policies, etc, etc. Sometimes their overall workload can even factor into the equation. There advice is very important, but at times may not be the best option for you. Only you can determine how you’d like to attempt to birth your baby in a way that you are comfortable with.
3. To serve as a communication piece with your spouse or birth support person.
In the heat of the moment, the last thing you need is to be trying to remember why you wanted to fill-in-the-blank (or trying to explain it to someone else). Having a birth plan in place ahead of time that you can share with your spouse (or birth support person) will help him understand why you’ve made certain decisions, which will, in turn, help him know how to support you when you need it most. Make sure to walk him through it in advance and expand on key points. Don’t just hand him your plan and expect him to read through and “get it”. In sharing your plan and your “ideal birth” wishes, your partner might raise questions or issues that you hadn’t thought of. It will be a good launching pad for you to discuss this important event together, as well as the fears, concerns, or hopes you both have. It will also help him to feel like you’re in this together, and will reinforce his important role in your labor and birth.
4. To ensure the best birth possible for mother and baby.
And lastly, because as much as people like to say “as long as you have a healthy baby it doesn’t matter…” that’s only a partial-truth. Yes, we all want to have a healthy baby delivered with no complications. That’s a given. But we also want to have a healthy mama – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Giving birth is the single biggest right of passage for a woman (in my opinion) and should be respected and celebrated accordingly. The way a woman gives birth can carry over into the way she bonds with her child and/or copes with the first weeks and months postpartum. It’s important for a woman to have a birth experience in which she feels empowered and supported and championed to do what she was designed to do as much as possible. She will carry on these feelings into those vulnerable first days and months of motherhood, where every bit of confidence helps! In addition to that, all moms want to welcome their baby into the world in the best possible way. The studies on how birth affects babies are inconclusive, but I believe that all aspects of life are significant, so why would the birth experience be excluded?
I realize that birth doesn’t always go according to plans. But even when it doesn’t, having a birth plan in place can help guide you in important decisions and be vital to establishing good communication between you, your partner, and your care providers. As far as I can tell, that’s always a win.
Dear friends, I can’t convince you to write a birth plan, but I can share my experiences and why I think it’s so important in hopes that will help sway you to be proactive with your own. (smile) Why do you think it’s important (or not?) to write a birth plan?