Planning for pregnancy and the arrival of a baby is no small task. There are, what seems like, millions of things to do and yet, as I’m sure many of you pregnant mamas can attest to, you are so tired that some days just thinking about what has to be done is daunting. As baby’s birth day approaches and you prepare for his or her arrival you may be hearing about birth plans. You may be thinking: “what is a birth plan? Do I need one? How do I write one? Does it need to be detailed?” Take a deep breath mama… you can do this and it can be much easier than you might be thinking!
First things first… what is a birth plan and do you need one?
This may seem obvious but a birth plan is at its heart exactly that, a plan for your baby’s birth day. You may be preparing for baby’s birth by taking a childbirth or Lamaze class and you may have some ideas about how you hope your birth will go. Writing these wishes down is important because it will help to make sure that on the day of baby’s arrival; everyone is on the same page. By that I mean, everyone from your partner, your doctor, your nurse, and even you yourself have a picture of what you want your birth to be like. Obviously, even in the best planned situations, things may not go to plan but having a goal can help you achieve your best birth. Want to know more about what a birth plan actually is? Try checking out this link: https://www.babycenter.com/calculators-birthplan. This resource was recommended by my hospital. They also provide a brief explanation on their hospital website. You can find it here: https://middlesexhospital.org/220A8E00-7288-11DF-AC55002655336C68
What should my birth plan include?
I think there is a big misconception out there that birth plans must be lengthy, super detailed documents and this makes writing one seem a daunting task. In reality though your birth plan can be as simple as a checklist and your “plan” can even be to not have a plan! While some people feel most comfortable writing out a four page detailed document (and if that’s true, that’s totally fine!) there are lots of templates available online to help you get started if you feel stuck. I personally opted to use the template offered by my hospital of choice. You can find it here:
It looks like this:
You can also find another great template and resource here from The Bump:
My Birth Plan…
To be honest, until I started looking at the birth plan checklist that my hospital provided, I hadn’t really considered many of the topics that were listed. Creating my birth plan had three major benefits for me: 1) it allowed me to research and explore my options so that I had realistic birth expectations, 2) it gave me a chance to discuss my wishes with my husband, and 3) it let me focus on the immediate present during birth rather than all of the details.
One of the reasons that I liked the template offered by my hospital is that it was unassuming and non-pushy. I love that it has the option to “decide during labor” if you want to leave your choices open. I personally opted for this choice on a few line items. After thinking about it, I just couldn’t decide what I wanted and decided to decide in the moment. However there were also items on my birth plan that I was very sure about. For example, I knew that I wanted to try breastfeeding and I knew that I wanted to have skin-to-skin with my baby after birth. My hospital is “baby friendly” and as such they encourage breastfeeding and skin-to-skin but the birth plan allowed me to make my wishes clear so that there would be no discussion about taking my baby to the nursery (unless medically necessary) or providing formula.
Another reason that I really liked having a birth plan was that it allowed me to stress less about my wishes being followed and to just “be in the moment.” I realize that this probably sounds corny. I thought as much when I was told in my childbirth class that a time would come when I would be “in the zone” and might be unable to communicate well with others. It’s hard to explain well but this did happen to me. Discussing my wishes and preferences with my husband (such as my goal to try to deliver without an epidural) while I was checking off the boxes on the birth plan template helped my husband to be able to advocate for me when I could not advocate for myself. We also brought several copies of our plan with us to the hospital to give to everyone on our care team so that they could reference it when needed.
That said though, I do recommend leaving yourself some wiggle room per say. How you feel about pain management, just as an example, can change during labor when you experience the intensity of it and that does NOT make you weak or a bad mom. I wanted to avoid an epidural if possible and ended up not being able to have one even if I wanted one (for medical reasons) but I did note on our plan that although I wanted to try to give birth naturally that I was open to pain management options. The best advice I got was to just “do me.” There is no wrong choice. Personally I did end up trying nitrous oxide but when it made me feel worse I abandoned it after only a few minutes. I did end up being able to achieve my drug free natural birth and I’m not sure I would have been able to without my plan and all of the support from my husband and birth team (nurses and doctors.)
At the end of the day, use the process of writing your birth plan as an opportunity to explore your options and decide what fits best with your personal goals. Don’t overthink it and don’t stress over it. You’re going to do great!!