After giving birth to my second child, I was quite the talk of the maternity ward. It wasn’t because I arrived at the hospital 9.5 cm dilated or that labor progressed so quickly that my midwife barely made it in time (both of which are true). It was because of my birth plan. Before my first child was born, I developed a birth plan that I used for both deliveries. It wasn’t anything too unusual or bizarre, at least not in my opinion. It included things like I wanted the option to eat during labor, keep my contact lenses in, have access to a birthing tub, have my partner by my side at all times, be allowed to progress free of stringent time limits, and do it all without the aid of drugs and other interventions.
So why was my plan the talk of the ward? Because according to the nursing student who spoke at length to me about it, she had never seen one before. She was so amazed by the whole idea that other classmates joined her in my room to discuss how I developed it and what had gone into the process. In that moment, I realized how important the plan was to me, not because I felt it was directions for the hospital to follow, but because it helped me understand what my goal was and kept me focused on achieving it. How did I develop the plan?
Research. I did a lot of research beginning the moment I found out I was pregnant. I read books like “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” by Henci Goer, attended birthing classes and listened to moms tell about their experiences. Gathering all that information helped me better understand the birth process and my personal preferences.
Write. With a general framework of preferences in mind, I went online to the Baby Center’s website and used a program to create my personalized plan. I simply clicked a few boxes, typed in a few descriptions and printed out my own plan.
Discuss. I didn’t wait for the labor pains to begin and then surprise the hospital staff with my hopes and desires. I presented my plan to my midwife during a prenatal visit. She looked it over and we discussed it. She let me know if anything was unusual or against hospital protocol so we could have that discussion up front and before the heat of labor. The talk helped me to further confirm that she was the correct care provider for me. I also made sure my birth advocate, my husband, was informed and that he could speak for me if need be.
By the time I entered the hospital, I knew what was realistic and what was not. I gave the labor and delivery nurse a copy and was comforted by the fact that my husband and midwife were by my side with the knowledge of my preferences already in mind.
Because I did the work up front to understand labor and my own personal philosophy, I knew what my preferences were. During the throes of labor, that knowledge kept me focused and moving forward, and made me feel as though my midwife and medical staff were working alongside of me as a team. The births of my two little ones were something I was involved in and not medical conditions that were happening to me. As a result, I had two good birth experiences and two healthy babies.
Did my births go 100 percent according to plan? Not exactly. But the point of developing the plan wasn’t to create a step-by-step outline of what labor and delivery would be like. Each birth is different and we can’t totally prepare for each twist and turn of the journey ahead. But what my plan did was put me and those around me in the right mindset so if a twist did occur, we had an idea of how to handle it. It empowered me to make well-informed decisions concerning both my baby and me.
As the nursing students continued to ask questions, I wondered how women could do labor without a plan or at least some amount of forethought. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be as formalized as the one I created, but to do the research and have the discussions up front with your care provider will certainly help prepare you for the journey to childbirth. Keep in mind that even the best-laid plan can be sidetracked. But knowing your preferences ahead of time will help keep you more focused when the pain sets in or a twist or turn comes along.
What about you? Did you create a birth plan? If so, did you find it helpful?
This post originally appeared on the Mother’s Advocate website.