Your birth plan doesn’t serve the purpose you think it does

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We think a birth plan is there to make sure we get the birth we want, don’t we? However, this isn’t true.

The main purpose of a birth plan is to give us a frame of reference, a starting point for what we hope to achieve, what is acceptable to us if all works out as we want and to help other people understand what it is that is important to us.

Without it you may be burying your head in the sand about things that are concerning you or as bad, not opening your mind to the best birth possible.

Those who are there to support you will also have to be mind-readers on the day won’t they?

It is said that failing to plan is planning to fail. However, how you feel about your birth plan if you write one may still lead you down the path of failure unless you know how to use it for success.

Do you see your birth plan as a rigid set of steps that have to happen, or do you see it as a fluid and flexible guide that can be adapted if the need arises?

If it is the former, we need to talk, if it is the latter you can stop reading now.

Maybe you are somewhere in the middle and you already know that your birth plan isn’t guaranteed to pan out as written and that is causing you to doubt whether it is worth writing one at all, even though instinctively you know it is important.

Perhaps you are ready to write your birth plan and want to make sure that you get it right, if you are let’s look at the best way to do that.

Blue-sky Birth

Blue-sky thinking is mainly used in business, I believe though that it is also a fantastic tool for life. What it represents is being open to all possibilities, there are no stupid ideas and as the name suggests, the sky’s the limit. I believe that this is a good place to start when thinking about the kind of birth you want. Why go for anything less than the best when you are in the dreaming phase of the planning process?

Research

Once you know what you want you will want to carry out some research around how possible that is. Things that you will want to consider are:

  1. Whether or not you are low, medium, high risk (there maybe some prior research required to ensure that you are in the right category).
  2. Whether what you want is practical (bearing in mind what’s practical can be subjective).
  3. What’s available to you. Unfortunately, whatever our rights and however much we want to fight for something, sometimes what we want is not always possible.
  4. If you can afford ‘it’ if whatever you want needs paying for. With regards to this you might want to think about the difference between not having the money and finding the money for something that is worth it.

Negotiation

This step isn’t always necessary when doing your initial birth planning or in fact ever, however, be prepared that sometimes when you first let your medical caregivers know what you want that you may get a no. This is why your research is important because it gives you the confidence to talk about your unique situation, rather than being seen as a statistic.

The most important consideration when you are negotiating is to look for a win:win:win scenario. A win for you, the baby and your medical caregivers. Why is the latter important? Because your medical caregivers are as human as you and will have their own set of fears and limiting beliefs as well as restrictions caused by protocol and maybe even lack of funding.

Many of their concerns are not unsurpassable, however how you approach your communications with them, may end up being the difference between an amicable working towards what you want and a confrontational and upsetting conversation that may leave you drawing a blank.

Two birth plans

Although you may want to write out two birth plans one for your Blue-Sky Birth and one for your ‘what if life throw a shitty curve ball birth’ this is not what I mean. I don’t tend to see this as necessary unless you absolutely know that you have a high chance of your birth plan needing to change from the outset (I will explain why I don’t see it as necessary in a moment). What I am referring to is a birth plan for your medical caregivers and a birth plan for your birth-partner(s).

My reason for this is that they each need different types of information and when it comes to your medical caregiver being easily able to pick up on what you need, less is more. This is because quite often the first time you meet them will be on the day you go into labour.

For your medical caregivers you will want to consider what their role is and how your wants fit with that. For example – internal checks, ‘waiting for white’ (leaving the cord to pulsate after birth until all the blood has drained before cutting), having time for questions if discussion about intervention comes up, etc.

For your birth partner(s) again you will want to consider their role in supporting you. Things like nurturing, managing the environments, supporting with relaxation techniques, keeping you hydrated, asking questions if required, and so on. If you have more than one birth partner, you will want to indicate who you want  to do what.

Your birth partner(s) will also need to understand the detail of your medical care-givers birth plan, but your medical caregivers will not need to see the detail of your birth partner’s plan.

Flexible Mindset

It is hoped that your Birth Partner(s) will carry out their role in line with your plan, although there may still be aspects that come up that affect them from doing so. Your medical caregivers, however, may not always be able to do that because there are no guarantees with birth. Your birth partner’s role will be to ensure that things only change, if you agree that it is right to do so having been able to gather all the facts and made an informed decision. That is still a deviation from your birth plan though isn’t it?

Therefore, once you have laid out your birth plan, it is important to let go of it HAVING to happen the way you want it to. You will want to be clear on what you want whilst having the emotional flexibility to appreciate that things may change.

Let’s go back to why I don’t believe it is necessary to write two birth plans to allow for change, unless you know that you have a very high chance of having a different birth to your Blue-sky Birth. It is because when you have a flexible mindset about your birth plan you can prepare for change whilst still focusing on the birth that you want.

The things that will help you to do that are:

  1. Learn tools that will enable you to remain calm and relaxed no matter what is happening around you.
  2. Have a clear birth-plan for both your medical caregivers and your birth partner(s) so that they know what is important to you.
  3. Make sure that your birth partner has a good questioning strategy and has the confidence to carry it out if needs be.
  4. Know how to handle it if your birth plans change and how to emotionally roll with the punches (check out my previous post for more information on that).

I hope you have found this useful for planning your birth. If you want any support as you go through your birth planning process reach out to your local Wise Hippo Birthing Instructor who will be able to help.

Dany Griffiths - Creative Director & Co-founder

Dany Griffiths - Creative Director & Co-founder

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